Still plenty of ice for ice fishing in the Bemidji area
There will be ice fishing in April this year in the Bemidji area. The spring meltdown has progressed slowly enough to keep the ice conditions good through the entire month of March.
The daily high temperatures have stayed in the 30s for the most part, with overnight temperatures below freezing, which is the exact recipe for extending the ice fishing season.
Anglers need to be aware of the potential for deteriorating ice conditions near shore and watch out for bad spots in the ice. The ice thickness has been gradually getting thinner, but there is still plenty of ice left on lakes in the Bemidji area.
Ice fishing will continue to get better as spring approaches, but anglers may must keep moving to stay on the fish.
The location of most fish species will shift toward shallow water as the ice fishing season nears the end. All fish won't move shallow at the same time, with fish in some lakes moving towards the shoreline in steps.
Fish know when spring is coming, even if the weather feels more like winter. The angle of the sun is higher in the sky and the length of the day keeps getting longer, so fish are able to sense when spring is coming, even during a late spring.
Fish may get stacked up in some areas as they stage, waiting for the ice to melt. The actual movement of fish usually begins to build steam only when the amount of sunlight penetrating through the ice and the run-off of water into the lakes increase as ice-out approaches.
Lakes in the Bemidji area are still locked up tight with ice conditions more like the beginning of March, than the end of March.
The spring walleye season on the Rainy River lasts until April 14, but anglers are still ice fishing the river in the lower portions near Lake of the Woods.
A few boats have been accessing the Rainy River at Pelland, which is just below the dam at International Falls.
The open water on the Rainy River is still above the rapids near the Franz Jevene, which is a couple of miles up river from the Birchdale access.
The Birchdale access on the Rainy River is typically the first access where anglers start pushing small boats over the ice pack into the river in the spring.
It will likely be a very short window of opportunity this year for anglers wanting to fish the Rainy River out of a boat.
It will be at least several days before the first small boats are able to access at Birchdale and larger boats will be lucky to get into the river by next weekend.
Perch are one of the first species to spawn in the spring and they are very active in the lakes right now. It takes a lot of food to feed a hungry school of perch, so they have to keep moving to search for food.
Anglers can find active perch and other panfish by drilling a test hole at a potential location to see if the fish are there. Anglers wanting to be stealthy about their location should only drill extra holes as they are needed.
Some anglers just got the memo about drilling a lot of holes for ice fishing. One or two anglers are capable of making an area look like the landscape of the moon, with craters everywhere when they are done fishing a spot.
Other anglers don't even bring an auger late in the season and will follow behind the mad hole drillers and choose where they fish by the look of the moonscape.
A few anglers want to be more strategic about cutting up a lake and will use an auger with a small drill bit to search for fish, always kicking the snow away from the hole and backfilling the test hole when they are done.
Extra holes are drilled only as needed, with extra care taken to smooth out the ice and leave a minimum amount of sign behind when they are finished.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted by calling 218-759-2235.