Paul Nelson column for Sept. 11: Cool summer helps fish grow and survive
The Bemidji area received some of the nicest weather of the summer the last couple of weeks, which is entirely consistent with the unpredictable nature of weather patterns in northern Minnesota.
The mid-point of September will come and go this week, so anglers know fall is coming soon, regardless of the mild weather. The fish and animals know it, too.
One of the positives of a cool summer is it increases the chances for healthy young-of-the-year age classes of fish.
The cool water doesn't necessarily mean larger or smaller age classes of fish, but it increases the chances for good growth rates and better survival rates for the young fish that do hatch.
Fish of all species, ages and sizes burn many of the calories they consume in a typical summer, just trying to keep up with their elevated metabolism in the warm water. A cool summer allows fish to use more of the calories they eat for growth and allows them to store more surplus calories as fat to help them through the winter.
There was very little "summer-kill' in the lakes in the Bemidji area this year. Summer-kill usually occurs during extended periods of hot weather, which elevates water temperatures, causes algae blooms and eventually reduces oxygen levels in deep water, which stresses cold water species of fish.
Cool water temperatures reduce the amount of stress on fish in the summer. It also makes it easier for them to keep up with their metabolism and get enough food to eat during hot weather.
Surface water temperatures spiked again during the recent hot spell, which raised surface water temperatures into the high 60s to low 70s in most area lakes.
Walleyes in many lakes have been moving into deeper water and getting more active during the day. Stable weather was a big contributing factor in the increased activity levels of all species of fish recently.
Anglers have been catching walleyes on many different presentations, with jigs and minnows working as well as live bait rigs with night crawlers, leeches or larger minnows.
Anglers are also catching walleyes on artificial presentations, with deep water trolling techniques with crankbaits also catching fish.
If that wasn't enough for walleye anglers to think about, bottom bouncers with spinner rigs tipped with night crawlers, leeches of minnows have also been working for walleyes.
This gives walleye anglers many different options to try, with some presentations bound to trigger more bites than others.
Once the lakes start to cool down this fall, more anglers will switch to jigs and minnows and use vertical jigging techniques to catch walleyes.
Muskie anglers have been very active on the lakes getting ready for the big multi-lake muskie tournament this weekend in the greater Bemidji area.
Muskie action has picked up with the recent spike in water temperatures recently, so the timing of the event should be good.
Muskie anglers can also use many different presentations in the fall, ranging from cast and retrieve lures to large jerk baits with that have to be worked a certain way to get the attention of the fish.
Perch anglers are finding schools of perch roaming the large flats in many of the larger lakes. Perch need ample food sources at all times of year to grow to jumbo size, so most perch anglers concentrate their efforts on the larger lakes, which usually have the most jumbo perch.
Crappie fishing has been on the up-swing recently, with more crappies moving into deeper water and beginning to bite better during the day.
Last-minute walleye anglers might still be able to get in on Taber's Invitational Walleye Tournament scheduled for Lake Bemidji and Lake Irving on Saturday. Interested anglers should go to Taber's Bait to see if there are any more openings.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted by calling 218.759.2235.