Warm weather stalls fall cool-down on area lakes
The fall colors may be as close to the peak as they are going to get in the Bemidji area, considering the wind has been blowing the leaves off the trees as fast as it can.
Anglers still have the best view of the fall colors because they can get a full view of the shoreline as well as the reflection of the trees coming off the water. The mixture of pines and hardwoods surrounding most of the area lakes provides a stunningly beautiful setting for anglers to catch some fish.
The warm weather continues to stall the fall cool-down on the lakes, with surface water temperatures holding around 60 degrees on most lakes.
The impact of the warm weather on the walleyes has been to move many of the walleyes back into the shallows in most of the deep lakes. The impact on the shallow lakes has been to delay the movement of walleyes into the shallows.
The bottom line about the warm weather is it's delaying the development of fall patterns in both the shallow and deep lakes, with some of the patterns temporarily reverting to late-summer patterns.
The longer the warm weather lasts, the better the odds the change back to more "seasonal" weather will be abrupt and more severe when it finally happens.
Anglers have been catching fish in most lakes, but it usually takes some time to locate the fish, with many species not where they are "supposed" to be at this point in the season.
Locations have been changing for most species, with many fish gathering into larger schools, which also reduces the number of spots holding fish.
Anglers may find some of their favorite spots nearly void of fish while other areas may keep replenishing and consistently producing numbers of fish.
Many walleyes have been feeding along steep breaks on the edges of large food shelves where the schools of baitfish have been moving out of the shallows and concentrating into larger schools on the edges of structure.
A steep break on the edge of a flat can act like a wall on windy days, with the waves crashing into the break and creating turbulence. The waves stir debris from the bottom of the lake which attracts schools of minnows to feed on the bits of food.
Walleyes can see better than the minnows in the turbulent water and they will feed on the edges of the turbulence, waiting to pick-off individual minnows that get swept away from the school by the waves.
The turbulent areas look like a color line in the sun, creating an edge between lighter water and darker water. Many predators, including walleyes, northern pike, bass and muskies, like to feed along these color edges created by the waves.
Walleye anglers can pitch jigs and minnows to the outside edge of the color line. Pitching jigs into the area usually works better than trolling right over the tops of the fish with live-bait rigs or jigs.
Muskie and northern pike anglers need to throw their baits over the top of the color line so the lures are in the water and working when they break through the color line. Most of the hits will come as the lure breaks into the darker water.
Bass anglers can swim larger jigs with plastics or cast spinner baits or crankbaits through the colored water and concentrate on areas with some weeds on the breakline.
Anglers need to play the conditions and move into the break on windy days and back off the break when the wind is calm.
All species of fish are actively feeding in the fall so anglers are encouraged to get out on the lakes while they still have some nice weather.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.