Weather Forecast


Fluctuating temperatures confuse panfish, bass

Summer arrived on the calendar this week but the lakes in the Bemidji area are still stuck between spring and summer fishing patterns.

The surface water temperatures in the lakes have made it into the mid 60s twice this year, only to have cold temperatures and rain knock the temperatures back down into the upper 50s.

Members of the sunfish family spawn when surface temperatures reach the middle 60s so on two occasions the crappies, sunfish and bass have been on their beds when a cold front moved them back into deeper water.

A portion of the fish were able to spawn each time the water temperatures reached the middle 60s but there are still some crappies, sunfish and bass that haven't been able to spawn.

Some of the fish will likely re-absorb their eggs if the cold water persist, but if the temperatures straighten out soon and the temperatures rise into the mid-60s again, some of the fish will make another attempt to spawn.

The survival rates for the offspring of fish that spawn late are less than fish that are able to spawn early, but they still have a chance to survive if the rest of the summer has near normal temperatures.

Walleye anglers are finding fish in a wide range of depths in most lakes and there have been walleyes using may different types of structure in those depths.

Walleyes using shallow water can usually be caught on jigs and minnows but jigs and plastics, slip bobbers and casting shallow diving crankbaits are other options to fish for shallow walleyes.

Most of the shallow walleyes have been relating to cabbage weeds or shallow rocks along the windward side of lakes and bays.

There are also walleyes that have dropped off the edges of shoreline structure and moved into deeper water. There are often one or more sharper breaks along the drop-off, with walleyes potentially holding on one or more of the edges.

By this time of year there should be more walleyes on mid-lake structure but the cold water has slowed the insect hatches in deep water, which usually facilitates the movement of walleyes onto the mid-lake structure.

There have been more walleyes on humps and bars that are close to the shoreline than there are on the isolated structures further from shore.

Walleye anglers have had trouble locating larger schools of walleyes in most lakes so they are having to search out multiple schools of walleyes and be satisfied to pick off a couple of fish out of each school.

Anglers fishing for walleyes in deeper water have been using live-bait rigs with five to eight-foot leaders and tipping them with leeches, night crawlers or larger minnows. Anglers should try different baits and different lengths of snells because the walleyes have been showing a distinct preference for one type of bait and one length of snell. Finding the right combination can mean more bites and more fish.

Anglers searching for scattered walleyes can often find fish using bottom bouncers and spinners and turning up the speed to as fast as two miles per hour to cover more water.

There are two kinds of bottom bouncers - the safety pin style and the in-line bottom bouncers that slide on your line like a live-bait rig.

Anglers using one-hook spinners can use leeches or hook the night crawlers several times on the same hook. Two-hook spinners usually work better to string out a night crawler. Anglers also can use two smaller leeches to make it look like a larger leech.

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