Weather Forecast


Bemidji area lakes remain open as Thanksgiving approaches

There is usually enough ice to walk on somewhere in the Bemidji area by the weekend after Thanksgiving but that may not be the case this year. There were a few reports of anglers walking out on parts of Upper Red Lake last weekend but the ice conditions deteriorated this past week with warmer temperatures and a couple of windy days. Most of the smaller shallow lakes have a rim of ice around the edges and are partially frozen over but most of the larger deep lakes are wide open and still have anglers fishing out of their boats. Anglers should be careful when backing their boats into any access with a little ice near shore. Sonar transducers are usually mounted on the bottom of the transom so the transducer is likely the first thing that will hit the icea and launching a boat may not be worth the risk. The extended forecast is predicting significantly colder temperatures starting this weekend so most lakes in the Bemidji area should freeze-over sometime in the next week. There should be enough ice by next weekend for anglers to walk out on the ice on many of the shallow lakes. Upper Red Lake usually has the most ice in the area early in the season. Many larger lakes freeze in sections unless there is an exceptionally cold night during the freezing process. Most lakes freeze-over at night when temperatures are lowest and the wind is usually calm. The local bait stores will have the most up-to-date information about what lakes anglers are fishing early in the season because they talk to the anglers when they come in to get bait. Many anglers like to fish both open water and on the ice but the two sports require very different equipment, especially for anglers trying to participate at a high level. Minnesota usually has the best ice conditions in the “ice belt”, even having better ice conditions than many of the lakes in Canada which often have more slush problems and less access to anglers because of the remote locations. One of the biggest differences between ice fishing and open water fishing is the price of the gear required to fish at a high level. Open water anglers need a large enough boat with enough horsepower to get around the big lakes. They also need one or more sonar with GPS, multiple rods and reels, tackle and bait, a truck to pull the boat, a bunch of gas and a host of other things necessary to be fully rigged to fish. Ice fishing can be done at a high level with much less gear and expense. A nearly unlimited number of people can go ice fishing, while most boats only hold three or four people maximum, unless they are fishing out of a pontoon or a fishing launch. Among the equipment required for ice fishing is an ice auger. Most anglers in Minnesota use a power auger because of the ice thickness and because an angler needs to drill a lot of holes to be effective and increase the odds of catching fish. Other “necessary” equipment for ice fishing includes portable sonar and GPS with mapping capabilities. Most serious ice anglers would rather go home than fish without their sonar. A fish house of some sort is also necessary, with flip-over style or pop-up style fish houses popular units with most anglers. A heater and some sort of lighting for the fish house is also necessary equipment. Warm clothing with some resistance to water and a warm pair of boots and gloves are also necessary, not only for ice fishing but also for basic survival during the winter in Minnesota. Anglers also need some ice fishing rods, whether they use ice fishing combos or buy ice fishing rods and use the same reels they use during the summer. There is also tackle that is specific to ice fishing. The open water season likely ends this week and the ice fishing season will begin as soon as anglers can find enough ice to walk on safely.

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