Paul Nelson: Frigid temperatures mean better ice for anglers
The silver lining behind all of the cold weather is this was about the only scenario that could have helped the horrible ice conditions created by an early snowstorm.
Lakes in the Bemidji area have had bad ice conditions since early December, when a heavy storm dumped more than 20 inches of snow on only about six inches of ice.
Prospects of the weather getting cold enough for long enough to thicken the ice and freeze the slush through all that snow seemed unlikely, but that is exactly what has been happening on many lakes in the Bemidji area.
This does not mean to imply all the slush is gone on every lake. There are still a few lakes covered with slush and most other lakes still have isolated bad spots with slush.
Snowmobiles and track vehicles are still the best way to access most lakes, especially if anglers plan to leave the established trails and roads on the ice.
Resorts on Winnibigoshish and Leech Lake have slowly been plowing access roads, so they can put out their rental fish houses.
There are also a few smaller lakes around Bemidji with increased activity, with individual anglers making trails and putting out fish houses.
Most fish are into their mid-winter patterns and are following their food. Decreasing light caused by the heavy snow cover on the lakes will push some fish shallower and make other fish suspend further off the bottom.
There will always be a few individual fish that get active during each low light period (mornings and evenings). Cloudy days favor some species, while full sun can benefit other species.
More individual fish will feed for a longer time when the conditions are favorable, while less fish will feed for a shorter time when the conditions are negative. Each low-light period can be a little different, based on the conditions.
Most anglers start out fishing with an aggressive presentation and make changes based on what they are see on sonar.
On good days, fish may come through fairly steady, with most fish hitting the lure. Other days there are more lookers than takers, with most fish having to be coaxed just right to get them to bite.
A good aggressive presentation is to use some type of "flyer" spoon, which have little wings on the sides to help them shoot out to the side of the hole.
The idea for working a flyer spoon is to find the bottom with the lure and then set the reel so the rod is pointed perpendicular to the hole.
Remembering the exact location of the bottom, give the rod two or three good pumps and on the last fall, drop the rod tip to the water, to give the lure more line to shoot out to the side.
Once the flyer spoon has had a few seconds to settle on the bottom, raise the rod tip to an inch or two above the spot where you measured the bottom and let the lure flutter back to directly below the hole. When the fish are hot, this can be one of the most productive jigging motions.
A more moderate jigging approach is to have another rod tipped with a slender shaped jigging spoon with or without a rattle and try more subtle jigging moves like hopping and twitching above the bottom, occasionally pounding the lure into the bottom.
When the fish won't take aggressive or moderate jigging presentations, then anglers can downsize to a dead stick with a plain hook and a minnow.
Anglers can also go super small, with a tungsten jig and 2- or 3-pound test line. Anglers can use scented plastics plain or with bait. They can also try a plain jig with a single threaded wax worm, a few eurolarvae on a jig or go all the way down to a single eurolarvae on a tiny jig.
Perch, sauger and even larger walleyes sometimes bite on the smallest presentations and other times it's hard to use anything too big.
Anglers should avoid getting locked into one presentation and one lure type and be willing to make changes based on what they see on sonar or underwater camera.