Only hardy fishermen remain on the area lakes
The open water fishing season is winding down in the Bemidji area. Most anglers will be done fishing out of their boats by the time rifle deer hunting season opens on Saturday, November 5.
When the time comes to remove the docks from the public accesses in the fall, the timing can vary. The boat docks are maintained by several different entities, including city, county, state and even national forest employees doing the work, depending on the location of the public access.
Some docks have already been removed from the accesses and most of the rest of the docks should be removed sometime in the next two weeks, depending on the schedules of those who will do the work.
Anglers should be prepared to launch their boats without the aid of a dock during the rest of the open water season. Two anglers can usually launch most boats without a dock without too much trouble but anglers accessing the lakes alone often have much more of a challenge getting their boat on and off the trailer.
Anglers can bring a pair of knee-high rubber boots or some waders when they launch their boats to help avoid getting their feet wet. But launching and loading a boat is never as easy without a dock.
The lakes have cooled significantly in the past week with most lakes now colder than 50 degrees. Many of the deep lakes have gone through "turn-over" during the past few days which can make most fish tougher to catch, especially in deep water.
Anglers can see when a lake is turning-over on their sonar. It appears as thick clutter spiking off the bottom in the portion of the lake in areas deeper than 30 feet.
Anglers fishing lakes in the process of turning-over are usually better off fishing in shallow water to avoid the portion of the lake that is actively turning-over.
Turn-over occurs when the water on the surface of the lake becomes significantly colder than the water in the deepest part of the lake. The water begins to sink which forces the water on the bottom to rise to the surface.
Once the lakes have completed turn-over the entire water column will be at the same temperature and all the water in the lake will be re-oxygenated and ready for winter.
The lakes will continue to cool after turn-over until the water temperatures in the lakes are around 39 degrees, which is the point when the lakes are ready to freeze and also the point where water is most dense.
Water under the ice remains around 39 degrees, which is a very good thing. If the water in the lakes had to cool all the way to 33 degrees before freezing all the lakes in the ice belt would freeze solid in the winter.
Water between 33 and 38 degrees is actually lighter than the 39-degree water so it floats on top of the 39 degree water until it freezes and turns into ice.
Most of the fish in the lakes are already in their winter locations, or will be shortly. Anglers can do some homework for the upcoming ice fishing season right now and mark potential locations on GPS so they can return to the spots once the lakes freeze.
Strong winds and cold temperatures this past week kept most anglers off the lakes. There were still a few die-hard anglers on the water but most of them were fishing in areas that were somewhat protected from the wind.
Walleyes have been biting in shallow water in lakes like Winnibigoshish, Leech and Upper Red Lake. Most anglers have been using 1/8-ounce jigs and shiner or fathead minnows in eight to 14 feet of water.
There has also been a good walleye bite in lakes like Bemidji, Cass, Pike Bay and Walker Bay of Leech Lake in 18 to 35 feet of water. Anglers fishing for walleyes in deep water have been vertical jigging with ¼-ounce jigs tipped with minnows in most situations.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.