Paul Nelson: Walleye fishing continues to be slow in Bemidji area lakes
Don’t look now, but it is already the third week of July. If that makes you want to ask “where has the summer gone,” you are not alone.
It is likely more of the lingering effects of the late spring. With ice-out on most lakes in the Bemidji area around May 14, the lakes have only been ice-free for two months and five days.
In 2012, the lakes would have been ice-free for two months and five days around June 5. If the summer seems abnormally short this year, there is your reason.
The current weather pattern in the Bemidji area is much like a Florida weather pattern with hot humid days spawning showers and thunderstorms in the late afternoon and evenings.
Walleye fishing has been slow on many lakes with the mayfly hatches keeping many of the walleyes fat and largely unresponsive to anglers’ presentations.
Fortunately, the mayfly hatches are nearing an end, which should help the walleye fishing improve in most of the lakes in the Bemidji area.
Walleyes and several other species of fish have been relying on the mayflies to start the food chain. Once the big hatches are done many walleyes will need to find a new food source to replace the mayflies.
This year’s hatches of baitfish and perch are not as large as they should be for this time of year, again because of the late spring. This will put more pressure on the older perch and other minnows for prey because they are larger in size.
Depending on where walleyes can find the easiest pickings, most walleyes will either have to head back to the shallows or move tighter to the mid-lake bars and humps to find the next best feeding opportunity.
Winnibigoshish has been ahead of most other lakes with many of the humps and mid-lake bars already holding a mixture of both “keeper” walleyes and larger slot fish.
Many of the deep clear lakes have had fish suspending over deep water with very few fish feeding tight to structure. Anglers in many lakes have had to try to grind out a few walleyes from the weeds, which has been tough on the bright days with little wind.
Stained lakes like Upper Red Lake and Lake of the Woods offer a better chance for a good bite on the calm days because of the dark color of the water.
Lake of the Woods has been good for walleyes recently with anglers catching fish on the rock humps and also using lead core to catch the fish suspended in deeper water.
Upper Red Lake does not get much fishing pressure during the summer because the walleyes are tough to pattern with the lack of structure. They may be biting but they are hard to locate.
Most walleye anglers on Upper Red Lake during the summer will aimlessly troll crankbaits or bottom bouncers and spinners into the basin until they stumble across a school of fish.
Most lakes in the Bemidji area fall into the “clear water” lakes category. An algae bloom would allow walleyes to feed more comfortably during the day and improve the bite.
Until then, most walleyes will continue to feed during low light conditions, when they are able to catch more prey with less effort.
Many of the smaller “eating-size” walleyes will soon be making a change in location. The July full moon is July 22 and the full moon gives more walleyes a chance to feed after dark.
With more hot weather in the forecast the algae should begin to bloom in the lakes soon. When it happens there should be a sudden and noticeable decrease in water clarity.
An algae bloom usually helps both the walleye anglers and the muskie anglers catch more fish. The walleye anglers usually get a better day bite with an algae bloom.
Muskie anglers catch more fish early in the algae bloom because the muskies take some time to make the adjustment to the loss in water clarity.
Muskies are much more likely to make a “mistake” until they are able to make the adjustment to the loss in visibility and get used to relying on their other senses to help them locate their prey.
PAUL A. NELSON runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org