Weather Forecast


Spring is here but Bemidji area lakes continue to make ice

Spring arrived this past week, at least on the calendar. Too bad there is little else in the current weather pattern that looks anything like spring.

The 10-day forecast offers some slight improvement but still no daily high temperatures warmer than 40 degrees until next weekend and no overnight lows that stay above freezing.

Instead of melting, lakes in the Bemidji area were actually making ice this past week with several nights of below-zero temperatures.

The cold weather was able to re-freeze some of the snow-packed areas on the lakes and also some of the roads on the ice but did little to freeze the water trapped beneath the snow.

Despite the harsh conditions on the lakes there are still anglers out there trying to ice fish. Perch are the main target of most anglers but there are also anglers on the lakes trying to catch crappies, sunfish, eelpout, whitefish and tulibees.

Late ice fishing patterns are slowly starting to develop on the lakes even though the lakes are still covered with more than two feet of snow and 30 or more inches of ice.

Drilling holes in the ice can be an adventure with all the snow and slush. Anglers trying to use an auger without an extension have to dig down through the snow and just about bury the auger to be able to drill a hole through the ice.

Lake of the Woods has the most ice in the area and anglers are having trouble drilling through the ice with only one extension on their auger.

Fishing remains good on Lake of the Woods for several species. Anglers have been catching sauger in 28 to 32 feet on smaller jigging spoons tipped with a minnow head or smaller jigs tipped with scented plastics and either wax worms or eurolarvae.

Walleyes in Lake of the Woods have been staging in preparation of the spring spawning run. Many walleyes stage along Pine Island, getting ready to run up the Rainy River to spawn. There is also a portion of the walleye population that stays in the lake and spawns along one of the many rocky shorelines in Lake of the Woods.

Anglers have been catching walleyes along the shoreline break of Pine Island or on the sides of humps in 16 to 22 feet of water in the mornings and evenings.

Walleyes in Lake of the Woods often like to swim straight off the feeding areas into open water at approximately the same depth they have been feeding. This can give anglers a clue to how deep they should be setting up to fish in the mornings and evenings.

Northern pike in Lake of the Woods will stage near bays or rivers where they plan to spawn. These locations include the Warroad River, the Reed River in Buffalo Bay, the ditches, Zippel Bay, Rocky Point and Long Point. Most anglers like to fish pike with tip-ups and oily dead baits or larger live baits.

Some anglers also like to head for Canada on late ice for lake trout or big walleyes. Lake Winnipeg has the famous “green-backs”, which are walleyes with a unique iridescent green color.

Walleyes in Lake Winnipeg can grow huge, with large numbers of super aggressive fish. Lake Winnipeg is so large and so shallow it often gets more fishing pressure in the winter than it does during the summer, much like Upper Red Lake.

There has been little press this winter about the deer herd and how they are faring with the heavy snow. Many people usually have deer moving through their property during the winter or see deer feeding along the roads as they drive to work and back.

The low number of tracks in back yards or coming out of the woods to cross the roads would seem to indicate many of the deer are concentrated further back in the woods.

Anyone can appreciate the dilemma deer face on a daily basis if they try to walk any distance across the lakes or through the woods. There are times when it is good to be human and living inside of a warm house.

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