Warm weather allows anglers to be more aggressive
The Bemidji area suffered through another week of cold weather with bitterly cold temperatures keeping most anglers huddled inside their fish houses trying to stay warm.
Fortunately, there is a more positive outlook for this weekend with significantly warmer temperatures forecast into next week.
Warmer weather usually improves the bite for most species and allows anglers to be comfortable outside longer so they can be more aggressive when searching for fish. Fish are usually easier to locate when they are active because they bite faster and give themselves up when anglers find the right location.
When fish are active anglers can move through potential locations quickly and know that when they find the right spot it shouldn't take too long to catch a fish.
When the conditions are negative most of the fish are inactive, which makes them more difficult to catch. Anglers might find the right location and not know it because they are moving too fast and not stopping long enough in each location to accurately determine what fish might be there.
Anglers using GPS and a map chip can position themselves on different structures and get close to where they want to be. Once they decide on a spot, they can drill a series of holes in different depths on the structure to check for fish.
Anglers can move from hole to hole with sonar, looking for fish. Once anglers see some fish on sonar they can quickly drop a lure down the hole and see if they can catch what they are seeing.
Different species may want different presentations so anglers should have both a panfish and a walleye rod handy when they are checking holes.
Crappies, sunfish and perch may all be suspended a good distance off the bottom, especially when they are in deep water.
Much of the algae in the lakes die during the winter and the dead algae settles to the bottom. Algae uses oxygen when it breaks down so the oxygen can become depleted close to the bottom.
This pushes fish further from the bottom where oxygen levels are higher and also where they can stay in the portion of the water column where sunlight is able to penetrate, which is where most of the food in the lake is located.
Anglers may also find whitefish and tulibees actively feeding in deep water in many of the larger lakes. Whitefish can get about twice as big as tulibees but the main difference for identification is in their snouts.
Whitefish feed more on the bottom so their lower jaw is shorter than the upper part of their snout when the mouth is closed.
Tulibees typically suspend further from the bottom when they feed and their lower jaw extends beyond the upper part of their snout when their mouth is closed.
The record whitefish is more than 12 pounds while the record tulibee is slightly less than six pounds. Both species can be caught on small jigs tipped with a wax worm or several eurolarve.
Small jigging spoons tipped with a minnow head or small jigging minnows tipped with several eurolarve on the center treble hook will also work for tulibees and whitefish.
Whitefish are preferred for eating by some anglers but both tulibees and whitefish are great smoked and a good fish to practice on for anglers learning how to use a smoker. There are many great recipes for smoked fish available on the internet.
Anglers with stationary fish houses may want to consider removing their houses early this year, just in case there is a fast melt on the lakes.
A slow melt might extend the ice fishing season well into March and slowly improve the ice conditions as the snow melts and refreezes.
A fast melt would likely flood the lakes very quickly. The ice conditions are already poor in many areas so a fast melt would make it more difficult for anglers to get their houses off the lakes.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.