Weather Forecast


Paul Nelson: Changing weather conditions result in return of summer patterns in Bemidji area lakes

The weather pattern has changed again in the Bemidji area. The weather seems to run in streaks, with drastic changes often happening suddenly.

Several weeks of cooler weather made it look like it was going to be an early fall but the weather pattern has changed back into summer mode, at least into next week.

Surface water temperatures in the lakes are on the rise again. Most lakes are back into the low to mid 70s. This will likely trigger another algae bloom in some lakes and should bring back many of the summer fishing patterns.

The warmer weather will likely move more fish back into the weeds, especially on the lakes with enough of an algae bloom to tint the water and give the fish some relief from the bright sun.

The warmer weather will bring a return to a southerly wind flow, which should actually be good news for anglers. Most of the structures in the local lakes fish better with a south wind because of how they lay after being formed by the last glacier.

During several weeks of cool weather the Bemidji area was locked into a northerly wind flow, which brings cold air out of Canada and usually has a negative effect on the fishing.

Actually, when most anglers have been talking about tough fishing, they are usually talking about walleyes or muskies.

Fortunately, fishing for both species is on the upswing and should continue to improve during the warm stable weather pattern that is forecast for this coming week.

Anglers willing to fish for perch, northern pike, sunfish or bass have had plenty of action and usually have gone home with plenty of fish for a fish fry.

Perch fishing has been good in most of the larger lakes. Most of the jumbo perch are using shallow water and feeding on crayfish and young-of-the-year perch.

Perch are a key part of the food chain in the type of lakes in the Bemidji area with almost everything in the lakes eating perch, including larger perch.

Perch are very prolific in lakes with standing weeds because that is where the perch prefer to lay their eggs. Perch hatch in huge numbers and take up a significant portion of the biomass in many of the local lakes.

There is a fundamental relationship between walleyes and perch in many of the lakes. The young walleyes won't survive their first winter unless they grow large enough to be able to use the same age class of young perch as their main food source.

Targeting perch is one of the best ways for anglers to have consistent action. Once anglers find a school of perch there will usually be walleyes and northern pike moving in and out of the area.

Anglers are starting to see more big northern pike showing up in the weed beds of most large lakes. Big pike will often stay in deep water most of the summer but when the rest of the fish in the lake go shallow, the big pike eventually follow them.

Sunfish have also been active in many lakes, with schools of sunfish feeding on the deep edges of standing weeds. Sunfish will often use cabbage weeds but they also like coontail and even American milfoil, which is the native cousin of the invasive Eurasian milfoil.

Sunfish have very good eyesight so anglers usually have to use light tackle and light line to catch fish. Tiny leeches, pieces of night crawlers, wax worms or eurolarvae are all good baits for sunfish.

Anglers should know that sunfish are unique in how they grow and what conditions allow them to grow to trophy size.

Sunfish actually do most of their growth in the juvenile phase and their growth slows way down once they mature. Sunfish only get as large as they need to in order to compete for the best spawning sites with the largest individuals in the lake.

If anglers harvest all the big sunfish, the sunfish become stunted and the lake will no longer produce big sunfish.

Please release all bluegills longer than 9 inches and keep the medium size fish or most numerous age classes of fish to eat.

Paul Nelson
Paul Nelson writes a weekly fishing column for the Bemidji Pioneer. He runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service.