Weather Forecast


Bemidji area anglers continue to wait for lakes to freeze

The firearms deer season ends in the Bemidji area on Sunday. Once the firearms deer season closes most outdoor enthusiasts will be waiting for the lakes to freeze, so the ice fishing season can begin. Anglers may be able to still get a boat into many lakes, but most anglers have put their boats away for the season and are concentrating on getting their equipment ready for ice fishing. Many anglers have traditional spots they like to go on first ice. It is ideal to have a private access to walk out from, but most anglers have to use the public accesses to safely walk to a location where they think they can catch some fish. Some of the shallow lakes are already beginning to freeze around the edges but the weather hasn’t been cool enough to freeze over any lakes. While anglers are waiting for some colder weather there are plenty of things to do to get ready for the ice fishing season. It is a good idea to set up portable fish houses to be sure all the parts are there and check for any damage done by chewing rodents or other natural disasters over the summer. Stationary or wheeled fish houses can have a lot of work that needs to be done. Furnaces, wiring, wheel bearings, tires should be checked before the house is taken onto the ice. Auger blades need to be checked for sharpness and to be sure they are secured tightly but be very careful because auger blades can be extremely sharp Auger motors need to be started and have new gas added. The bolt that connects the power head to the auger bit also needs to be checked to be sure it is tight and ready to go. Portable sonar, underwater cameras and even GPS units need to be set-up for winter. Batteries need to be charged and possibly replaced and wire connectors should be checked to see if there are any loose wires or corroded parts. Many anglers use pre-rigged rod and reel combos in the winter, while other anglers buy their ice fishing rods separately and use their summer reels for double duty in the winter. Fluorocarbon line is usually best for leader line in the summer but anglers can spool it directly to their reels in the winter. Two thirds of a spool is usually plenty for winter, with the reels not needing to be as full as they do when anglers are casting or trolling. Visibility is at a maximum in the winter because of the lack of algae in the water. Anglers usually want to down size their line during the winter, especially for line-sensitive species like walleyes, crappies, sunfish and even perch. It is also a good idea to use lighter line in the winter because the tiny lures don’t work properly if the line is too heavy. Lure spin is another big issue for fishing finicky species. The standard spinning reel turns the line onto the spool, so there is natural line twist no matter what anglers do. One of the new trends in ice fishing last year was to use a “straight-line” reel, which is basically a fly reel made for ice fishing. The reel spools the line straight onto the reel so the lures don’t spin and finicky fish don’t get dizzy looking at anglers’ presentations. One of the negatives of straight-line reels is the one-to-one gear ratio because it takes a long time to spool and reel the line, especially when fishing in deeper water. The reels also need a lot of backing to get the light line further out on the spool. This year there are new straight-line reels available with a higher gear ratio so anglers will be able to use the reels in deep water more easily.

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