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Paul Nelson: Temperatures begin to drop on Bemidji area lakes

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Lakes in the Bemidji area continue their fall-like cool down into the second week of August. Surface water temperatures have fallen into the mid 60s in most lakes, which is similar to what usually happens in early September.

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There is still time for more hot weather this summer but it is hard to complain about high temperatures in the 70s and overnight lows in the 50s.

Fishing usually picks up for walleyes once the lakes begin to cool late in the summer. This year has been anything but normal, so it is hard to figure out how the fish will react.

There is usually a significant algae bloom in the lakes in early August, with surface water temperatures near their peak for the summer in the upper 70s to low 80s.

This year had an extremely late spring and what appears to be the makings of an early fall. This has stunted the algae growth and kept the water in most lakes very clear all summer.

Anglers may also have noticed there have not been any dead tulibees and suckers floating on the lakes this summer. There was a heavy die-off last summer but cooler water temperatures and the lack of algae growth in the lakes has prevented a "summer-kill" this year.

Oxygen levels have not been a problem for the cold water species in the lakes this summer. This allows the fish to spread out and occupy more of the lake, which means anglers have more of the lake to search when they are looking for active fish.

This has been part of the reason walleye anglers have been having trouble finding any concentrations of fish. Walleyes are usually limited to the weeds or hugging the upper edge of the thermocline at this point of the summer but this year the fish can be just about anywhere.

Anglers are finding smaller pods of walleyes in several different types of locations but it has been difficult to find any larger concentrations of fish.

Anglers are finding that the best bet is to use their electronics to look for fish along the breakline and stop and take a few passes through any fish they see.

If anglers find a nice school of fish that won't bite they should mark them and come back later. If the walleyes have moved shallower it usually means they are getting more active and starting to feed.

The bite has been better for species like perch, bass, sunfish and northern pike so anglers do have options if the walleyes won't bite.

Jumbo perch continue to bite in most of the larger lakes. Perch like flats and use both shallow and deep water flats at various times of the year.

There will usually be a split in the perch population, with some of the perch using the shallow flats and other perch using the deep flats.

The percentages of how many perch are feeding in shallow water versus how many perch are feeding in deep water switches back and forth and may vary between lakes.

It all depends on where the most abundant food is located. Perch feed in schools so they have an insatiable collective appetite that needs to be fed.

Perch want plentiful and easy when it comes to food. The best thing perch have going right now in most lakes is either crayfish or young-of-the-year perch.

Most of the perch in the larger lakes are using the weed flats, with some fish both on the outside and inside edge of the weeds.

Perch may also use bald patches between the clumps of weeds that may have more of a rock bottom. Perch also like rises on flats to feed and depressions on flats to fall into when done feeding.

Northern pike fishing has been good in most lakes with more large pike beginning to show up along the deep edge of the cabbage weeds.

Pike larger than 10 pounds are trophy fish. Pike larger than 20 pounds are extremely rare and pike larger than 30 pounds are only caught once every few years out of Minnesota waters.

Upper Red Lake and Lake of the Woods are arguably two of the best big pike lakes in Minnesota.

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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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