Paul Nelson column for June 5: Muskie season opens as walleyes near spring peak
The cool spring weather continues in the Bemidji area. The lakes have been slow to warm up this spring, but most lakes are finally getting close to 60 degrees.
Surface water temperatures are most accurately measured first thing in the morning, before the sun has a chance to warm the water.
The first morning that surface water temperatures stay above 60 degrees overnight usually signals the beginning of the peak spring walleye bite. The spring peak is short lived, usually lasting about a week, but it can be one of the best times of the year for catching big walleyes.
Muskie season opens on Saturday, so anglers will be able to fish for any species beginning this weekend. With the cool water temperatures, there may be a few muskies that have not finished spawning when the season opens.
Muskies have poor spawning success rates, especially when living in lakes with northern pike. Northern pike are one of the first fish to spawn in the spring, so the young pike can be more than one month old when the young muskies hatch.
Young northern pike begin to eat other minnows as soon as they can fit them in their mouths. When muskies spawn in similar areas as northern pike, the little pike eat most of the muskie fry as soon as they hatch.
Anglers fishing for muskies this weekend will find the water clear and the weeds short in most of the lakes. Bucktail spinners, tandem spinners and some surface lures are good choices to fish over the tops of the weeds.
When the water is clear, a faster presentation usually works best for muskies, because it prevents them from getting too good a look at the lure. Muskies can swim faster than people can reel, so make long casts and reel as fast as you can without having the lure come out of the water.
Bass, crappies and sunfish are part of the same family of fish, so they all spawn when water temperatures reach the mid 60s.
Most bass are in the shallows getting ready to spawn in areas with clean hard bottom. Bass use their tails to sweep out an area on the bottom for their "nests", which usually look like circles of sand on a weedy flat.
Female bass move into the nesting areas right before they spawn and will back off the nests soon after spawning, leaving the male bass to guard the nest.
Crappies and sunfish usually spawn right after the bass finish and will usually feed along the edges of the spawning areas until they are ready to move in and spawn.
Walleye anglers need some stable weather and consistent wind to get a good bite going. Frequent wind changes and repeated cold fronts scatter the fish and don't let any patterns develop.
Walleyes are easier to catch when they are actively feeding and concentrated into specific areas. They are more difficult to catch when they are scattered in a wide range of depths in a neutral or negative feeding mood.
Anglers with good electronics can usually see walleyes in deep water, but when the walleyes are shallow, anglers have to fish through the area to know they are there.
When anglers see walleyes in deep water, it is not uncommon to see them in a range of depths. Astute walleye anglers learn biting walleyes are usually located at a specific depth, while the rest of the walleyes in other depths are in a neutral or negative feeding mood.
Walleye anglers should watch the depth when they catch a walleye and try to duplicate the same depth until they can zero in on the magic depth. The bite is constantly changing and schools of fish can get scattered after a few passes through the fish.
Walleye anglers will usually catch the hot fish out of a school right away and then have to grind though the rest of the fish, trying to coax another one into biting.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted by calling 218-759-2235.