With Labor Day weekend behind us, bear and early Canada goose hunting seasons are in full swing. Small game, grouse and archery deer season open Sept. 16. Surface water temperatures in the lakes spiked again last week, which stalled the fall fishing patterns that were beginning to set up in the lakes. Many species of fish begin to school tighter in the fall, with most of the forage species moving out of shallow cover and heading for deeper water to find new sources of food.
August is almost done, with fall just around the corner. Most resorts and other businesses involved in tourism consider Labor Day Weekend the end of the summer tourist season. Fall is the favorite time of year for many people who enjoy spending time outdoors. Most huntings seasons occur in the fall and most species of fish are active at a time when most lakes are sparsely populated with boats. Fall patterns in the lakes are based more on water temperatures than on the calendar.
Water temperatures in the lakes fluctuate during the entire open water portion of the season, roughly mirroring the weather patterns as they change from warm to cool and back to warm. The Bemidji area has had a series of cold fronts come through the area recently, which cooled down water temperatures in the lakes, but it is still mid-August, so another significant warm-up is almost certain.
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. Algae reduces visibility in the water and allows light sensitive species feed in shallower water, despite the bright sun and warmer water.
Surface water temperatures in the Bemidji area have been stalled in the mid-60s for the past couple of weeks, which is cooler than usual for this late in June. There are a few individual members of the sunfish family that didn’t spawn, which is not that unusual for species like crappies, sunfish and bass.
There are many seasons in a lifetime, but there is only one walleye opener per year in Minnesota. The big day is finally here, with the walleye season opening at 12:01 am on Saturday. Anglers are also allowed to fish for northern pike, sauger and trout in lakes when the season opens on Saturday. There are also special catch-and-release seasons for largemouth and smallmouth bass, so anglers should check the regulations if they have any questions. The weather was pretty stable this past week in the Bemidji area, which should help anglers have a good fishing opener on Saturday.
A return to cold weather in the Bemidji area included enough snow, rain and below freezing temperatures to drop surface water temperatures in most lakes from the low 50s to about 40 degrees, which is a significant drop in temperatures to the fish. Most crappies left the shallows and headed for deep water when the cold front hit. A good portion of the crappie population ended up hugging the bottom in water deeper than 20 feet, which was the warmest water they could find.
Only three more weeks until the 2017 Minnesota Walleye Opener on May 13. Anglers will be looking at a combination of an early spring and a late opener, which means the walleyes should be fully recovered from the spawn and ready to bite when the season opens. If the warm-up continues ahead of schedule without a prolonged cold snap, walleyes will be much more advanced in their post-spawn movements this year when the season opens. Walleyes were in full spawn this past week in many lakes, with surface water temperatures reaching the upper 40s.
The spring walleye season closes today on the Rainy River. Anglers will now be able to turn their attention towards panfish in the local lakes, which are now ice-free. The walleye season won’t open for another month in Minnesota (Saturday, May 13), but anglers are allowed to fish for species like perch, crappies and sunfish year-round.
The ice fishing season has come to an end for most anglers in the Bemidji area. A few anglers are still walking on the ice, but driving on the lakes has become dangerous and is not advised. Many of the perch, crappies and sunfish are very active in shallow water, so some anglers are willing to push their luck until they can no longer get on the ice. Falling in past your boots is not a pleasant experience, even on a warm day. Bring a set of ice picks if you are planning to extend the ice fishing season to the bitter end.