Cooler temperatures and heavy rain this past week continued the drop in water temperatures in Bemidji area lakes. Most lakes now have surface water temperatures in the mid 60s.
The initial shock of cooling water temperatures can have a drastic effect on fish location. Anglers can have a tough time finding fish if they are fishing memories from the summer instead of fishing the changing conditions.
Most fish species have been active recently, but unstable weather and the movement of fish to different locations have resulted in a slower bite for many anglers. The thing that will pick up the bite the most is several days of stable weather with light to moderate winds.
Walleye fishing has been good on Leech Lake and Winnibigoshish when anglers have been able to get out on the lakes. Big winds on both lakes make fishing uncomfortable, with anglers unable to access all parts of the lake without navigating through some big waves.
The walleye bite on Winnie and Leech has been centered around shallow water. Walleyes in Leech Lake are more sensitive to wind direction because the water in Leech is pretty clear, so wave action largely determines where walleyes will be most active on any given day.
Walleyes in Lake Winnibigoshish have more turbid water than those in Leech Lake, so they are less dependent on wave action to break up the sunlight. Walleyes in Winnie have been concentrated on the outside edge of cabbage weed beds or on shoreline rocks.
Most anglers on Winnie and Leech Lake have made the switch to a jig and minnow as the bait of choice for walleyes. Anglers can also troll crankbaits in both lakes with good results for walleyes, at least as long as the water temperatures stay warmer than 60 degrees.
Live bait rigs also will work for walleyes in both lakes, but rigs can be high maintenance in weedy cover, with jigs a better choice for ease of fishing if walleyes are receptive to the presentation.
Perch have been hot in many areas in Leech Lake, with the perch in Lake Winnibigoshish still scattered and using both shoreline and mid lake structure. The perch in Leech Lake have been mostly in shallow water. There is a good mixture of perch sizes in Leech, with good numbers of larger perch mixed with the smaller fish.
Perch fishing has been slow on Lake Bemidji and Cass Lake most of the summer. Cass has large perch in good numbers, but they have been scattered and hard to locate. Bemidji has had a conspicuous lack of big perch this summer, with a few age classes of smaller perch dominant in the population.
Sunfish anglers have seen many of the fish move out of the weed beds to the deep edge of the weeds and also heading for mid-depth flats.
Crappies in many lakes have also moved into deeper water, with many of the fish suspended over deeper water, but still relating to structure. Crappies will become more active during the day in the fall, with crappies in many lakes relating to deep water rocks.
Muskie anglers had fantastic fishing for muskies on the multi-lake muskie tournament held this past weekend. There is a sweet spot with water clarity as the algae dies in the fall, which usually occurs in early to mid September.
Anglers should be able to find active muskies until the water temperatures drop into the mid 50s before fishing starts to slow down again. Most anglers will switch to larger jerk baits in the fall, but spinnerbaits, big plastics and surface lures will also produce fish.
Northern pike like cold water and will be active right up until ice up. Anglers will find more big pike moving into shore as fall progresses, with many of the largest fish following the schools of tulibees into the shoreline.
Bass anglers are finding many bass moving out of the super shallow water towards the deep edge of the weedline. Bass tend to school more tightly when they move into deeper water, so anglers should slow down and fish more thoroughly when they contact an active fish.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted by calling 218-759-2235.