The fall cool down continues in the Bemidji area although surface water temperatures cooled only slightly this past week, with most lakes still in the low 60s.
Large lakes that are round or oval in shape cool faster than narrow or irregular shaped lakes when the conditions are as windy as they have been recently in the Bemidji area.
The thermocline is still in place in most of the deep lakes although the wind has speeded the breakdown of the thermocline in many lakes.
The thermocline may get swept away by the waves in the shallow parts of a lake but it may hold longer in the parts of the lake with a basin deeper than 35 feet.
Most fish have been located above the thermocline where a thermocline still exists. Anglers should be able to see the thermocline on their electronics, appearing like scattered interference below a certain depth (usually between 25 and 40 feet deep).
Stable weather with light winds is the ideal weather for fall fishing so anglers have been battling the elements most of September.
It usually takes at least a couple of days after a strong wind for the lakes to settle, especially with so much sediment and debris in the water.
The wind has scattered fish in many lakes, forcing anglers to find new patterns almost every time they are on the water. Smart anglers rely heavily on their electronics in the fall and take the time to look for fish on sonar before stopping to fish.
One of the few constants anglers should be looking for is the presence of baitfish in the areas they are fishing. If there are schools of baitfish in an area anglers can be confident that gamefish will be in the neighborhood as well.
Walleye anglers have been finding walleyes in a wide range of depths. There might be walleyes in deep water in some lakes and there might be walleyes in shallow water in other lakes.
Most of the active walleyes have been feeding in more moderate depths. Walleyes in many lakes have been feeding somewhere between 14 and 24 feet of water along steep breaks.
As the lakes and rivers cool in the fall, predator species like walleyes will become less and less comfortable traveling a long distance from their food.
Jigs are very versatile lures and can be used to catch almost any species of fish. Walleye anglers like to match the weight of the jig to the depth and wind conditions, using only enough weight to keep in good contact with the bottom.
The ideal situation for most walleye anglers in the fall is to locate a school of walleyes with their electronics and then hold the boat over the top of the fish, trying to pick off the most active fish in the school.
Most crappie anglers also like to use jigs in the fall. Jigs and minnows are a good choice but crappies are visual feeders, so jigs and plastics can actually be more effective because anglers don’t have to constantly check and change their bait.
Tiny hair jigs or micro jigs and plastics can also work well for sunfish and perch. Anglers can tip their presentations with minnows, leeches, pieces of night crawlers, wax worms or eurolarvae to find the most productive presentation.
Jigs will also work for bass and northern pike and even muskies in the fall. Anglers can use a ¼ to 3/8 ounce jigs with plastics or small sucker minnows for bass. Pike usually prefer larger jigs with a medium sized sucker minnow while muskie anglers sometimes use jigs and plastics to try and coax reluctant muskies they have located to bite.
Hopefully anglers will be patient with the weather conditions and won’t give up on fall fishing if they have a tough day on the water. There are still many good fishing days ahead of us this open water season, especially when the weather patterns stabilize and the heavy winds subside.
PAUL A. NELSON runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted at email@example.com