Weather Forecast


Paul Nelson: Summer patterns develop on Bemidji area lakes

Most lakes in the Bemidji area are close to the 70-degree mark, which is the point where spring patterns fall apart and summer fishing patterns begin to develop.

There are at least two patterns for walleyes right now in most lakes. Some walleyes are feeding in the developing weed beds, sharing the weeds with perch, northern pike and even an occasional muskie.

Most of the shallow walleyes are feeding on perch, minnows and crayfish. Anglers are still using jigs and minnows for shallow walleyes, but it gets a little tricky getting a jig and minnow through the weeds without tearing the minnow off as the weeds grow larger.

Jigs and plastics also work for shallow walleyes, with anglers able to work plastics through the weeds much easier than a jig and minnow. Jigs and safety pin spinners, crankbaits or slip bobbers and leeches can also be used to fish walleyes in the weeds.

There are also walleyes using mid-lake structure, feeding on shiners, perch, suckers and even young-of-the-year tulibees along the edges of humps, bars and underwater islands.

The bug hatches have begun in the lakes as the midges, dragonflies and the smaller grey colored mayflies have hatched this past week.

Some walleyes are feeding all the way down at the base of the drop-off on the edge between hard bottom and the mud basin. Most insect hatches come out of the mud,so the hard to soft breakline is a high percentage area for walleyes that want a variety of food options.

Anglers fishing walleyes in deep water can use live bait rigs with leeches, night crawlers or larger minnows. In clear water lakes or lakes with heavy fishing pressure, it may be necessary to use leaders that are eight feet or longer to get the walleyes to bite.

Anglers are also starting to use bottom bouncers and spinners. The smaller metallic colored spinners are working better in clear lakes and larger colored blades working better in stained or turbid water conditions.

Many anglers prefer night crawlers on spinner rigs and the "slow-death" hooks have become very popular during the last couple of summers. Leeches are also very effective on spinner rigs so don't forget to change baits if the walleyes are hesitant to hit crawlers.

Anglers also have many options for sinkers, including the standard boot style sinker for clear bottom, egg and bullet sinkers for areas with more weeds and the wire tipped sinkers for areas with a rocky bottom.

The type of line anglers' use for live bait rigs is also up for debate. Monofilament needs to be changed frequently when using lighter pound test mono as the main line. A better option is to use a bionic or super braid for the main line on the reel and then use a 100% fluorocarbon for leaders.

There are also many options when it comes to hooks. There are colored hooks and plain hooks and specialty hooks that do certain things like the "slow-death" hooks or circle hooks.

Walleyes in many lakes like certain colors so it doesn't hurt to experiment. Red, orange and pink are usually good options but green, blue or florescent white hooks may also work.

Generally speaking, anglers should use larger hooks when fishing minnows, longer shank hooks or multiple hooks when fishing with night crawlers and smaller hooks when fishing with leeches.

Beads are another option for walleye anglers to consider. Some anglers like to use a single colored bead ahead of their hook as an attractor, especially when using larger minnows.

The number of options for bead patterns on spinner rigs is nearly endless. Anglers can experiment with different bead patterns and different colored spinners until they find a combination that gets bit with more frequently than the other combinations.

Many anglers may be surprised how pro walleye anglers obsess on color combinations when it comes to spinner rigs and custom painted crankbaits.

There are a number of individualswho supplement their income by painting custom spinners and crankbaits and will do whatever combination anglers want to try. The other option is for anglers to buy an airbrush and make their own spinner blades and custom painted crankbaits.

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