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Steady cold temperatures welcomed by Bemidji area anglers

Several days with temperatures above freezing this past week were enough to melt much of the snow on the ground in the Bemidji area. Fortunately for those who like ice fishing, the overnight temperatures stayed cold enough to freeze over most of the deep lakes that still had open water. The lack of snow on the ice makes some lakes look almost as smooth and clear as glass and highly reflective, which can create some rare photo opportunities before the ice is covered with snow. The good news is clear ice is strong ice, even though it can be kind of spooky to walk on, even for anglers who have been ice fishing for many years. Clear ice is also very slippery to walk on so anglers should strongly consider using ice creepers on their boots to add some traction and help avoid taking a nasty fall. The bad news this week comes from Lake of the Woods. The strong northwest winds opened a huge crack in the ice near Morris Point and around Pine Island. The crack will cause many resorts to delay their planned opening this weekend. Anglers planning to travel a long distance to go ice fishing should call ahead to make sure the resorts are open for business and are allowing anglers onto the ice. It is also a good idea to check what modes of travel they are using to get onto the lakes. Upper Red Lake still has the most ice in the Bemidji area and likely has some of the best ice in all of Minnesota. Most anglers have been using ATVs to get onto the ice on Upper Red Lake, while most other lakes are either not ready for ice fishing or anglers are having to walk onto the ice. Most anglers fishing Upper Red Lake have been fishing along the shoreline break in six to eight feet of water. The shallow stained water in Upper Red Lake allows walleyes to feed at almost any time of the day or night, although the best action still usually occurs in the mornings and evenings. Gold is usually a good lure color for walleyes in stained lakes, although almost any lure that glows will also work well in stained water. Anglers can recharge their glow baits by holding them in front of any bright light, which is especially important at night or under low-light conditions. The lack of snow on the lakes can create shadow problems for anglers fishing in shallow water. Fish can see movement and shadows above them with the clear ice. Bright sunlight is also magnified by clear ice, which can actually intensify the effects of the sun. Anglers can use this to their advantage by staying in deeper water when the sun is overhead and fishing on the shaded side of structure when the sun is at an angle. For anglers not able to attend the Ice Show in St. Paul this past weekend, here are a few highlights and observations. The overall quality of portable fishing shelters keeps going up, while the prices keep going down as several companies fight for market share. Hub style houses seem to be increasing in popularity because of their ease of set-up, larger space inside the hub and lower price because there is no floor. Some models are now insulated to help them hold heat better but anglers need to use ice spikes or tie the houses off in order to keep them in place in a wind. Straight line rods seem to be the rage for the second year in a row. Several companies are now making the reels but there are some big differences. The basic concept is to avoid the natural line twist from spinning reels by using a reel that resembles a fly reel. The main problem is how slow the reels let out line, which can make them impractical for deep water. Some of the reels have increased gear ratios to speed up letting out line and retrieving. Spring bobbers have improved with the new titanium spring bobber. They are more expensive but resist bending and are more sensitive and durable than those made with lesser materials.

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