Paul Nelson: Fish in Bemidji area lakes adjust to fall conditions
The Bemidji area is losing 21 minutes of daylight per week (about three minutes per day) and Friday’s sunrise in Bemidji was at 6:24 a.m. and the sunset will be at 8:21 p.m. (a total of 13 hours and 57 minutes of daylight).
Surface water temperatures in most Bemidji area lakes are in the mid 70s but cooler temperatures forecast for next week might signal the beginning of the fall cool down.
Summer fishing patterns still rule the lakes, however, and algae blooms in many lakes are allowing more fish to move shallow to feed during the day.
The active fish will take up the most aggressive positions on structure so anglers should look on top of structures first and then work their way down the breakline looking for active fish.
Water clarity is among the major factors in determining how shallow the fish can be.
Anglers can watch the bottom as they leave the shoreline and see how deep it is when the bottom disappears from sight. Anglers can also put a brightly colored lure over the side of the boat and see how deep the water is when the lure disappears.
The less visibility in the water the shallower the fish might be. If the visibility is only a foot or two the fish can be very shallow. If anglers can see down several feet the fish will likely be deeper.
Once they see how deep the active fish are located anglers can look for fish in areas with similar structures and pattern the active fish.
Some structures are only holding active fish at peak periods while other structures may have waves of fish moving through to feed at all times of the day.
Anglers looking at unfamiliar structures can look with their electronics to check for baitfish and larger fish and also for structural elements such as weed edges and rock piles.
Presentations that work from the surface down usually work better in areas where the bottom is covered with weeds.
Crankbaits that dive to a specific depth are one option, whether anglers are casting or trolling. Long rods or planer-boards can be helpful to catch fish that are spooking out to the sides of the boat when trolling.
Anglers can also troll or cast safety pin spinner rigs with a wide range of options for tipping the jigs. There are many different styles of plastics to tip the jigs, including curly tails, split tails, paddle tails or straight worm tails.
The safety-pin spinner rigs can be tipped with a fathead minnow, a small leech or a piece of a night crawler to add scent to the presentation.
When anglers are casting safety pin spinners, they should let the lures briefly touch the bottom on the cast and then try to reel slowly enough to keep the lure near the bottom without dragging it and collecting weeds.
Trolling the safety pin spinners requires anglers to move the boat at the proper speed, cast the lures behind the boat and close the bail on the reel without letting out more line.
If the spinners are bumping the bottom, reel in a little line. If anglers aren’t getting any bites, try letting out a little more line or let the spinner rig touch the bottom and then reel it in a couple of turns.
Bottom bouncers are still the ticket for fishing walleyes in deeper water. Anglers can have a couple of rods rigged so they can fish a range of depths until they can pattern the fish.
Perch should also be moving into the shallows in greater numbers once the lakes begin their fall cool down. Warm water temperatures have driven some of the perch into deeper water, while other perch are burying themselves in the weeds during the heat of the day to stay cool.
Fishing has been good for sunfish, bass and crappies on many of the smaller lakes. The weed edges near deep water have been the key areas for panfish.
Northern pike have also been active in the weeds. Pike fillets are very good table fare for those who know how to remove the bones.