Paul Nelson column for Nov. 13: It's too warm for deer, but just right for fishing
The weather in the Bemidji area is turning out to be just like the proverbial box of chocolates; you never know what you are going to get.
A near record cold summer was followed by a near record warm September, then another near record cold October and now an unseasonably warm beginning to November. It makes one shutter to think what December will bring if the trend continues.
Deer hunters have had a warm start to the rifle hunting season, with high temperatures in the 50s and 60s most of the first week of the season.
Successful deer hunters can't let their deer hang too long in the warm temperatures because of spoilage, so there has been a rush to get the meat processed quickly or at least get it into a cooler before processing.
The extended forecast for the Bemidji area is predicting temperatures in the high 40s into next week, which is still above normal for this time of year.
Most deer hunters would prefer colder weather with snow on the ground, but the warm weather is just what the doctor ordered for people interested in extending the open water fishing season.
The lakes in the Bemidji area have been pretty quiet since the rifle deer hunting season opened, but the stable weather made fishing pretty good for the few anglers on the lakes.
Once the surface water temperatures dropped into the low 40s and the fish acclimated themselves to the cold water, the warm stable weather has actually made the fish more active in most lakes.
The best fishing is still usually in the middle of the day or in the evenings, when the sun has had a chance to warm the water for a few hours.
During the cold water period of the fishing calendar, most of the fish have moved into deeper water, where water temperatures are more stable. Sunshine and warmer temperatures feel good to the fish in cold water, so they often move toward the warmth in shallower water to better take advantage of the heat of the sun.
The bite in the shallow lakes like Winnibigoshish, Leech and Upper Red Lake has actually picked up with the warmer weather. The walleyes have been more active along the shoreline, with feeding movements toward shallow water during the warmest part of the day.
Walleye and perch in the deeper lakes have also been more active during the first part of November. Most of the walleyes and perch are still feeding in deep water, but they have been moving into more moderate depths when they feed, which makes them more accessible to anglers.
Most anglers have been using jigs and minnows for walleyes and perch. Sometimes walleyes in cold water hit larger baits too short and anglers miss too many bites.
Most anglers learn to set the hook right away when fishing a jig. If anglers miss too many bites setting the hook too fast, they can try hesitating a couple of seconds on slack line before setting the hook.
Stinger hooks can work well on jigs and help catch short-biting fish. Some jigs provide a second eye-hole for stinger hooks or there are stinger hooks available that fit over the end of the hook on any jig.
Downsizing to smaller jigs and lighter line is another answer to catching short-striking fish. Super braid lines have smaller diameter than monofilament with very little stretch, which can help anglers feel lighter weights in deep water better.
Anglers can use a short leader of fluorocarbon line at the end of the super braid to have the benefits of both low visibility and low stretch in for fishing in clear water or fishing deep water situations.
Most anglers are happy with only a couple of hours on the water late in the fall. Crappies are a good fish to pursue late in the season because they are schooled in deeper water and will usually bite if you can get baits into the right zone, so anglers can go home with enough for a meal of fish.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.