Weather Forecast


Spring meltdown on Bemidji area lakes has begun

The spring meltdown has begun. Daily high temperatures have been reaching into the 40s but so far the overnight lows have remained below freezing.

The lakes are still locked in an alternating pattern of melting and re-freezing. Once the temperatures stay above freezing at night, the melting process will accelerate dramatically.

A slow melt would be ideal for those worrying about flooding but some flooding probably can’t be prevented. The conditions are right for substantial flooding in many areas along the Red River and other areas that are normally prone to flooding.

Warmer temperatures and any significant rain would accelerate the melting process and provide a worst-case scenario for flooding.

Anyone looking for some perspective about how late this spring might be can just look back to last year when most of the lakes in the Bemidji area were ice free at this point.

The deep snow and slush on the lakes have discouraged many local anglers and caused them to pull the plug on the ice fishing season, at least until there is some drastic improvement in the ice conditions.

Most anglers on the lakes right now are coming from out of state and are here to ice fish regardless of the ice conditions.

Snowmobiles or walking are the only reasonable ways to access the lakes. Some anglers are using snow shoes while others are using snowmobiles and bringing gear to help them get unstuck.

The best bet for most anglers interested in extending the ice fishing season is Lake of the Woods. Most resorts will maintain their roads as long as possible so anglers can continue to fish for walleyes, sauger and northern pike.

The Rainy River is usually the place where many anglers from the Bemidji area launch their boats for the first time each spring.

The spring walleye season on the Rainy River is set by the calendar, not by the ice conditions. The season runs from March 1 to April 14, 2013. Anglers get what they get. If it’s an early spring, they get more time on the river. If it is a late spring like this year, anglers may only get a few days on the river before the season closes.

There are rumors about the gates of the dam in International Falls opening near the end of March, which would pull the ice from the shoreline and reduce the time it will take the Rainy River to open for boats.

The ice pack on the Rainy River was still several miles east of the Birchdale access, which is usually the first major access on the Rainy River to open in the spring.

Anglers who can’t wait to put their boats in the water will have to head south to the Mississippi River near Red Wing where the river is open and the walleyes and sauger have been biting.

The perch bite has been sporadic on most of the larger lakes in the Bemidji area. Many of the perch have been staying close to the drop-off instead of moving up and spreading out onto the chara-covered flats the way they normally do on late ice.

Anglers have been catching perch but the largest age classes of perch on most lakes are less than 10 inches long so anglers are struggling to find the jumbo perch.

When perch are active many anglers use smaller jigging spoons or jigging minnows tipped with live bait. When perch are more reluctant to bite a small tungsten jig tipped with a wax worm or eurolarvae or a scented plastic tipped with a single eurolarvae may be more effective.

The eelpout spawn is completed on most lakes and the bite is virtually over. Eelpout spawn in communal groups and once the spawn starts it usually goes pretty quickly.

Crappies have been suspending in the last deep water adjacent to the spring feeding areas they will use when more of the snow on the lakes melts.

Crappies may be only a few feet under the ice at this time of year so anglers should really watch their electronics. Anglers have also been catching sunfish mixed in with the crappies in many lakes.

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