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PAUL NELSON FISHING: Daytime bite for walleyes has been tough

There are only two weeks left in the gamefish season for the Inland Waters of Minnesota. The season closes Feb. 25, with extended seasons for walleyes, northern pike and sauger on many of the border lakes and border rivers of Minnesota.

Licensed anglers are allowed to fish for crappies, sunfish and perch continuously in Minnesota. Rough fish species like tullibees, whitefish and eelpout are also open to angling all year long in Minnesota.

Fishing in the Bemidji area continues to be best during the low light periods for walleyes and other light sensitive species like crappies and eelpout. The daytime bite for walleyes has been tough on most lakes, especially the large clear lakes like Bemidji, Cass Lake, Pike's Bay, Winnibigoshish and Leech Lake.

Paul Nelson

Upper Red Lake and Lake of the Woods continue to be the hottest lakes for walleyes in the Greater Bemidji area. Stained water allows light sensitive species to feed more effectively during day than they are able to do in clear water lakes.

Light sensitive species like walleyes and crappies have good low light vision. This gives them a sight advantage over their prey and makes it easier for them to feed successfully when the water is dark.

It doesn't matter if the dark water conditions are caused by the time of day in clear water or by the amount of stain in the water making it darker because the sunlight can't penetrate through stained water as easily as sunlight penetrates through clear water.

Most light sensitive species often suspend over deeper water during the day. Some of the fish will get active and begin to move around once the conditions are more favorable for them to feed.

Perch, sunfish, northern pike and bass are all more likely to feed during the day than walleyes and crappies. This gives anglers some options to do multi-species trips and target one species during the day and another species early and late in the day.

Generally speaking, the numbers of large perch are still down in most lakes in the Bemidji area. The easy pickings anglers had in past years have disappeared, with less large perch at the top of the perch populations in most lakes.

Once a lake has a shortage of large perch, many anglers start to harvest perch at a smaller size, just to get some perch to eat. Anglers often mistaking the smaller female perch for larger fish because they are full of eggs, which exacerbates the problem and delays the recovery of the perch population.

Perch are aggressive biters, especially in larger schools. The perch often become more competitive for any morsels of food they can find when they are surrounded by other hungry perch.

Anglers can use a little larger lures to target the larger perch and help discourage some of the smaller perch from biting. Anglers can make the spoons look like a chandelier by putting multiple eurolarvae or wax worms on all of the treble hooks on the spoons, to give the perch a solid target to hit.

Anglers can also use a "blob of bait" on a 1/16th ounce jig by tipping the hook with several small crappie minnows, also to give the larger perch a good target and be able to catch a couple of fish before having to refresh the bait.

Jigs and plastics may also discourage some of the smaller perch and help anglers avoid having to sort through as many smaller perch.

Female perch are full of eggs at this point in the winter, so it should be easy for anglers to tell the difference between male and female perch.

The large female perch are most important individuals to aid in the recovery of a perch population, just like the big female walleyes are more important in sustaining walleye populations.

Anglers interested in helping perch populations recover more quickly can use selective harvest to target the skinnier male perch to eat, while letting the fattier female perch go, so they can spawn in the spring.