Paul Nelson: Maybe the fish will think it's September
Highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s equal surface water temperatures in the 60s in most of the lakes in the Bemidji area. Actually upper 60s, but the water in the lakes continues on a downward trend as the calendar changes to August.
The current weather pattern is more like September than the end of July. If we are lucky, maybe the walleyes and muskies will think it is September and start to bite better than they have been in most of the lakes in the Bemidji area.
If the cooler weather pattern continues, which the extended forecast seems to indicate, the thermocline in the lakes could start to break down very early this year.
Fall weather patterns usually begin to develop once the thermocline in the deep lakes starts to break down, which should not be confused with "turn-over".
The thermocline is the layer of water that separates the warm surface water with the colder water on the bottom in the lakes that are deep enough to stratify by temperature during the heat of summer.
A typical thermocline will usually set up somewhere between 25 and 40 feet of water. As the water cools in the fall, it cools from the surface to the bottom.
When the surface water cools down, it eventually comes close to matching the temperature of the water below the thermocline, which makes the thermocline disappear.
The thermocline typically starts to break down sometime in late August to early September, so this would be very early for this to happen if it does.
Once the thermocline is gone, the fall fishing patterns develop and many of the fish begin to feed like they know winter is coming.
Winnibigoshish has the hottest walleye bite in the area, but many of the other lakes are starting to pick up for walleyes.
Anglers in Winnibigoshish are finding walleyes on the numerous mid-lake humps and larger bars. There are also walleyes using the shoreline cabbage and rocks, along with the perch and northern pike.
Anglers in Winnibigoshish usually find the most active fish on top of the smaller humps and on the corners and turns along the steepest breaks on the larger bars. Walleye anglers often jump from hump to hump until they find something holding fish.
Each hump in Winnie is different. Some humps may hold larger slot walleyes, while other humps might have both slot fish and keeper walleyes.
A few humps may hold several species including walleyes, perch, northern pike and maybe even a muskie. There are also many humps in Winnibigoshish that hold nothing or have no active fish at the time anglers go through and check.
Anglers can make good use of their electronics when walleyes move out of the weeds and head down the breakline. Baitfish will also show up well on good electronics. An area loaded with baitfish is a place worth checking for predator species and is usually a good place to stop and fish.
Perch have been active in the weeds in most of the larger lakes. Many of the perch have been feeding on crayfish and young-of-the year perch.
This year's hatch of perch are only about an inch long and are still very small. The young perch are starting to be eaten by larger perch, but are not big enough yet to attract much attention from larger walleyes.
Sunfish and a few crappies have also been biting on the smaller lakes, with fish on the edges of the deepest and greenest patches of cabbage and coontail weeds.
Muskie anglers in most lakes continue to struggle to find active fish. Most anglers are only finding active muskies on the days with the most miserable weather.
If muskie anglers want to eat fish, they usually learn how to boneless fillet northern pike, so they can take some fish home while they spend their time on the water chasing muskies.
Bass fishing is almost always good in the Bemidji area. The lakes closer to Bemidji have mostly largemouth bass, but there are many good smallmouth bass lakes within reasonable driving distance of Bemidji in several directions.