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Area anglers anxiously awaiting open water

The ice fishing season is finally over and anglers are now waiting for open water and the chance to do a little "preseason" fishing for panfish. Shallow lakes like Irving, Kitchi and Three Island will open up first, with deep lakes like Cass, Bem...

The ice fishing season is finally over and anglers are now waiting for open water and the chance to do a little "preseason" fishing for panfish.

Shallow lakes like Irving, Kitchi and Three Island will open up first, with deep lakes like Cass, Bemidji and Walker Bay of Leech Lake among the last lakes to thaw.

A portion of the walleye population living in lakes connected to a major river system has already begun to make their annual spring spawning runs.

Walleyes that prefer to spawn in a river system may make long spawning runs up the larger rivers like the Mississippi and the Rainy River and often begin their runs long before the ice is off their home lake.

Walleyes often run many miles up a river system to an exact location in the river where they find the perfect mix of rock and current to lay their eggs.

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Genetics may also help determine where walleyes prefer to spawn.

The rest of the walleye population living in the lakes will wait until the ice is off the lakes to spawn on windswept areas of gravel with just the right mix of depth and bottom content.

Walleyes in some lakes may also choose to spawn on top of chara beds, which hold the eggs up off the bottom and allow water to flow around the eggs to keep them aerated. Chara has some anti-fungal properties too, which naturally helps keep the fish eggs free from several types of infection.

Northern pike are another species of gamefish that spawn early in the spring.

Northern pike will look for calm backwater areas to lay their eggs. Pike may run many miles up small streams with current, looking for an area with slack water to lay their eggs.

For example, many northern pike from Red Lake run up the extensive system of ditches that are connected to Red Lake and flow along many of the roads surrounding the lake.

Pike are often seen in the ditches by landowners near culverts and other areas with pooling water that are many miles away from Red Lake in the spring.

With low water levels this year, the odds do not favor a good spawning year for pike.

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A bad spawning year for pike can often mean a good spawning year for many other species of fish, because the lack of small pike gives the young-of-the-year of other species a better chance to survive when the population of small pike to prey on them is limited.

Another possibility is the weather in the Bemidji area could suddenly change again, and a dry spring could turn into a wet spring in a short amount of time.

Anglers can take the extra time between seasons to make the switch from ice fishing to open water fishing.

Many anglers use the same fishing reels on their ice fishing rods as they use for summer fishing.

The reels need to be switched back to the summer rods and new line needs to be added to the reels.

Some anglers like to go clean their reels once a year and add fresh grease to help keep the reels working at peak performance.

Anglers' boats and motors also need some attention in the spring. Batteries need to be checked for water and charged, with the connections checked for oxidation.

Oil needs to be changed in 4 Stroke motors and the lower unit grease should be changed at least once a year in all types of outboard motors.

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It is also a good time to organize tackle boxes, clean carpets in boats, and give the outside of the boat a good cleaning.

Some anglers may also want to add a fresh set of spark plugs, change the fuel filter and check the timing belt if they are using an older motor to be sure everything is ready for the opener.

The Bemidji/Cass Lake Muskies Inc. Chapter will be hosting a free Family Muskie Fishing Clinic at the Bemidji High School Pool on Saturday from 1-4 pm.

For more information please contact Rory Potter at 218-335-8597.

Paul A. Nelson is a multi-species fishing guide living in the Bemidji area. He can be contacted by calling 218-759-2235

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