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Paul Nelson column for Sept. 18: Fishing still good while hunting seasons open

The first half of September has had some of the nicest weather of the summer in the Bemidji area. Temperatures have been unseasonably warm, the weather has been stable and the light winds have been mostly from the south.

Saturday is the opener for the archery deer season in Minnesota. The season also opens for small game, which includes ruffed grouse, which are very popular in the Bemidji area. Most drumming counts predict increased numbers of grouse in most areas this fall.

Many hunters are anxious to get into the woods, but warm weather coupled with lots of insects and too many leaves on the trees will likely make hunting more difficult early in this season.

Surface water temperatures in area lakes have increased to above 70 degrees again, which is moving many of the walleyes towards shallow water.

Anglers fishing walleyes in many of the deep lakes like Cass, Pike's Bay, Bemidji and Plantagenet have been catching walleyes in 15-25 feet of water recently. Jigs and minnows have been the most popular bait, but live bait rigs with larger minnows also have been producing fish.

Walleyes seem to love leeches late in the summer, when most of the decent size leeches are gone from the bait store shelves.

Most leech trappers stop trapping by early July, so the supply of larger leeches usually runs out before the end of the fishing season.

Nightcrawlers can also work well late in the season in some lakes, so anglers should experiment if the walleyes aren't taking what they are offering.

Walleye action has been slowly picking up in the big shallow lakes too. Lake Winnibigoshish, Upper Red Lake and the main basin of Leech Lake have all been improving for walleyes.

Anglers have been catching walleyes on jigs and minnow in 7-12 feet of water in Winnie and Leech Lake. The best areas have been on points, cabbage weed edges or flats with hard bottom and patches of broken rock and gravel.

Walleyes have also been moving back into the shallows in Upper Red Lake, with more walleyes being caught along the shoreline break in 6-8 feet of water. Anglers can troll crankbaits to locate the schools of walleyes and then slow down and fish the most productive areas with jigs and minnows.

Lake of the Woods has also been very good along much of the south shore. Anglers have been catching walleyes on jigs and minnows in 12-18 feet of water in most areas.

Anglers also are fishing walleyes in the Rainy River in the fall, especially in areas closest to the lake. Many anglers anchor in key areas and fish jigs and minnows vertically under their boats.

There is an emerald shiner minnow run up the Rainy River in the fall, with the best walleye fishing usually during the peak of the shiner run. Most of the best action occurs while water temperatures are in the 50 degree range.

Muskie anglers have been enjoying the warmer weather, with good numbers of anglers casting the shallows on most of the popular muskie lakes.

Large plastics and surface baits have been popular baits this summer, with many anglers also throwing large spinners with plastics.

Fishing muskies with large wood jerk baits is almost a lost art with many younger muskie anglers. The big baits usually have to be weighted correctly and fished with a specific cadence to work properly. They are also tough to keep going in an appealing way when they get close to the boat, which is where most follows occur.

Wood jerk baits are also popular with big pike, especially in the fall. There are a few anglers that target big pike with jerk baits in lakes that don't have muskies or have low numbers of muskies, so the pike are not conditioned to seeing a lot of big baits.

Lake Winnibigoshish is a great example of a good lake for fishing jerk baits for pike in the fall. Winnie has good numbers of pike and low numbers of muskies, so the fishing pressure with big baits is usually light most of the year.

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