Paul Nelson writes a weekly fishing column for the Bemidji Pioneer. He runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service.
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Lakes in the Bemidji area have been in meltdown mode this past week, with the arrival of much warmer temperatures across Minnesota. There is still a lot of ice away from the shoreline, so the critical part of extending the ice fishing season is how well the accesses are holding up. The lakes need to continue to freeze at night to firm up the ice or the season may end prematurely.
It has been an unusual winter in the Bemidji area. The winter got off to an early start in November, with anglers able to get on the lakes more than a week earlier than most years. The amount of snow so far this winter has been minimal, with good ice conditions all winter. Anglers have been able to go just about anywhere they wanted on the lakes this winter. Admittedly, it is still early March. There is still plenty of time for more than one major snowstorm before winter is over. January is usually the coldest month of the year of the year in the Bemidji area.
Cold temperatures and little snow cover have had lakes in the Bemidji area making ice at a time when the ice should be beginning to melt. The ice is thick enough on most lakes to make an auger extension a good idea. Anglers want to avoid having to bottom out their augers trying to get through the ice. The season is closed for gamefish in the inland waters of Minnesota, but many of the border waters have extended seasons for gamefish.
The 35th annual Eelpout Festival begins Friday on Walker Bay of Leech Lake and runs through Sunday. The festivities are headquartered in City Park in Walker, but the huge number of participants spills over into the motels and restaurants in Bemidji and other surrounding communities.
The Bemidji area received a couple inches of new snow this week, which shouldn't be enough to impede anglers' access to the lakes. There are two more weekends in the gamefish season on the inland lakes of Minnesota. Anglers are allowed to fish for species like walleyes and northern pike until midnight on Feb.
There is a chance for measurable snow every day through the weekend and into early next week, so an undetermined amount of snow is about to fall on the lakes in the Bemidji area. Anglers with stationary fish houses on one of the area lakes will want to watch the forecast for snow amounts, especially if they have a fish house in a remote location. The ice conditions are still very good on most lakes.
Lakes in the Bemidji area have been very busy this winter, with large numbers of anglers on the lakes, especially on the weekends. Good ice conditions, minimal snow cover and mild January weather have allowed anglers to spread out on the lakes, with many of the most popular fishing areas literally covered with fish houses. January is typically the toughest month of the winter for ice fishing.
Winter arrives when it is good and ready, often with little regard to the calendar. Winter arrived in the Bemidji area this past week and it will likely stick around until sometime in April…or maybe May. Most of the swamps and small ponds are already frozen and the lakes won’t be far behind. There is usually enough ice to walk on somewhere in the Bemidji area by the Thanksgiving weekend, although this year seems to be well ahead of that pace. It would not be a big surprise if there were several lakes with enough ice to walk on before next weekend.
October was warmer, more windy and drier than the average in Bemidji. Water levels in many of the lakes are slightly below average heading into winter because of the lack of significant precipitation this fall. Surface water temperatures in the lakes were close to 50 degrees to begin the week but water temperatures plummeted into the low to mid 40s with much colder weather the last few Most deep lakes have been going through turn-over this week.
The beautiful October weather continued for another week in the Bemidji area. The nice weather is supposed to last through the weekend but cooler temperatures are on the way for next week. Surface water temperatures in most lakes are in the low 50s. The lakes still need to cool about 10 degrees to hit the 40-degree mark where they will be ready to begin freezing. Fishing has been good for most species during the stable unseasonably mild weather.