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Full moon can mean big walleyes, muskies on Bemidji area lakes

 The September full moon is this Saturday and offers anglers one of the best chances of the year to catch big walleyes and big muskies, although fishing muskies at night is not for the faint of heart.

The prime time during the full moon period usually lasts about a week and several days before and several days after the full moon all hold potential for good for night fishing.

The best lakes for night fishing are usually larger lakes with clear water and a reputation for producing big fish. Lakes like Leech, Cass and Bemidji are all good choices for walleyes but they are certainly not the only local lakes with good potential for night fishing.

Trolling floating minnow baits is the most common presentation at night for walleyes but anglers can also fish lighted bobbers with live bait like leeches or larger minnows and have some success in the right situations.

Launches on Mille Lacs have made fishing for walleyes at night with slip bobbers and leeches famous. The launches often anchor on the top of humps at night, especially humps covered with rocks. The same pattern will also work on many lakes in the Bemidji area.

Anglers trolling shallow diving minnow baits at night usually like to fish the edges of larger bars in eight to 12 feet of water. The ideal locations often have long stretches of productive water with an easy breakline to follow and few snags or tall weeds to foul the lures.

Most anglers troll forward at night at speeds between 1.5 and 2.5 miles per hour. A long rod with a line counter reel spooled with eight or 10 pound test braided line and tipped with an eight to 10 pound test fluorocarbon leader is usually the perfect rod, reel and line combination for trolling walleyes at night.

Some anglers like to put their rod in a rod holder and watch the tip of the rod. Other other anglers like to hold the rod in their hands and actively work the lure. Anglers who hold the rod can feel the strikes and know when they hit a weed that fouls the action of the lure.

The full moon can have a negative impact on walleye fishing during the day because many walleyes may already be full from feeding the previous night. Fortunately for anglers, many walleyes are able to find room to eat one more minnow if it passes by them closely enough.

The thermocline is virtually gone from the lakes with the surface water temperatures dropping into the upper 50s. Fish of all species are able to move into deeper water if they can find a suitable food source in there.

Anglers fishing walleyes in most of the deeper lakes can start in 18 to 24 feet and then move shallower or deeper depending on what they are seeing on their electronics.

Many walleyes under the slot limit on lakes like Winnibigoshish and Leech Lake have been on the shallow rocks or weed edges in seven to 12 feet of water. Larger walleyes on both lakes tend to be in deeper water than the “eating-sized” walleyes, with many of the larger fish still using mid-lake structure.

Anglers have plenty of options on the lakes, depending on what species they want to catch. Most species of fish are active in the fall so anglers are able to fish for their favorite species or do combination trips where they fish for more than one species of fish on an outing.

Deer hunters may want to check out the Minnesota Big Buck Challenge, which is a state wide deer hunting contest for both bucks and does. Some of the proceeds go to help Minnesota Teen Challenge. Information can be found at

Anglers interested in fishing one more tournament this year can enter the 11th annual Cystic Fibrosis Walleye Classic on Cass Lake on Oct. 6. Anglers can call 1-800-443-5101 for more information.

PAUL A. NELSON runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted at

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