Spinners, rigs, cranks will catch walleyes
The month of July has been both hot and wet in the Bemidji area, with frequent storms and plenty of hot weather sandwiched between the cold fronts.
Water levels in the area lakes and rivers are high, especially for this late in the summer. Surface water temperatures remain in the low to mid-70s in most lakes, which is near the high point for the summer.
Algae continues to bloom in many lakes, which gives the water a greenish tint and reduces the amount of sunlight that is able to penetrate the water.
Visibility in many lakes is down to only a couple of feet, which allows light sensitive species like walleyes to feed on top of humps, points, bars and flats during the day.
Anglers need to use some specialized presentations to fish for walleyes on top of weed-covered structure.
Spinner rigs are one answer. Safety-pin spinners work well on top of the structures and bottom bouncers and spinners work well when walleyes move off the sides of structure into more moderate depths.
If there are walleyes hanging on the edge of the thermocline in deeper water, anglers can use standard live-bait rigs or they can try deep trolling techniques like downriggers or lead core line to troll crankbaits.
Anglers can also troll crankbaits in shallow water in the evenings or after dark on the shallow edges of the same areas that produce fish during the day.
Anglers can also cast crankbaits though the cabbage weeds, ripping the baits when they make contact with the weeds. Casting also allows anglers to clean the weeds off the crankbaits after each cast.
Anglers have been catching walleyes in most of the larger lakes like Winnibigoshish, Leech, Bemidji, Cass, Pike Bay and Blackduck.
Large lakes have the most structure and the most walleyes, so anglers usually have more than a day's worth of good spots to investigate.
There are also walleyes in most of the smaller lakes in the Bemidji area. The problem is there are usually only a couple of good spots for walleyes on most small lakes.
Anglers can usually wait until prime time to check out the walleyes on most small lakes, because it doesn't take all day to check out a couple of spots. If the walleyes are not going on the best spots, they probably aren't going on any of the marginal spots either.
Muskie anglers had a couple of good weeks of fishing as the muskies adjusted to the algae bloom. There were not many anglers fishing muskies, but most of the anglers who were muskie fishing were catching fish.
Unfortunately, the bite for muskies has slowed, but it could pick up again with more stable weather. Muskies don't like hot water temperatures but anything below 75 degrees is usually a positive.
With the new 48-inch muskie limit on most lakes in Minnesota and the muskie stocking program a huge success, there are probably more muskies larger than 50 inches within 50 miles of Bemidji today than at any other time in history.
Any lake connected to a lake with muskies can have muskies. Sometimes, the marginal muskie water is where the largest fish are caught because of the lack of fishing pressure. Most good muskie spots on most good muskie lakes get fished at least several times a day.
Catch and release has been a boom to muskie fishing because the fish are recycled. Still, muskies are fragile fish and there is often some delayed mortality when fish are not handled properly.
Anglers owe it to the fish to have a good net that won't split the tail and fins and will resist tangling with hooks.
A hook-out and wire cutter should always be handy. A camera should also be within easy reach so you can take a picture and quickly release the muskie to fight another day.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.