Transformation is complete; open water returns
The ice went out on the lakes in the Bemidji area this past week, with most lakes only a day or two later than their average ice-out dates. Lake Bemidji was ice-free on Thursday which is two days later than average.
The 2010 Minnesota fishing licenses expire on Saturday so anglers will need to purchase 2011 fishing licenses to go fishing beginning on Sunday.
Hopefully anglers will consider purchasing a walleye stamp when they purchase their new license. The money generated from the walleye stamps is earmarked for stocking walleye in Minnesota lakes.
Since the Bemidji area has more walleye lakes than most regions in Minnesota, a good portion of the funds go towards putting more walleyes in the lakes in the Bemidji area.
Walleyes are currently running in many of the rivers and streams that are connected to lakes in the Bemidji area.
DNR workers on Big Lake and the Cutfoot Sioux walleye stripping stations have seen a good run of walleyes in the past few days and have been harvesting walleye eggs to stock in many of the local lakes.
The DNR can take spawn from male and female walleyes and hatch the eggs in incubators, which can create the ideal conditions for the eggs to hatch.
The incubators produce a much higher survival rate than walleyes spawning in the wild. This provides a surplus of walleye fry for the DNR to use to stock into lakes they think need more walleyes.
There are enough walleye fry produced in the incubators to give the host lake back several times more fry than it would have produced naturally and still provide a significant surplus to stock into other lakes.
The Bemidji area is significantly impacted by tourism and most visitors are coming here to go fishing.
If the walleyes are plentiful in the lakes, the anglers will come. If the walleye fishing is tough, anglers will go somewhere else to fish.
If anyone doubts this is true, just think back to what happened to the local economies and property values on Upper Red Lake and Leech Lake when the walleye populations crashed in those lakes.
The walleye stamp helps provide funds for stocking, which might not be available with all the budget cuts.
It is important enough that non-anglers may want to consider purchasing a walleye stamp just to help businesses in the Bemidji area stay competitive by improving the quality of walleye fishing in the local lakes.
Anglers will have about two weeks of open water before the walleye opener this year. One of the first species to spawn in the lakes once the ice is gone is perch.
Perch spawn by laying their eggs in strands on standing weeds, which includes old reed beds, old cabbage weeds and any other standing weeds.
Anglers can search for pre-spawn perch as soon as the ice is off the lakes. Male perch will move into the shallows first, with the female perch arriving when they are ready to spawn and leaving soon after they finish spawning.
Anglers can look for perch on shallow weed flats and on the edges of reed beds with a jig and minnow under a bobber. It is a short window of opportunity, with the perch beginning to spawn within days after ice-out.
Sunfish and crappies will seek out warmer water in the spring to make a feeding movement into the shallows.
Anglers can use a temperature gauge to help them locate feeding panfish, which can be located anywhere in the lake that has water temperatures several degrees warmer than the main portion of the lake.
Possible locations include inlets, dark bottomed bays and any necked-downed backwaters that have enough depth to hide the bottom from sight at mid-day.
Once anglers have located some active crappies, they may want to enter Bluewater Outdoors annual spring crappie Tournament, which will be held on May 7.
Anglers are allowed to fish any public lake and the entry fee is $50 for a two-person team. Entry forms and more information are available at Bluewater Outdoors.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.