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Paul Nelson: Fall view from boat in Bemidji area is spectacular

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October in the Bemidji area can be about as good as it gets for someone who loves the outdoors. The scenery alone is worth the trip and it automatically accompanies most hunting and fishing trips.

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The view from the boat on many of the lakes gives anglers the best possible view of the changing fall colors. The remaining leaves on the trees are nearing their peak, so don’t waste any time getting on the water before strong winds blow more of the leaves off the trees.

The fall cool-down has been fairly gradual in the local lakes with surface water temperatures holding in the low 60s.

Much cooler weather, wind and rain are forecast for the Bemidji area this weekend. These conditions should accelerate the cool-down on the lakes next week.

The thermocline is still visible on electronics in deeper water, with the top edge of the thermocline varying from 25 to 45 feet from lake to lake.

Most warm-water species will stay above the thermocline when it is present so it sets the lower limit for anglers when searching for species like walleyes and crappies.

Walleyes in most of the deep lakes have been feeding on the outside edge of the weed line. Walleyes often make feeding movements when they get active, moving shallower when they feed and deeper when they are inactive or after cold fronts.

Fish can be active at any time of day in the fall so anglers may want to check on schools of fish at different times of the day if they are seeing fish on sonar that won’t bite.

Anglers fishing on Leech Lake have been catching walleyes along the windy shorelines with a rocky bottom. Most anglers have been using jigs and minnows or trolling crankbaits to locate the active fish.

Walleyes in Lake Winnibigoshish have been slightly deeper than walleyes in Leech Lake, with more fish in the 12 to 15-foot range. Most anglers have been using jigs and minnows although live-bait rigs with leeches or night crawlers will also work.

If the leeches are small, walleyes don’t seem to mind two leeches on a hook. It can help to use smaller hooks to match the size of the leeches, just like anglers should use larger hooks when using live-bait rigs with larger minnows.

Walleyes in the deeper lakes like Bemidji and Cass have been following several patterns. There have been some walleyes with the schools of perch, some walleyes feeding on the break and another group of walleyes feeding in deeper water closer to the top edge of the thermocline.

Once the surface water temperatures begin to cool into the 50s, the thermocline will begin to break down in the deep lakes and more of the walleyes will move into deeper water to feed.

Most anglers are using their electronics to help them find fish. Most of the predator species are holding close to the schools of baitfish and perch.

The perch tend to be located slightly shallower than the schools of walleyes so anglers should consider fishing the outside edges of the perch for walleyes.

The supplies of bait at the bait shops have been limited this year, with less of a selection of bait than anglers may be used to finding. Shiner minnows of any kind have been scarce, with the supply of leeches also nearly gone for the season.

Anglers in most areas are limited to fatheads, small suckers, rainbow chubs and night crawlers. There are also a few bait shops that have limited supplies of red-tail chubs or creek chubs.

Taber’s Bait in Bemidji is closing for the season after this weekend and won’t re-open until the lakes have ice. This will limit the bait available to anglers even more for the rest of the open-water season.

There will only be a limited number of days with good weather in October so anglers should be ready to drop what they are doing and go fishing when the conditions are right, regardless of what species anglers want to pursue.

PAUL A. NELSON runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted at panelson@paulbunyan.net

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Paul Nelson

Paul Nelson writes a weekly fishing column for the Bemidji Pioneer. He runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service.

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