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Paul Nelson: Fish, resorts, anglers are preparing for fall

Many resorts do most of their business during the summer months and the owners will begin the long process of shutting down almost immediately after the Labor Day Weekend.

A few resorts on some of the larger lakes like Winnibigoshish, Lake of the Woods and Upper Red Lake may do more business in the winter than they do during the summer. These resorts have to winterize their cabins and switch everything over from summer fishing to ice fishing during the fall.

The larger lakes usually have more anglers fishing during the fall while many of the smaller lakes are lucky to see a couple of boats during an entire week.

Most anglers realize fishing is good in the fall but there is not enough time to do everything, so fishing often gets put on the back burner once things like school, fall sports and hunting begins.

Fish also have to get themselves ready for winter, which often means changing locations to the part of the lake where the fish plan to spend the early-ice portion of the winter.

Fish instinctively know there are tougher times coming as the water cools so fish spend much of their energy in the fall trying to put on weight before winter arrives.

Fish spend the summer months trying to get enough to eat to keep up with their elevated metabolism and fuel the growth spurt that occurs during the summer.

Fall is the chance for fish to get ahead of their metabolism and consume the extra food they need to add enough fat to help them survive the winter.

The days are getting shorter and there is less time to feed so fish will feed longer in the fall, which gives anglers a better chance to catch fish during the day.

Surface water temperatures are not the only factor that determines when fish change their patterns in the fall. The shorter days, the angle of the sun and many other factors contribute to let the fish know when it is the right time to make their move.

Most lakes in the Bemidji area still have surface water temperatures in the mid 70s, which is pretty warm for the first week in September. The hot weather is expected to continue into at least the middle of next week.

Walleyes in many lakes are using several patterns, depending on where the most food is located in the lake.

Some walleyes are using shallow water, feeding on small perch and other minnows hiding in the weeds. Jigs and minnows are working well for the shallow walleyes, although some anglers are also having success trolling shallow diving crankbaits over the shallow flats, especially in the evenings.

Casting crankbaits on the outside edge of the cabbage weeds is another seldom used presentation for shallow walleyes that can be very effective late in the summer.

Crankbaits appeal to the most active fish and allow anglers to cover plenty of water fast. The tops of the cabbage weeds become brittle late in the season, so anglers can rip their crankbaits free of the weeds, which can trigger a bite from a fish following the bait.

There are also walleyes feeding on the sides of structure all the way down to the top edge of the thermocline. Anglers need to figure out what part of the structure the fish are using by using their electronics.

Wind usually plays a primary role in determining what part of the structure walleyes are most likely to use. The presence of baitfish is a critical factor late in the summer, with most fish staying close to the food.

Anglers should use their electronics to look for larger fish but they should also pay close attention to where the concentrations of baitfish are located.

The thermocline is still visible on electronics in most of the deep lakes. Anglers should expect most of the fish to stay above the thermocline so they should view the top edge of the thermocline as the deepest most fish will be located, regardless of the species of fish they are trying to catch.

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