Weather Forecast


Paul Nelson: Ice fishing season on Bemidji area lakes coming to a close

The ice fishing season is pretty much over, unless anglers want to get their feet wet and access the lake from an area where the ice is still tight to the shore.

The ice on most lakes is starting to break along the shoreline and the ice pack is separating further from shore. Current really cuts through the ice so any rivers and streams will keep expanding the open water near inlets and outlets on the lakes.

Once the ice pack on the lake breaks free, it with blow back and forth between shores until it crashes into shore hard enough to break the ice.

The ice on the lakes will go out in approximately the reverse order of how the lakes froze-over in the fall. The shallow lakes go first and the deep lakes go last.

Lake Bemidji is historically one of the last lakes in the area to be ice-free each spring, with an average ice-out date of April 26.

Lake Minnetonka near the Twin Cities has an average ice-out date of April 13, with an unofficial ice-out date this year of April 20.

Based on stupid math, one could say Lake Bemidji and most of the other lakes in the Bemidji area should be ice-free no later than May 3 this year.

Several variables, including rain, temperature, sunlight and shifting winds, can alter the ice-out dates. Significant rain and strong winds can hasten how fast the ice goes out while cool temperatures and cloud cover can slow the melting process.

The gap in time between the end of ice fishing season and the opening of the walleye season is used by most anglers to get their boats ready and go through their tackle and rods.

Some things anglers should consider inserting new spark plugs, changing the lower unit grease, testing the batteries and making sure all the wire connections are clean and secure.

Other things anglers may want to check are the condition of their seats and whether the fire extinguisher is still viable. Anglers should also check their props for tangled fishing line on both on the outboard and trolling motors.

Trailer tires should be filled close to the maximum, which is listed on the side of the tires. Full trailer tires make the boat tow more easily and helps support the weight of the boat, motor and gear.

Fresh gas should be added to the gas tank. Non-oxygenated gas is strongly recommended for use in boats and also in most small motors. Many of the more common motor problems stem from using an ethanol blend that sits too long and begins to break down.

Some anglers don’t want to pay the extra money for un-oxygenated fuels for their boat motors but that is a classic case of penny wise and dollar foolish.

Anglers also need to spend time switching tackle from ice fishing to open-water fishing. Changing line on all fishing reels to start the year fresh is one of the more important tasks.

Few things are more frustrating than fishing with twisted old fishing line. It doesn’t cast well, it doesn’t fish well and it is likely to result in losing a big fish when one is hooked.

Tackle boxes need to be sorted and organized. Buying new tackle each spring is an important part of getting ready for the opener and should be considered almost mandatory for serious anglers.

Once the lakes are finally open and anglers have their boats and tackle ready, it is a good idea to make a test run to be sure everything is in good working order before the fishing opener.

Every year some unfortunate angler gets stuck at the boat landing with a dead battery or a motor that won’t start. There are few experiences that can spoil an opener like having motor trouble at the access and having everyone impatiently waiting for you to get the motor started or get out of the way. Don’t be that guy (or gal). Make a test run before the opener.

Paul Nelson
Paul Nelson writes a weekly fishing column for the Bemidji Pioneer. He runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service.