Violent storms negatively impact fishing on shallow lakes
Violent storms this past week knocked down trees and scattered branches and debris on many properties in the Bemidji area, causing considerable damage to businesses, homes and other structures.
Strong storms can also have a negative impact on the large shallow lakes like Upper Red Lake, Winnibigoshish, Lake of the Woods, Mille Lacs and Leech Lake.
The entire water column in the shallow lakes can be turned over by the wind, which disrupts fishing and breaks down fishing patterns until the water column re-stabilizes and the fish are able to adjust.
Winds in strong storms like the ones that hit much of northern Minnesota this past week can cause almost a rip-tide effect in the shallow lakes. The water on the surface goes with the wind and the water on the bottom gets pulled back into the lake, moving in the opposite direction of the wind.
The main difference between turn-over in the fall and lakes being turned over by the wind is in the fall lakes flip vertically while the wind flips shallow lakes horizontally, almost like a conveyer belt of water. The fish can't help but be disrupted by such a turbulent event.
Not only does a storm with high winds disrupt the fishing, it also can kill many of the tiny young-of-the-year shiners and perch that were scattered across the surface of the lakes feeding on plankton.
Surface water temperatures have also been spiking in the heat. Many lakes are approaching 80 degrees, which is very warm for lakes in the Bemidji area, especially this early in the season.
It is rare for the local lakes to have surface temperatures over 80 degrees and when it does happen, it usually only lasts a few days before the temperatures fall back into the 70s.
Lakes with both cold and warm-water species, which includes most of the lakes in the Bemidji area, could have a serious summer kill on the cold-water species if this kind of heat continues.
On a more positive note, muskie fishing should be approaching the summer peak, which usually occurs when the lakes take on their "green-tint" for the first time. The muskies take some time to adjust to the loss of visibility in the water, which often means they make more mistakes and are more vulnerable to anglers' presentations.
Muskie anglers will notice how rare it is to catch a muskie with signs of having been caught recently by another angler. If there is an injury it is usually completely healed and looks like it happened a long time ago.
Muskies seem to learn their lesson when they get caught and take a long time to make another mistake. The short learning curve for muskies means there is a good deal of attrition during the summer, with the number of potentially catchable muskies going down as the season progresses.
There is usually a fresh batch of muskies that move shallow in the fall when muskies that stayed in deep water all summer move shallow following schools of tulibees as they move shallow to spawn.
Walleye anglers are still finding fish in both shallow and deep water. There are still walleyes in the cabbage weeds, on the breakline and on mid-lake structure in deeper water.
Many anglers have been switching to bottom bouncers and spinners for walleyes so they can cover water more quickly and locate pods of active fish. Quick moving baits force fish to make snap decisions as the bait moves by - they either strike or let the bait pass them by.
Walleye anglers can work jigs and minnows, jigs and plastics or safety-pin spinners for walleyes in the weeds. They can also use live-bait rigs with night crawlers, leeches or larger minnows for walleyes on the breakline or in deep water when anglers want to work productive areas more slowly.
Crankbaits or floating minnow baits can be used for walleyes on trolling rods with line counter reels and lead core line. Anglers are able to let out a specific amount of line to get their lures into the same zone as the fish in deep water.