PAUL NELSON FISHING COLUMN: Cooldown means changes are just around the corner

Summer is going by quickly, with little hints of fall already in the air. The weather pattern has changed from "too hot" in July, to highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s (upper 40s), which is nearly perfect weather.

Summer is going by quickly, with little hints of fall already in the air.  The weather pattern has changed from “too hot” in July, to highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s (upper 40s), which is nearly perfect weather.

Surface water temperatures in the lakes peaked in the upper 70s in July and have since cooled back into the low 70s in most lakes.

Cooler water temperatures in the lakes mean changes are just around the corner. Summer patterns will continue to hang on until the surface water temperatures drop into the 60s, which will signal the beginning of the fall cooldown.               

All fish have to feed frequently during the summer to keep up with their metabolism, but fish can be very picky about when they feed, where they feed and what they eat, especially walleyes.

There are so many different ways to catch a fish. One of the biggest obstacles anglers have to overcome is becoming stuck on one presentation and be unwilling to try something else regardless of the situation or time of year.


Fish have triggers. Some things make them strike and some things make them eat. It is the anglers’ task to find something that makes the fish have a reaction strike or coax the fish into eating their bait.

Confidence in a presentation is a huge factor. Anglers are much more effective using presentations they are comfortable with and have had success using the presentation so they have confidence in it.

Anglers don’t earn their stripes catching fish when the fish are really active. Anglers that want to be consistently successful have to learn to catch fish even when the bite is tough.

Anglers have dozens and dozens of variables to play with when it comes to catching fish. They have to keep playing with the variables until they find some combination of things that causes the fish to either bite or strike at their bait.

Anglers that like to troll usually have the most success if they troll their baits at the right speed and keep their baits in the right depth range by using good boat control.

Casting is a whole lot more personal than trolling. Anglers are able to put their own little nuances and subtleties into the retrieve, whether the lure is a crankbait, a jig or a muskie lure.  

The more little things anglers are able to fine tune, the more likely it is that the total sum of the parts will be enough to make a difference and produce more bites.

Walleye fishing has been tough in many lakes unless anglers are able to put together some presentation that gets the fish to bite.


Anglers have been finding walleyes in a wide range of depths and locations, with large differences between lakes.

Deep clear lakes usually have most of the walleyes using water deeper than 20 feet. Lakes with a good algae bloom and lots of shallow structure tend to have more walleyes using water less than 20 feet deep.

Anglers can learn to predict which lakes are likely to have the best bite based on the conditions. Some lakes are better with a wind, like Cass and Leech Lake.

Other lakes are better when there is less wind. The best examples are Upper Red Lake and Lake of the Woods, which both have stained water and huge open expanses of shallow water.

Upper Red Lake and Lake of the Woods have been riled-up from all of the wind lately. The water in both lakes looks like weak coffee when they have settled down, while both lakes look like coffee with too much creamer when they get riled-up.

When both Lake of the Woods and Upper Red Lake get stirred-up by the wind, it usually takes a couple of days for the sediment in the water to settle back to the bottom.

The bottom line is anglers have to pick the right lake based on the conditions and be flexible and versatile enough to tweak their presentations to get the fish to bite.

Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted at



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