Paul Nelson writes a weekly fishing column for the Bemidji Pioneer. He runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service.
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December has arrived, but there is still no ice on Bemidji-area lakes. It was an unusual weather week -- a couple of days with late November rains that melted most of the ice and accumulated snow on the ground. Then the rain turned back to snow and covered the ground again.
The rifle deer season is over in the Bemidji area, so area anglers are waiting for the lakes to be covered with enough ice to go ice fishing. The grouse and small game seasons are still active and hunters can hunt deer with muzzleloaders beginning on Saturday. Some of the small ponds are frozen over, with shoreline ice starting to form on some of the shallow bays and lakes. It will likely be at least one more week before a few lakes are frozen-over and longer than that before there is enough ice for anglers to walk on the lakes.
There is one more weekend of the 2016 Minnesota Rifle Deer Season in Zone 1A, which includes most of the Bemidji area. The rifle deer season closes this Sunday. It has been an unusually warm deer hunting season and a very mild fall so far, but that may be about to change.
BEMIDJI -- The first weekend of the rifle deer season in Minnesota was one of the warmest in memory for many deer hunters in the Bemidji area. The warmer weather is expected to continue into next week, with temperatures in the 50s predicted for this weekend.
Deer hunters are eagerly anticipating Saturday morning, when the Minnesota rifle deer season will open a half-hour before sunrise in most of Minnesota. Most of the Bemidji area is in Zone 1A, which opens Nov. 5 and runs until Nov. 20, which gives local hunters two weeks and three weekends to get their deer.
There is only one more week before the Minnesota Rifle Deer Season begins. The season opens in most of Minnesota on Nov. 5. Until then, there are still quite a few anglers on the lakes in the Bemidji area because of the mild weather.
The fall cool down in the Bemidji area lakes continues as the days get shorter and the nights get colder. Most of the local lakes now have surface water temperatures in the mid-50s, so the lakes have about 15 more degrees to cool before the lakes are ready to begin freezing. The "cold water period" in the lakes begins once the lakes reach between 39 and 40 degrees, which is the point where water is most dense. Water cooler than 40 degrees will float on top of the 40 degree water and eventually freeze and turn into ice.
The fall cool down continues in the Bemidji area, with surface water temperatures in most lakes dropping to the low to mid 60s. The peak fall fishing is upon us, so the time is now to get out on the lakes. Many areas in Northern Minnesota were hit by frost for the first time in the past week, so the trees are quickly starting to turn colors in the Bemidji area. Many times strong winds from a storm will blow the leaves off of the trees prematurely, so don't wait to take time to view the fall leaves or the opportunity may be lost for another year.
The September full moon is today. There should be a few extra boats on area lakes at night this weekend, with anglers fishing for big walleyes or trophy muskies.
Labor Day Weekend is the last big weekend of the summer tourist season in the Bemidji area. If the weather cooperates, the lakes should be extra busy for one last weekend of summer. The warm late summer weather held through another week, with surface water temperatures in most lakes still in the low 70s. Some of the fall changes in the lakes are already starting to happen, and the changes will intensify as the water temperatures drop below 70.