Weather Forecast


Full moon offers perfect opportunity to fish on Bemidji area lakes

The January full moon is Sunday night and the weather is supposed to be a little warmer this weekend so species like walleyes, crappies and eelpout should be very active at night for the next several days.

This would be a good weekend to stay in a fish house overnight on a good walleye lake. Many anglers own their own wheeled fish houses and use them like motel rooms on wheels. There are also many resorts with rental houses and some guide services that also rent sleeper houses.

With the great ice conditions in the Bemidji area anglers have been able to spread out on most of the better lakes. Many of the community spots are covered with fish houses.

Most lakes have a few snow drifts but generally have a light to moderate amount of snow cover. There is at least 16 inches of good ice on most lakes and anglers able to access most areas with four wheel drive vehicles or snowmobiles.

Anglers on Upper Red Lake should have a good weekend for night fishing with flurries of activity possible at any time of night because of the shallow water.

Walleyes are more likely to suspend off the bottom at night, especially in shallow water. Walleyes and other species with good night vision can use the backdrop of moonlight on the surface to see their prey better as they look towards the bottom of the ice.

Anglers on deeper lakes can also have good walleye action at night during the full moon - if they are set-up on the right location.

Walleyes usually access structure in specific locations. Anglers that set-up on a contact point will have flurries of activity as the walleyes move on and off the structure to feed.

Contact points are often located along the steepest breaks coming out of the deepest water, but each structure can be different.

The first task for anglers is to figure out if the fish are using the structure and then they need to figure out what locations on the structure will have the most fish traffic.

The specific features of each structure (humps, bars, points, etc.) usually determine how walleyes and other fish will use the structure. Anglers using an underwater camera may get some insight on what’s happening on the structure.

Food is usually the most important feature of any structure. If there isn’t enough food, there won’t be as many predators. This can eliminate some smaller structures, unless they are part of a larger structure or in a cluster of structures in a more complex area.

If the depth is right walleyes often like to position on the crowns of structures when they are actively feeding. If the structure is too shallow on top the fish may prefer to follow the perimeter of the structure at whatever depth they are finding the most baitfish or other prey.

Knowing how to read a sonar signal is extremely important to anyone who is trying to become a better angler. Many anglers just stare at the sonar screen and watch their lure go up and down, not really knowing what other information can be gathered from looking at a sonar screen.

Some anglers are able to gather huge amounts of information from reading their sonar. Some of the information includes the presence and depth of baitfish, the depth of suspended larger fish, bottom hardness and the relative size and number of fish coming through under the ice.

Anglers can also see how the fish are reacting to their presentation so they know if they have to downsize or change jigging motions.

When the conditions are tough like they have been the last couple of weeks, just the presence of fish in an area is huge. If the fish are there anglers just need to refine their presentations until they find something that makes the fish bite.

If nothing is happening anglers may need to move to another area or try a different part of the same structure. Much of the decision depends on what information anglers are able to gather from their sonar.

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