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PAUL NELSON FISHING: Fishing stays hot even as it cools down

Paul Nelson

The second peak of the summer for water temperatures likely occurred earlier this past week, with most lakes reaching the mid- to upper 70s for the second time this summer.

The extended forecast for the Bemidji area is predicting highs in 70s and lows in the 50s most days in the near future, which would slowly begin to cool down the water in the lakes.

The fall cooldown is seldom a straight line, with ups and downs along the way. It is usually a gradual trend that works in reverse of the spring, only with the lakes cooling off instead of warming up.

Sometimes the cooldown happens pretty fast, while other years summer lingers well into September.

Most fish are more comfortable feeding during the day when water temperatures drop below 70 degrees. If the fish had a choice, most fish would take water temperatures in the 60s all year long if they could.

Fish are part instinct and part reactionary when it comes to how fish react to their environment. Food and suitable oxygen levels are two things the fish need all of the time, but they also like a certain temperature range if they can find it.

Fish do many of the same things in the spring as they do in the fall when the lakes go through the same water temperature ranges, only in reverse.

The summer pattern of fish chasing baits and striking at faster moving lures will continue as long as the water temperatures stay warmer than 70 degrees.

Once the lakes cool into the 60s, the summer patterns will begin to fade and anglers will need to slow down their presentations to get more bites.

Most fish feed heavily in the fall as the water temperatures begin to drop. The fish have been burning up most of their calories in the heat of summer, but the fall is their chance to feed heavily, which gives them a growth spurt and some extra fat before heading into winter.

The young-of-the-year minnows that hatched in the spring are beginning to grow large enough to become viable prey.

The minnows have been hiding in shallow vegetation since they hatched, but eventually they will need to move into deeper water to find food as the lakes begin to cool.

This brings a flood of new food for the predator species into the deeper weed beds, where the larger fish welcome the minnows to the real world in a big way.

Anglers catching and keeping fish like walleyes and perch later in the summer will often find the fish so full of minnows, it is a wonder they were still hungry enough to take anglers' baits.

It is not unusual for anglers to find a dozen or more small minnows and crayfish in the walleyes' stomach when they fillet their fish late in the summer.

The changes in the lakes don't happen all at once and they are just starting now. There may be a couple of weeks or more left in the summer, but things can change in a hurry with the weather patterns in the Bemidji area. Enjoy the warm weather while it lasts.

Next weekend is Labor Day weekend, which is the last big weekend of the summer tourist season. Anyone who has lived in the Bemidji area for any length of time has seen how things change after Labor Day, with everything noticeably less busy, especially on the lakes.

Some of the summer residents of the Bemidji area will begin to head south, while others return to their homes, so the kids can go back to school.

The competition for time also becomes greater in the fall, with shorter days and many fall activities including many opportunities to go hunting for big game, waterfowl and upland game.

September arrives this week with the opening of bear hunting on Sept. 1. There are other hunting seasons that open most weekends during September, so there are new opportunities nearly every weekend during the fall in the Bemidji area.

Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. Guided trips for the 2018 season can be booked at 218-760-7751 by phone or text or at panelsonbemidji@gmail.com.