Paul Nelson column for July 10: Summer patterns developing on Bemidji area lakes
The lakes are changing and summer fishing patterns are developing quickly in the Bemidji area. Surface water temperatures are once again warmer than 70 degrees and an algae bloom is beginning in many lakes.
Walleye fishing has slowed down significantly, especially during the middle of the day. The full moon and the calm clear weather this past week encouraged many walleyes to feed after dark.
Anglers are still finding walleyes scattered in a wide range of depths. There was a major mayfly hatch this past week in all of the larger lakes, with the largest variety of mayflies finally hatching in the second week of July.
There are changes coming for the lakes in the Bemidji area. Many walleyes and perch have been feeding in deep water for more than a month. Once the insect hatches have finished in deep water and the algae blooms start to limit visibility in the water, more walleyes and perch will begin to move back toward shallow water to search for food.
The young-of-the-year minnow hatches from this spring have been growing quickly in the shallows. They are starting to grow large enough to become viable food sources for both panfish and gamefish, which is part of what moves the fish back toward shallow during the heat of summer.
Many northern pike and muskies have also been feeding in deep water, especially the larger fish, which have been preying on fish-eating insects.
The end of the insect hatches in deep water will cause a shift in the food pyramid in the lakes, with the balance of food in the lakes shifting toward shallow water again.
Walleye fishing has been gradually slowing down in the last couple of weeks in most lakes. The large shallow lakes are still the most consistent lakes for walleyes, but anglers can get shut down there too with the wrong conditions.
Many anglers have been throwing the tackle box at the walleyes, trying to find something to make them bite. Live bait rigs with leeches or night crawlers have been good when the walleyes are actively feeding, but when the bite is off, it has been tough to find a combination that is effective on the fish.
Walleyes are the most popular species of fish in the Bemidji area and many anglers won't stop fishing for walleyes until they get really tough to catch. Multi-species anglers have the right idea in the summer, with anglers able to fish for walleyes in the mornings and evenings or when weather conditions are favorable and then switch to other species of fish when the walleye bite gets too slow.
Bass seem like they are always biting, with bass in most lakes feeding in 6 feet of water or less in the heaviest cover in the lakes. Gamefish sharing lakes with other species of gamefish, like they do in most of the lakes in the Bemidji area, develop a "pecking order" between species.
Northern pike and muskies often dominate the outside edge of the weeds. Bass are best suited for shallow water, so they head shallow. Walleyes are best suited for deep water, so they head toward deeper water when in competition for habitat with other gamefish.
Perch like feeding on both the deep and shallow flats. There are usually perch in both deep and shallow water at most times of the year. The balance of where most of the perch are feeding will shift back and forth from shallow to deep water, but there is almost always perch in both types of locations.
Sunfish like the deep edge of the weed beds and will often tuck themselves under the weeds or hang tight to the weeds for cover. Sunfish anglers have to learn to present small baits in just the right spots to consistently catch fish.
Crappies like suspending in deep water, but they stay close to structure rather than roaming open water. They make feeding movements into structure at both dawn and dusk, feeding on the edges of structure and then retreating back to deep water, where they often suspend during the day.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted by calling 218-759-2235.