Fish cooperating with late-season ice anglers in area
The slow meltdown has allowed the ice fishing season to continue for vehicle traffic at least through this weekend on most Bemidji area lakes. There is still plenty of ice on the lakes, but once the accesses get wet, the splashing water washes di...
The slow meltdown has allowed the ice fishing season to continue for vehicle traffic at least through this weekend on most Bemidji area lakes.
There is still plenty of ice on the lakes, but once the accesses get wet, the splashing water washes dirt, sand and salt off the vehicles, which further speeds up the melting process in heavily traveled areas.
The fish have been cooperating for anglers willing to put in their time on the ice. Perch have been staged up to move shallow and have been on the edge of shoreline structure, waiting for something to trigger them to invade the shallows hunting for food.
Female perch are schooled together in large schools, with their bellies swollen with eggs. Perch will spawn shortly after the ice goes out on the lakes, laying their eggs on top of old weed beds or broken reeds along the shoreline or around islands rimmed with reeds.
If perch haven't moved up on top of the flats, they will usually be holding in deeper water adjacent to the flat. The best areas are often large flats with a mixture of reeds and weeds that extend a long distance from shore before breaking sharply into deep water.
Anglers can speed up their search for perch by drilling a series of holes from shallow to deep water and then qualifying the holes with sonar or an underwater camera to check for fish.
Expect perch to be active and aggressive. Don't spend too much time fishing in one hole if there isn't any action. If perch are feeding in the area, it doesn't take them long to find the bait. Drill enough holes in productive areas so you can keep moving between holes.
Crappies and sunfish have also been moving tighter to the drop-off. They will make feeding movements into shallow water before the ice goes out, then back off into deeper water while the ice goes out, and then move back into the warmest water they can find when the lakes are ice free.
Speaking of ice free, portions of the Rainy River are now open to boat traffic. The Birchdale access is open for boats of all sizes and anglers are sliding smaller boats over shore ice at the Frontier access.
Walleye fishing in the Rainy River has been very good. The best fishing during the spring walleye season is usually very early, before spring rains and run-off from the tributaries muddies up the water, which is already stained the color of weak coffee.
The Rainy River has a major spawning run of walleyes coming out of Lake of the Woods. Minnesota and Ontario share the Rainy River, so anglers from each country must stay on their own "half" of the river.
Walleyes coming out of Lake of the Woods aren't used to the current, so they run up the river in stages, pausing to rest and feed along the way.
Walleyes tend to move through the shallow areas more quickly, while they rest and feed in eddies and current breaks in the deeper holes.
Presentations should be slow and anglers should expect most of the fish to be facing up river. Using a trolling motor to slow down the drift or moving back and forth diagonally across the current is usually more productive than drifting down river at the speed of the current. Holding in place while casting or anchoring and fishing directly under the boat can also be effective techniques.
Jigs and minnows are usually the bait of choice for most anglers. Jigs with blades or jigs with rattles can help fish locate baits more easily. Emerald shiners are the native forage and are usually the best bait for walleyes on the Rainy River.
Anglers are allowed two walleyes under 19½ inches in possession during the spring walleye season on the Rainy River.
The ice fishing season and the spring walleye season in the Rainy River overlap in late March and early April, so anglers now have the choice of ice fishing on the lakes or open water fishing in the Rainy River.
Spring is here, so get out and enjoy it!
Paul A. Nelson is a fishing guide in the Bemidji area. He can be contacted by calling 218-759-2235.