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Paul Nelson column: If weather cooperates, fish can still be found

November arrives on Sunday with 10 hours and 2 minutes of daylight. The Bemidji area is losing about 18 minutes of daylight per week, which is about 2½ minutes per day.

The clocks "fall back" into Central Standard Time on Saturday night, so there will be an hour more daylight in the mornings and an hour less in the evenings.

This puts a damper on anglers who like to get a couple hours of fishing in after work, when the temperatures are close to the peak for the day. Mornings are usually pretty cold for fishing in November.

Many anglers also like to deer hunt, so there will be even fewer anglers on the lakes once deer season opens on Nov. 7. The rifle deer opens the first Saturday in November, so this is the latest the season can start.

It was cold on the lakes again this past week, with only a couple of days with calm winds and no rain. The poor weather usually makes fishing tough on anglers, even if the fish are biting.

Most of the shallow lakes in the Bemidji area have surface water temperatures close to 40 degrees. Repeated cold fronts can really shut down the bite in shallow water and anglers may be better off fishing the deep water lakes, where water temperatures are more stable and slightly warmer.

Anglers have had to work pretty hard to catch walleyes on days with poor weather. Smaller baits have been more effective when the weather has been bad, so anglers may want to try downsizing their jigs, use lighter line and smaller minnows when the bite is slow.

One of the few hot bites for big walleyes has been on the Rainy River, which is about two hours north of Bemidji on the Canadian border. There are similar big walleye bites in the Red River of the North and the Winnipeg River late in the season, which are both tributaries of Lake Winnipeg.

Emerald shiner minnows make a major feeding run up the Rainy River that usually starts in October and lasts until Lake of the Woods starts to freeze before the shiners head back into the lake. The best areas are Four Mile Bay and the first couple of miles of the Rainy River, closest to Lake of the Woods.

Anglers often anchor their boats on bends and turns in the main river channel of the Rainy River, where they wait for walleyes to swim under their boat. Anchoring in the river can be similar to ice fishing, with flurries of activity, followed by slow periods when no fish are passing by.

Presentations can also be similar to ice fishing, with anglers bouncing a jig and minnow under the boat. Other anglers will cast and slowly retrieve jigs, some will bottom fish, while others will use ice fishing lures like jigging spoons and jigging minnows fished vertically below the boat.

Crappie anglers can also have success late in the season, when most crappies are already into their winter patterns. Anglers with good electronics should be able to find the schools of suspended crappies and hover over them in their boats.

Anglers need to get their bait at the same level as the crappies or slightly above them to get a bite. Crappies feed at eye level or move up for baits, so anglers won't get many bites if their baits are too deep and below the level of the crappies.

Most anglers use as light jigs with a small to medium size fathead minnow for crappies. Plastics can also be used for crappies, since they are visual feeders and do not rely heavily on scent when they feed.

Crappies can be very delicate and usually get the bends when they are brought to the surface out of deep water.

Anglers often need to keep whatever they catch when fishing crappies out of deep water because they won't swim back to the bottom when released.

Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be e-mailed at