Persistent strong winds, cold temperatures and frequent periods of drizzle, snow and rain have kept many anglers off the lakes in the Bemidji area.
Anglers usually have enough warm clothing to overcome cold temperatures but any precipitation in any form combining with the cold temperatures takes much of the fun out of being on the water.
Strong winds can be a major obstacle for anglers to overcome in the fall. Too much wind limits where anglers are able to go and makes boat control much more difficult.
Anglers fishing for walleyes or crappies in the fall are usually trying to slow their presentations in the cold water. Most anglers want to hover over schools of fish when they find them, which is tough to do in whitecaps.
The wind also makes it tough for crappie anglers to get smaller jigs, jigging minnows or small jigging spoons into deep water where the crappies are usually located in the fall.
Walleye anglers can deal with the wind a little easier by going to a heavier jig but they still have to slow their presentations, whether they back troll into the wind or use their trolling motor to slow their drift.
Anglers will come out of the woodwork when the weather is nice late in the season. Many anglers will try to cherry pick the nicest days and drop everything at the last minute to go fishing when the conditions are favorable.
Many of the deep lakes will begin to turn over soon. Surface water temperatures in the lakes plummeted this past week, with most lakes now in the upper 40s.
When water temperatures on the surface of the deep lakes drops into the 40s, the surface water becomes heavier than the water on the bottom of the lake and begins to sink.
The heavier surface water forces the less dense water on the bottom of the lake to the surface, which mixes the water and gets it fully oxygenated for winter. This phenomenon is usually referred to as “turnover”.
Once the lakes turn over, the water will continue to cool until water temperatures reach 40 degrees, which is the point when the lakes are ready to freeze.
Most anglers are catching fish when they are able to get on the lakes. Many things can change between trips as the lakes go through their fall cool down, so anglers usually have to spend some time relocating the fish each time on the water.
Anglers with good electronics should be able to see when the lake they are fishing is actively turning over. It will look like plumes or streaks going down into the water in the deeper parts of the lake, while the shallow parts of the lakes will be clear.
Once the lakes finish turnover, anglers are basically ice fishing out of their boats. The same basic conditions are in effect on the lakes as there will be once the lakes freeze.
Vertical presentations often work best when the fish are in deep water. Anglers finding fish still in shallow water still have to use horizontal presentations for the fish, although slower is usually better than fast in the cold water.
Muskies and big pike will follow the schools of tulibees into the shallows wherever they go. The tulibees are among the few species that spawn in the fall instead of the spring. Tulibees use many of the same locations to spawn in the fall that walleyes and suckers use to spawn in the spring.
Anglers can use large sucker minnows for muskies and big pike in the fall with good success. Muskie anglers in Wisconsin and other parts of the country use huge suckers as their “go-to” presentation in the fall.
Anglers can use a bobber with a quick strike rig for the suckers or they can try a slow trolling rig and then “feed” the minnow to the muskie before setting the hook. Many anglers don’t like sucker presentations for muskies and pike because the fish can swallow the bait and have higher mortality rates than when using artificial presentations.
PAUL A. NELSON runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org