Spring arrived on the calendar this past week, but it still looks more like winter than spring in the Bemidji area. Anglers are usually fishing out of boats on the Rainy River by this time of year, but the ice pack was still several miles east of Birchdale this week. Anglers are still a week or more away from fishing the Rainy River, with the first week of April likely when the first anglers will be able to get their boats into the Rainy River.
Lakes in the Bemidji area has been in a stable melting pattern this week. The high temperatures have been consistently above the melting point each day, while the overnight lows have remained well below freezing at night. The ice conditions are not very good on most lakes in Northern Minnesota. There is a layer of water that has developed on top of the ice in many areas, creating slush problems for anyone trying to travel away from the plowed roads on the lakes.
March certainly came in like a lion this year, with several measurable snowfalls at the end of February and beginning of March quickly making a mess of most lakes in Minnesota. Anglers in the northern one-third of Minnesota need to get their fish houses off the lakes no later than March 19. Considering the poor conditions on the Bemidji area lakes, anglers may want to get their houses off the lakes ASAP in case the conditions get even worse.
The season for walleyes and other gamefish species has ended on the inland waters of Minnesota. New 2018/19 Minnesota Fishing Licenses went into effect Thursday, March 1. The deep snow on the lakes began to melt this past week with high temperatures exceeding the freezing point on most days. The melting snow has to go somewhere. The run-off will find its way down old fishing holes, cracks or ice heaves in the ice, with the rest of the water running off the ice along the shoreline.
The big stories this past week in the Bemidji area were a couple of significant snowfalls, the Eelpout Festival this weekend and the end of the walleye and other game fish seasons for the Inland Waters of Minnesota, which close at midnight Feb. 25. The total amounts of snow varied across the north country, with most areas receiving between a foot to 2 feet of snow this week. Temperatures were on the cool side when it snowed, so the snow was light and fluffy and prone to drifting when the wind blows.
Anglers received a little break from the bitter cold temperatures that have held the Bemidji area in its grip for most of January and February. There were a couple of days this past week that were close to the freezing/melting point, but most of the break was simply a return to the average/normal temperature range for February. The cold weather has continued to add more ice to the lakes, with some of the large shallow lakes having 30 or more inches of ice.
There are only two weeks left in the gamefish season for the Inland Waters of Minnesota. The season closes Feb. 25, with extended seasons for walleyes, northern pike and sauger on many of the border lakes and border rivers of Minnesota. Licensed anglers are allowed to fish for crappies, sunfish and perch continuously in Minnesota. Rough fish species like tullibees, whitefish and eelpout are also open to angling all year long in Minnesota.
The first week in February has been cold, with temperatures dipping back below zero most nights, with highs in the single digits or low teens. Anglers are still able to get around on the lakes with four wheel drive vehicles that have good clearance and good tires. Anglers can take two vehicles and be able to pull each other out of most situations if they get stuck.
The Bemidji area missed the big snowstorm that hit the southern half of Minnesota this past week, which is good news to anyone who likes ice fishing. A late January thaw was able to melt enough snow on area lakes to create a few wet spots under the snow. There are only a few areas with slush, with between 15 and 20 inches of good ice on most lakes. Anglers with wheeled fish houses may need an extension on their ice augers for drilling the holes inside their houses. Anglers fishing outside can still get through the ice without an extension in most areas.
Walleyes in most clear water lakes have two peak feeding periods per day, with one in the morning and the other in the evening. All of the walleyes do not feed at the same time. The number of walleyes participating in any feeding movement depends on many factors including the weather, the availability of food and how much the walleyes ate in previous feeding movements. Generally speaking, more walleyes will participate for a longer amount of time when the conditions are favorable than when they are less favorable.