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PAUL NELSON FISHING: Anglers need to learn to read the lakes

Paul Nelson

This past week may have been the last string of days with temperatures in the 80s for this summer. Then again, maybe not.

There isn't a distinct cool down in the extended forecast yet, but temperatures are expected to moderate slightly next week with highs in the 70s, which is nearly perfect weather for most outdoor activities.

The smoke in the air has been more noticeable on days with winds from a westerly direction, from fires all up and down the West Coast and Canada.

The haze from the fires has been heavy enough on some days that it almost acts like cloud cover, which has actually helped the day bite for walleyes recently on some of the clear lakes.

Surface water temperatures in the local lakes are holding in the mid 70s, but the temperatures should be starting to drop soon.

There are walleyes on the deep weed edge in many lakes and also further down the breakline, with most fish staying above the thermocline.

Anglers can see the depth of the thermocline when they drive over the deep holes in the lake and look at their sonar. The thick band well above the bottom is the thermocline, which tells anglers the lower boundary of where the fish are likely to be.

If the thermocline is at about 25 feet, anglers can feel fairly confident there won't be many fish deeper than 25 feet, with most fish located shallower than the top of the thermocline.

This can be very helpful information, especially when anglers are looking for walleyes or for suspended fish like crappies.

During the day, walleye anglers are just trying to find pods of fish and hopefully pick off a couple of keepers on a few different spots and keep moving on to new spots.

Large lakes are usually the best place for anglers to go for walleyes during the summer. Smaller lakes usually don't have enough good spots and don't have nearly as many fish, so anglers end up fishing a couple spots and then they are scrambling.

Large walleye lakes give anglers larger schools of fish, more schools of fish and way more primary spots to fish, so anglers can keep going on to new spots all day without running out of spots to fish.

Small lakes have their own charm and personality, but it usually involves a multi-species smorgasbord approach to have success. This usually means anglers will catch a mixture of crappies, sunfish, bass, northern pike, rock bass, perch and maybe even a walleye or two if they get lucky.

Anglers can use a 1/16th-ounce jig with 6-pound line on an ultra light rod and tip the jig with either a small plastic tail, a piece of nightcrawler, a leech or even a fathead minnow and cast it along the outside weed edge and catch most species of fish living in the lake.

Once anglers get some experience, they often get all fired up about one species of fish, whether it is walleyes, bass or muskies, which are the usual suspects.

Anglers need to learn to read the lakes, figure out what species are dominant in the lakes and then adjust their approach accordingly.

If anglers want to fish for walleyes, go to a walleye lake. Same thing with muskies or any other species they might want to target.

If anglers want to fish for a specific species, they have a much better chance for success if the fish they want to catch exists in decent numbers in the lake.

It would be silly for anglers to fish for muskies in a lake that doesn't have any. It is almost as silly to concentrate on a secondary species like walleyes in a lake that doesn't have many and struggle, when all they have to do to have success is to switch species or switch their approach.

Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. Guided trips for 2018 can be booked by calling or texting (218) 760-7751.

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