The peak walleye bite of the spring usually happens while the lilacs are blooming and the shiner minnows are spawning in the shallows.
The smaller male walleyes recovered from the spawn a long time ago and have been biting well all spring in many of the local lakes.
Female walleyes grow larger than male walleyes and can lose up to a quarter of their body weight when they spawn.
Female walleyes will seek out deep water after they finish spawning, where they literally lay on the bottom and rest. Their metabolism slows down in the cold water, which gives them the time they need to recover. It can take some walleyes weeks before they resume normal feeding patterns.
A few female walleyes will recover faster than the rest and will begin to leave the deep water and move into shallow water to begin actively feeding.
Spotail shiner minnows are one of the key forage species for walleyes in many of the lakes in the Bemidji area. Shiners spawn in water around 60 degrees, which is where the water temperatures are on many of the local lakes right now.
The larger female walleyes have had enough time to recover from spawning, so more females have been moving shallow to feed. Their recovery coincides with the spotail shiner spawn, which provides the hungry walleyes with a good food source in shallow water.
Eyesight and schooling behavior are the key advantages walleyes have over their prey. Walleyes are usually most active in areas where the wind is blowing into structure. Minnows will be blown into the structure and the water gets churned up from the waves, which gives walleyes a sight advantage over their prey when they move in to feed.
Schools of walleyes can swim into the cloudy water stirred up by the wind and be able to see the minnows before they are able to see the walleyes.
The peak walleye fishing of the spring should be happening in the next two weeks, which is very late compared to most years. The only missing ingredient at this point is stable weather and higher temperatures.
Stable weather means having a steady barometer and the same direction wind for more than one day in a row.
When a cold front passes through the area, it is like hitting the reset button on fishing. All of the patterns that have been established by the wind will break down as the wind shifts and the barometer starts to rise again.
The wind patterns have to start over again and fishing will steadily improve if the wind stays from same direction for several days.
Bass, crappies and sunfish are also actively feeding and getting ready to spawn when water temperatures reach the mid 60s.
Bass usually spawn first, with crappies and sunfish following behind, using many of the same areas to spawn as the bass.
Hopefully anglers will show some restraint and avoid harvesting bass and panfish while they are on their spawning beds, to allow them to reproduce and provide good fishing in the future.
Muskie anglers have been facing cool temperatures too. Some muskies are just finishing spawning and should be done as the water temperatures exceed 60 degrees.
Muskies also need time to recover from spawning and may not get active for a couple more weeks, especially the larger female fish.
With the reed beds starting to poke their heads above the water and the cabbage weeds starting to get green and reach for the surface, the lakes should start to look more like summer in the coming weeks.
The FLW walleye tour will be holding their final day weigh-in at Wal-Mart in Bemidji on Saturday afternoon about the same time the Kraus/Anderson Walleye Classic will be weighing-in on Lake Bemidji at the waterfront.
The two walleye tournaments will be awarding more than half a million dollars combined to anglers for catching walleyes this weekend on Cass Lake and Lake Bemidji.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted by calling 218-759-2235.