Paul Nelson fishing column for Oct. 16: Anglers still hoping for some fall fishing
Winter is long enough without adding a month to the season, which appears to be what is happening this fall.
October is supposed to be a glorious month of nearly perfect weather for those who enjoy hunting and fishing or just being in the great outdoors.
Snow and cold weather like the last couple of weeks in the Bemidji area doesn't usually arrive until sometime during the rifle deer season, which starts the first Saturday in November.
The forecast for the next couple of days is a little more seasonable, so anglers may be able to get out on one of the area lakes this weekend without too much risk of frostbite.
The surface water on the lakes has cooled into the upper 40s, which puts the lakes into the cold-water portion of the fishing calendar.
Most of the area lakes turned over during the recent cold spell. Some anglers confuse turnover with the breakdown of the thermocline in the fall, which is when many of the fish begin to head for deeper water.
Some anglers' think the lakes have turned-over when they see dead algae on the surface, but algae begins to die rather quickly in the fall, long before the lakes turn-over.
Water is most dense at around 40 degrees (actually 39.12 degrees), which is the temperature of water under the ice in the winter.
Generally speaking, cold water is denser and slightly heavier than warm water.
During the summer months, lake water stratifies by temperature, with the warmest water on the surface and the coldest water on the bottom.
As lakes cool in the fall, eventually the surface water will become significantly colder than the water on the bottom of the lake.
This causes the surface water to begin to sink and the water on the bottom of the lake flips to the surface.
This phenomenon is commonly referred to as turnover and usually occurs when surface water temperatures reach around 50 degrees in the fall. The process of turnover fully reoxygenizes the lakes and gets them ready for winter.
Fishing during the cold water period can be similar to ice fishing. The fish may really turn off when the weather is unstable or during severe cold fronts. The fish may also bite like crazy, if anglers are in the right place at the right time.
Most anglers wait to fish until the afternoon late in the season to take advantage of the warmest part of the day.
Walleye anglers have been struggling with the elements recently and have had to work for their fish on most days.
Walleyes in many lakes have been in deep water. Anglers should use their electronics to find fish before dropping a line in the water.
Anglers may have to check all the way to the bottom of the breakline in the fall and pay particular attention to where the hard bottom turns to mud.
Most effective presentations during the cold water period are similar to ice fishing. Anglers usually need to hover over the fish with vertical presentations to get a bite.
Making long drifts or back trolling along structure to search for fish isn't usually practical in the fall, because the baits are moving too fast to get a bite.
Anglers often have to downsize during the cold-water period, especially when the fish are in a neutral or negative feeding mood.
Anglers can use lighter line, lighter jigs and smaller minnows to get more bites when the fishing gets tough.
It is not too late for anglers to do some homework for the ice fishing season out of their boats. Anglers that know what type of areas hold fish in the winter can pinpoint the potential hotspots on their GPS, and then return to the area during the winter while ice fishing.
Locating the "spot on the spot" is usually very helpful in the winter, when anglers are limited to fishing out of a 7- to 10-inch hole in the ice.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.