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Paul Nelson: Full moon offers opportunity to target trophy walleyes in Bemidji area lakes

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The first hard frost of the season occurred this week in the Bemidji area and much colder temperatures are forecast for next week. Surface water temperatures in the local lakes continue to drop and most lakes now are in the low to mid 50s.

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Fall fishing can be great but it is very weather dependant. The best action usually occurs later in the day as the season progresses, with the best fishing on the days with the nicest weather.

Lakes with deep water are moving closer to turnover, which occurs as water density increases as the water temperatures fall into the low 40s. The surface water eventually becomes denser than the water on the bottom and that causes the surface water to sink.

Water is most dense between 39 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a good thing for anglers. If water was most dense at 32 degrees the lakes would freeze solid in the winter and there would be no fish in the lakes this far north.

The October full moon is tonight and offers anglers a great chance to do some night trolling for big walleyes. The best nights usually have clear skies and calm winds. The effects of the full moon last several days before and after the actual full moon.

Most anglers troll shallow diving minnow baits in larger sizes at night so fish can see the silhouette of the lure in the backdrop of the moon as they look toward the surface.

Anglers can troll the edges of flats that are connected directly to deep water. The best areas are usually long stretches with sparse weeds so the lures can run freely without constantly fouling on weeds.

Anglers can put their rods in a rod holder and watch the tip of the rod to see bites and know when the lures get fouled. It is usually more productive to hold the rod so anglers can work the baits while they troll.

The best speed for night trolling can vary but the minimum speed is the point where the lure begins to work properly. Anglers should test the action of the lure at boatside so they can see how the lure works at different speeds.

Anglers can use the outboard motor to troll or they can use an electric motor. Bow mounted motors usually work better than transom mounted motors to follow contours of the structure and keep the lures moving at the proper speed.

Anglers can kick the motor in and out of gear and make ‘S’ turns to keep the lures from going long distances in a straight line, which is not something most baitfish would normally do.

Clear water lakes with a reputation for big walleyes are often the best lakes to fish at night. Larger lakes usually have more long stretches to troll while smaller lakes usually have short stretches with more erratic edges that are harder to follow when trolling.

Anglers can experiment with colors to find out which pattern produces the most bites. Lures with different actions are also good to experiment with so anglers can see what combinations are working best.

Some anglers prefer lures with an orange belly, which are theoretically easier for walleyes to see as they look toward the surface at night.

Larger lures have a better profile at night and give walleyes a larger target when they strike the lure. Most anglers target trophy-size walleyes at night, which also favors larger lures.

Anglers fishing late in the season should be on the lookout for places to fish this winter. It is almost always easier to find spots out of a boat than it is through the ice.

An underwater camera can be helpful to find unique features on structures that may not be visible on electronics.

Most fish have moved into their late fall and early winter locations so many of the area anglers are finding fish in the same locations the fish will be using when ice forms on the lakes.

Anglers should be prepared to access the lakes without the aid of a dock because most docks will be removed from the public accesses sometime in the next couple of weeks.

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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