Paul Nelson writes a weekly fishing column for the Bemidji Pioneer. He runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service.
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September is here, with one last big weekend of summer before the unofficial beginning of fall in the Bemidji area. A warm weekend would have meant a busy weekend on the lakes, but cooler temperatures will likely mean more people will stay off the lakes and concentrate on getting their cabins ready for winter.
When you have as many distinctly different types of lakes as the Bemidji Area, anglers have an almost an unlimited playing field if they want to learn how to fish different bodies of water for different species of fish. Most of the lakes with zebra mussels are the larger lakes with the most fishing pressure, mostly from walleye anglers. Any smaller lakes infested with zebra mussels are usually on a chain of lakes downstream from one of the larger, infested walleye lakes.
Summer patterns continue to control the lakes in the Bemidji area, but there are stark differences between lakes with zebra mussels and those without the invasive pests. Algae blooms and elevated water temperatures allow species such as walleyes to move on top of structures during the day to feed in lakes with enough algae bloom in the water to cut down the sunlight.
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. .
Summer finally reached the Bemidji area this past week, with some of the hottest temperatures of the season. Summers are short in the Bemidji area, with July usually the hottest month and August the second-hottest month in an average year. Surface-water temperatures in the local lakes have passed the 70 degree mark, with most now in the low 70s. Summer patterns start to take over the lakes once water temperatures exceed 70.
June was a cool and wet month in the Bemidji area, while most of the country to the south and west of Minnesota have had abnormally hot temperatures this month. But July arrives this weekend, with the 4th of July holiday happening during the week this year. This gives many people the opportunity to take an extended holiday by only taking three days off of work. The weather will impact how busy the lakes will be this week. Some good weather could make the lakes very busy with anglers and pleasure boaters taking their summer vacations.
June has arrived in the Bemidji area, but it still doesn’t feel like summer for anyone spending quality time in the great outdoors. While visiting customers in a resort over this past weekend, there were kids swimming in the outdoor pool with air temperatures in the 50s, with intermittent rain and a strong wind. This would seem to imply that summer is either a state of mind or the pool at the resort was severely heated.
An early spring does not necessarily translate into a warm spring in the Bemidji area. Most lakes still have surface water temperatures in the low to mid 50s, which is cooler than the temperatures were the week before the season opened. Memorial Day weekend is typically one of the best weekends of the year for walleye anglers, as long as the weather cooperates. Fishing should be better this weekend than on the opener, but the best fishing should occur when water temperatures reach 60 around degrees.
Results from the 2017 Walleye Opener were mixed in the Bemidji area, with most anglers catching enough walleyes, northern pike and perch to have a good meal of fish on opening weekend. Walleye anglers on Upper Red Lake, Lake of the Woods and the Cass Lake Chain had good success for walleyes on opening weekend, while anglers on Leech Lake caught more walleyes in the slot, with the “keeper size” walleyes harder to find.
Nearly every time there is an early spring in the Bemidji area, there is going to be a stretch of cold weather that interrupts the warm-up. This past week was a return to winter in the area, with freezing temperatures and enough snow to completely cover the ground in most areas. Fortunately, most walleyes, northern pike and perch have finished spawning, so the snow and cold temperatures won't impact the progress of the spawn.