Paul Nelson writes a weekly fishing column for the Bemidji Pioneer. He runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service.
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Warm summer days with highs in the 80s are absent from the extended forecast through next week, and they could be almost done for the summer. The last half of August and the first part of September can still get pretty warm, but there are already signs of fall creeping up on us from all directions. Surface water temperatures in most lakes are still in mid 70s, but those temperatures are likely to begin dropping starting this weekend.
This is a good time to be on the lakes if you want to catch a muskie. The first real hot weather of the summer usually triggers an algae bloom in the lakes and provides anglers with a short window of opportunity while muskies adjust to the sudden drop in water clarity.
The Fourth of July weekend is one of the busiest on the lakes in the Bemidji area. Anglers will be sharing the lakes with pleasure crafts of all kinds this weekend, especially if the weather cooperates. Surface water temperatures in the lakes finally exceeded 70 degrees this week. The surface water temperatures reflect the average of the daily high temperatures and the overnight low temperatures.
The summer solstice means these are the longest days of the year. The long days give the fish plenty of time to feed, so they don’t need to feed when the conditions are not favorable for whatever skills they use to catch their prey. The most efficient approach is for fish to rest during the part of the day when the conditions are not in their favor and wait to get active until the conditions are in their favor.
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.