Weather Forecast


PAUL NELSON FISHING: July a good time for muskie fishing

The second half of July is often a good window of opportunity for anglers wanting for catch a big muskie out of lakes in the Bemidji area.

Large female muskies usually spend the "post spawn" portion of the season suspended over deeper water while they recover from the spawn.

Many muskies stay suspended over deeper water until surface water temperatures reach the mid 70s, which is just happening in the lakes right now. .

The larger female muskies take longer to recover from spawning than the smaller male muskies. Most of the muskies caught early in the year are males, but the time has come for the larger female muskies to move shallow and start to feed.

Most of the effective fishing pressure on muskies occurs in shallow water, because most muskie lures are designed to fish in shallow water.

Once the metabolic rates start to elevate in the warmer water, the big female muskies start to show up in the shallows, where they are more vulnerable to getting caught.

There should be some new big fish stories surfacing in the next couple of weeks, with some large muskies likely to be caught.

Surface water temperatures are in the mid 70s in most lakes. Walleye anglers are starting to use spinner rigs with leeches or nightcrawlers for walleyes.

The spottail shiners are gone from the bait stores, with golden shiners and redtail chubs the most popular walleye minnows available for anglers using jigs or live bait rigs for walleyes.

The warmer water temperatures make keeping minnows alive more difficult, with anglers needing to keep their minnow water cool and well aerated.

Most of the walleyes are split between the deep weed edge and the hard to soft breakline in deeper water. Anglers need to use their electronics to see the walleyes in deeper water and be able to hold their boats over the fish.

An underwater camera takes the guess work out of identifying the fish anglers are seeing on sonar. Once anglers know what type of fish they are seeing on sonar, it helps anglers target the right fish in the right areas.

Once anglers have located the right fish, they still have to figure out how to catch them. Reflex bites are one way to do this, with a faster presentation helping to get the fish to bite.

Anglers can also use a slip bobber and leech and keep their baits right in the face of the fish until they bite.

It can take some experimentation to find out what will trigger the fish to bite. The little spinner blade on the Bro-Bling jig can make a big difference, adding extra flash to the presentation.

When fished under a bobber, anglers can twitch the jigs and get the action of the live bait along the with the spinner blade. Anglers can use leeches, nightcrawlers or minnows to give the fish more options.

There are other types of jigs with spinner blades too. Anglers can try the different styles and see which ones the fish like best.

Walleyes are not the only fish that like jigs with spinner blades. Crappies, bass, perch and bluegills also like jigs with spinners.

The smaller size jigs work best for panfish, while the larger sizes work better for bass and walleyes.

Jigs with spinner blades work in both clear water lakes and stained lakes, so anglers need to try them in both types of lakes. Trolling the jigs just off of the bottom at about one mile per hour helps keep the jigs out of the weeds and in the strike zone for the fish.

Anglers want to keep their jigs at or above eye level to the fish and work them aggressively under a bobber. The presentation is a cross between trolling and bobber fishing, whether anglers are drifting or moving slowly with a trolling motor.

Anglers can move a little and pause, move a little and pause, trying to find a pattern that triggers the fish to bite. Anglers should move more quickly over areas they are not seeing any fish and move more slowly over areas where they are seeing fish.

Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. Contact him at

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