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Warmer lakes produce best walleye action

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Someone might have to get out the fat crayon to explain how the weather this spring fits into the overall theory of global warming. Many people are hoping summer will arrive suddenly one day, like flipping an invisible switch, but it hasn't happened yet.

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The Bemidji area is at least two weeks behind what is considered normal for this point in the season. The surface temperatures in most of the lakes in the Bemidji area are now in the mid to upper 50s, which is more than 10 degrees cooler than what is expected by the end of the first week in June.

Spottail shiner minnows are just starting to show up in the shallows to spawn in some of the larger area lakes. When a cold front hits like it did this past week, the shiners will drop back out of the shallows and wait for the weather to warm up again.

The first "fish fly" hatches of the season (midges) have started on some lakes, but they too will taper off during cold fronts. The insect hatches can sometimes be seen on sonar, looking like cloudy areas rising up from the bottom.

The lakes with the warmest water continue to have the best walleye action in most instances. Upper Red Lake heads the list of area lakes for walleyes this spring, with good action on Winnibigoshish and Leech Lake, too.

Anglers may find schools of walleyes in Upper Red where most of the fish are over the slot limit. Anglers need to keep moving until they catch a walleye under the protected slot limit of 17-26 inches and then slow down and work over the area to catch more keeper walleyes.

Anglers are using many different presentations for walleyes on Upper Red Lake. A jig and fathead minnow is a good choice on Upper Red for walleyes because anglers will often catch more walleyes below the protected slot on fathead minnows. Anglers also have a better chance for catching crappies with fathead minnows than they would using shiner minnows and jigs.

Crankbaits are another good choice for walleyes in Upper Red, which has a relatively clean bottom, and most of the fish are within easy reach of most crankbaits without using leadcore line or other weights.

Winnibigoshish continues to have a good jig and minnow bite for walleyes. The spotail shiners beginning to show up in the shallows and there have been pockets of walleyes along shoreline structure with either rocks or emergent cabbage in 6-10 feet of water.

Leech Lake is also hot, with good walleye action on the windward shorelines and points. A jig and minnow has been a good choice for smaller walleyes and a live bait rigs with minnows or leeches have been producing some larger fish.

Anglers have also been finding crappies in the shallows in many lakes. The best areas can be old reed beds, cattail edges or cane bogs with a quick dropping edge tight to the shore.

Sunfish and bass like to make their spawning beds in wild rice, but will also use old reed beds or other shallow hard bottomed areas.

Muskie fishing opens Saturday, with anglers facing cool water temperatures and the possibility of muskies in all stages of prespawn, spawn or post spawn on the opener.

There will be some multiple-use situations in the Bemidji area on the muskie opener. There is a walleye tournament on Lake Plantagenet and the FLW Walleye League event held on the Cass Lake Chain on the same day as the muskie opener.

There will also be an FLW Tour event for walleyes on the Cass Lake Chain Sunday through Wednesday. This is the national walleye tour, with $100,000 for first prize, full television coverage and the best walleye anglers from all over the country competing.

There will be a meet and greet the walleye pros at Dondelinger GMC from 5-7 pm on Monday. There will be other events during tournament week and the public is invited each day to the weigh-in hosted by Stony Point Resort on Cass Lake.

Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted by calling 218-759-2235.

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