Paul Nelson writes a weekly fishing column for the Bemidji Pioneer. He runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service.
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Minnesota makes a bigger deal about the fishing opener than almost any other state in the country. Many states don’t have a closed season for fishing, so there is no such thing as a fishing opener in many states. Hunting, fishing and the harvesting of wild game are part of the culture in Minnesota. There will be around one half million anglers on the lakes in Minnesota when the season opens on Saturday.
The season for walleyes, sauger and northern pike opens next Saturday, May 14, for the Inland Waters of Minnesota. The season for stream trout in designated trout lakes also opens on May 14, with trout anglers required to purchase a trout stamp along with their fishing license. Surface water temperatures in the Bemidji area are rising quickly with the warmer weather. Most lakes in the Bemidji area have water temperatures in the low to mid 50s and may have water temperatures approaching the upper 50s by the time the season opens.
The 2016 Minnesota Walleye Opener is just two weeks from this Saturday, with the date set for May 14. Bemidji is surrounded by excellent walleye lakes. Upper Red Lake, Winnibigoshish and Leech Lake are usually three of the hottest lakes for walleyes early in the season because they all have shallow water, which means they will warm-up faster in the spring than most other walleye lakes. Lakes like Bemidji and Cass are considered deep lakes that take longer to warm-up, which usually delays the peak bite for walleyes in these lakes until later in the spring.
Spring has finally arrived in the Bemidji area. The extended forecast is predicting much warmer temperatures during the day and temperatures staying above freezing at night for the foreseeable future. The best walleye fishing of the spring in the Rainy River happened the last few days of the season (which closed on April 14). The warmer temperatures triggered many of the female walleyes to exit Lake of the Woods and swim right into a gauntlet of boats waiting for them in the Rainy River.
The gamefish season has ended for the inland waters of Minnesota and the 2015-16 Minnesota fishing licenses have expired. Anglers 16 years of age and older need to purchase new 2016-17 fishing licenses to continue fishing for species like crappies, sunfish, perch, trout and any other species that is open to fishing.
The 37th International Eelpout Festival will be held Friday through Sunday on Leech Lake, headquartered out of City Park in Walker. Due to the ice conditions on Walker Bay, travel on the ice has been limited to snowmobiles and ATVs this year, with no vehicles allowed on the ice during the festival. The Eelpout Festival has become very popular over the years, with more than 10,000 visitors expected from all parts of the world.
There are only three weekends left in the fishing season for walleyes, northern pike, large and smallmouth bass and sauger in the inland lakes of Minnesota. The gamefish season and the dark house spearing season close for inland lakes on Feb. 28, with the 2015 Minnesota Fishing Licenses also set to expire on Feb. 28.
The Bemidji area dodged another snowstorm this week that hit southern Minnesota, but there may be another chance for measurable snow this weekend. Access to most lakes close to Bemidji is good, with only a few inches of snow cover on the ice. There tends to be more snow cover on lakes to the north and east of Bemidji. Four-wheel drive vehicles with good tires and plenty of clearance have been able to access most lakes without difficulty. Many anglers like to travel in pairs with a shovel and tow strap when they are going off the roads on the lakes.
The 2015 Minnesota rifle deer season opens on Saturday morning. Approximately 500,000 deer hunters will be dressed in orange and sitting in the woods or on the edge of a field somewhere, long before the sun rises tomorrow. Experts are expecting another low deer harvest this year as they try to rebuild the deer herd.
There is one week remaining until the 2015 Minnesota rifle deer season opens on Nov. 7. Deer camps are ready and waiting all around the Bemidji area for an army...