Weather Forecast


Time has come to transition to winter in Bemidji area lakes

The lakes have cooled to near 40 degrees so they are ready to begin freezing once the daily high temperatures drop below 32 degrees for an extended period of time.

Most of the docks at the public accesses have been removed so anglers wanting to extend the open-water fishing season will need to be prepared to launch and trailer their boats without the aid of a dock.

Many anglers have put their boats away for the season and are spending time getting ready for the rifle deer hunting season that opens one week from Saturday.

A few anglers never give up on open-water fishing until there is nowhere left where they can get their boats into the water. A resourceful angler can usually find places to get the boat in the water well into November.

One of the places where anglers can extend the season is the Rainy River. There is a migration of emerald shiners from Lake of the Woods into the Rainy River late in the fall that draws schools of walleyes into the river to feed.

The shiners usually stay close to Lake of the Woods when they make their fall migration. The best fishing is often in the first few miles of the river or in Four Mile Bay (the Gap).

Many anglers like to anchor along turns in the river channel. One of the more productive ways to catch walleyes is to use a heavy jig (3/8 or ½ ounce) tipped with an emerald shiner.

The heavy jig allows anglers to fish vertically under the boat in the current. Some anglers like to lift the jig a few inches off the bottom and hold it relatively still while they wait for a bite.

The last full moon of the open-water season is this Monday so some anglers are hoping the weather is nice enough for one more night of trolling for big walleyes.

Wind, rain and snow are all difficult obstacles for anglers to overcome late in the season. Water in the lakes is so cold that it can literally be painful to get splashed on while in the boat.

Most avid anglers have enough warm clothes to be comfortable as long as they can stay dry. Cold hands are one of the things that can send anglers prematurely fleeing back to the access so bring some gloves to warm your hands.

A few more things anglers should remember to do before winter is to fog their motor and put fuel stabilizers in the gas tank before the boat is stored for the winter. Lower unit grease should be checked or changed in case there is water in the grease.

Props on the boat and trolling motors should be checked for fishing line. RV antifreeze can be used in the bilge and livewell, to prevent the lines from freezing.

Some anglers like to fully charge their boat batteries and bring them inside during the winter. Anglers with an onboard charger in their boat can plug in the batteries and leave them in the boat.

Electronics can also be brought inside for the winter to prevent condensation or any other damage sub-zero temperatures may do to them.

Anglers also need to change their tackle from open-water to ice fishing. Fishing reels should have all the line changed, rather than splicing in new line. Ice fishing reels only have to be filled about two-thirds full so they are less likely to coil off the reel. Some anglers also like to use special ice fishing line in the winter or spool their reels with 100 percent fluorocarbon line for lower visibility in the clear water.

Tackle can be sorted into more compact containers. Power augers can be started and given fresh gas, with the bolts on the auger and blades checked to be sure they are tight. Ice fishing shelters can be set up to be sure there hasn’t been any damage from small animals or insects over the summer.

Anglers can also check winter clothing to see if it still fits or might need to be washed before using this winter.

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.