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Stable weather, full moon improve fall fishing

The end of the summer tourist season does not mean the open-water fishing season is done. Many local anglers continue to fish through October if the weather stays decent. Most lakes receive less fishing pressure as the fall progresses despite great fishing for most species of fish.

The weather was nearly perfect this past week, with warm days and cool nights that are just right for getting a good night's sleep. The stable weather helped improve the bite for all species, with anglers usually able to catch a few fish if they were able to locate them.

Walleyes have been getting more active in most of the deep lakes, with many walleyes moving off the sides of structure into 14-26 feet of water. Some of the better deep lakes include Bemidji, Cass, Pike Bay and Walker Bay of Leech Lake.

The surface water temperatures are holding near 70 degrees in most lakes. The cool nights have already had an impact on the algae in the lakes, with a new layer of dead algae on the surface of the lakes each morning.

The walleye bite has also been improving on the shallow lakes like Winnibigoshish, Upper Red Lake and the shallow bays of Leech Lake. Most anglers are fishing jigs and minnows in eight to 12 feet of water on the deep edge of the cabbage weeds or on the edges of flats covered with chara or rocks.

Perch fishing has been picking up on most of the larger lakes, with perch on the same shallow flats as many of the walleyes, feeding on minnows, crayfish and smaller perch.

Perch go through cycles in lakes and anglers begin to harvest perch when they reach about nine inche. If there is a poor age class or two of perch back-to-back in the lakes, perch fishing can drop off significantly until the next large age class of grows into harvestable size.

Bemidji, Cass, Pike Bay and Winnibigoshish are all going through a year with an age class or two of larger perch missing from the lake. Leech Lake probably has the most harvestable-sized perch in the area this year.

The September full moon is coming on Monday so there will be walleye and muskie anglers on the lakes at night this weekend, taking advantage of what should be a good bite for both species.

Walleyes usually feed near the bottom during the day while muskies usually feed in the middle portion of the water column.

At night both walleyes and muskies feed near the surface where they can see the silhouette of the baitfish against the light of the moon. Anglers should use lures with a larger profile and a good wobble at night to help muskies and walleyes target the bait.

Anglers are usually better off fishing lures that stay close to the surface at night to take advantage of the tendency of the fish to feed upwards and also to help avoid hooking weeds or the bottom.

Fishing at night for large fish with lures with a lot of hooks is inherently dangerous so anglers should have a hook out, jaw spreader, hook cutter and a good head lamp handy. A first aid kit is a good thing to have in the boat, especially when fishing at night.

Crappies are another popular species in the fall. The crappie bite keeps improving as the water in the lakes cools, with the crappies gathering into larger schools and getting more active during the day.

Anglers need good electronics to see the crappies which are often suspended several feet or more off the bottom. Ice fishing tactics apply to fall crappies. Anglers able to hold over the fish catch many more crappies than those who try to anchor or troll through the school.

Muskie anglers will be out in force this weekend with the Frank Schneider Jr. Memorial Muskie Tournament to be held Sept. 9-11 on most of the better area muskie lakes. The weather should be perfect for a good turnout and successful muskie fishing.

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