Paul Nelson writes a weekly fishing column for the Bemidji Pioneer. He runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service.
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Several nights with lows in the 40s were enough to drop the surface water temperatures in the lakes back into the mid to high 60s, which is pretty cool for the middle of July. There was a late mayfly hatch in a few lakes when the surface temperatures reached the low 70s. Then a strong cold front brought more rain and high winds, which mixed the water column in the shallow lakes and dropped the surface water temperatures several degrees. July is almost always the hottest month of the year in the Bemidji area.
Surface water temperatures in the Bemidji area lakes are finally getting close to 70 degrees because of the arrival of more “summer-like” weather. Summer fishing patterns will begin to develop in the lakes as long as the lakes continue to warm past 70 degrees. Most lakes have been very clear so far this summer. The warming water temperatures will eventually cause an algae bloom in the lakes, which will tint the water green and significantly reduce the visibility. Algae thrive in warming water temperatures once the lakes have reached 70 degrees.
The Fourth of July is probably the busiest weekend of the summer in the Bemidji area. The campgrounds and resorts are full, the roads are busy and the lakes are buzzing with both anglers and pleasure boaters. The persistent rains made it all the way through June and are continuing into early July. With near record amounts of rain in many areas, water levels in the lakes continue to rise. Docks at many of the public accesses are touching the water or partially underwater due to the heavy rains.
High water levels on the lakes and flooding in many parts of Minnesota are typically a spring phenomena but this year the flooding is happening in June because of near-record amounts of rain. There are many buzz words that get thrown around about the weather, with topics like global warming and climate change discussed ad nauseam. Still, it is difficult not to wonder what is going on with the weather, especially when looking at the extreme weather conditions the last few years in the Bemidji area. High water levels in lakes also can result in debris being dislodged from shore and becoming a
Rain has been a common theme for the last couple of weeks in the Bemidji area and water levels in the lakes are high in much of Minnesota after the heavy rains. Smaller lakes are often more vulnerable to water level fluctuations because the outlets on the lakes can’t get rid of the water fast enough during an extended heavy rain. Many lakes in the Bemidji area are part of the Upper Mississippi River, which is controlled by a series of dams below most of the larger lakes and the dams make the lakes less vulnerable to flooding. Unfortunately, what flows out of the Upper Mississippi can often
Most lakes in the Bemidji area are close to the 70-degree mark, which is the point where spring patterns fall apart and summer fishing patterns begin to develop. There are at least two patterns for walleyes right now in most lakes. Some walleyes are feeding in the developing weed beds, sharing the weeds with perch, northern pike and even an occasional muskie. Most of the shallow walleyes are feeding on perch, minnows and crayfish.
Seasons often change on a dime in the Bemidji area. After a long, cold winter and a cool, wet spring, summer arrived suddenly this past week, almost like someone had flipped a switch. The lakes are warming fast with air temperatures in the upper 70s and low 80s this past week.
Lakes in the Bemidji area continue their slow warming this spring, trying to recover from the late ice-out that still had ice on a few lakes when the spring fishing season opened. Cold temperatures and frequent rains have kept the lakes cold, with most lakes still having surface water temperatures in the mid to upper 40s. The hot bite for walleyes typically gets going when surface water temperatures exceed 50 degrees, so the best walleye fishing of the spring is still ahead of us. The cold water temperatures delay everything in the lakes.
Opening weekend of the 2014 fishing season in the Bemidji area had nearly perfect weather and pretty good fishing for most anglers. Most of the successful walleye anglers were fishing in a river or close to a river inlet or outlet. Once the river walleyes are done spawning, they may head directly back to the lakes or they may feed their way back to the lake, depending on what feeding opportunities there are in the river. Larger rivers can offer long stretches of fishable water with plenty of food to hold post spawn walleyes.
It looks like there will be ice on at least a few of the larger lakes when the seasons open at midnight on Saturday morning. The good news is that there will be plenty of smaller lakes with open water for anglers to fish when the season opens for walleyes, northern pike, sauger and stream trout living in lakes. The exact timing of ice-out on each lake depends largely on the wind.