PAUL NELSON FISHING: During fall fishing, the boat can make the difference
The small ponds and swamps are freezing and some of the shallow lakes are starting to form skim ice along the shoreline. Unless there is a drastic change in the weather, it looks like an early winter this year.
Things can still change, it looked like a late winter during most of September when it was so hot. Bemidji and the rest of northern Minnesota are known for drastic weather changes, so it is possible to still have some warm weather this year, but keep your long underwear handy just in case.
The docks are coming out of the lakes everyday in the Bemidji area. This is the time of year when zebra mussels are discovered in new lakes, so look at your docks and anything else that has been in the water for a long time this summer and be sure to report it to the DNR if you see something.
Anglers need to bring some knee high waterproof boots to launch their boats once the docks have been removed from the lakes. Launching a boat without a dock is a two-person job and one of those usually ends up with wet feet, so bring some boots.
Oversized "pull-on" rubber boots are cheap insurance to keep your feet dry. If you get them extra large, they can be slipped on and off pretty easy when you launch the boat without having to sit down and pull the pull the boots on and off.
The fish are still biting, but the weather has been brutal. A windshield boat with the bottom apron under the window to block the wind and a trolling motor with spot lock makes fishing pretty comfortable, even in bitter cold and strong winds.
Try fishing the same weather conditions with a tiller boat and the experience may not be nearly as comfortable or as productive. During the fall, the boat can make a big difference.
An anchor is another option to hold boat position during the fall, but the poor person handling the anchor is going to get soaked and have wet cold hands and most anchors won't hold in strong winds.
An anchor can also scare the fish when it falls and crashes on the bottom. The anchor will also scare the fish if it doesn't hold and drags through the fish.
It helps to use a claw style anchor to dig into the bottom, so the anchor doesn't just slide across. Anglers can help the anchor hold better by letting out more anchor rope to get a better angle on the anchor.
If anglers don't let out enough anchor rope, most anchors will slide and let loose from the bottom. Anglers can also set the anchor on a slight incline to help it hold, so there is more science in using an anchor than one might imagine.
Many anglers anchor when they fish the Rainy River or Lake of the Woods during the fall. Giving the fish a vertical presentation or casting off the sides of the boat and slowly retrieving the bait can be the best way to catch fish during the cold water period.
Some anglers like to cast a live bait rig with a big minnow during the fall, but anglers have to cast the rigs very gently or the minnow will die or fly off the hook.
Most lakes now have surface water temperatures close to 40 degrees, so they are ready to begin freezing when the weather turns cold enough. Turnover is hard on the fish temporarily and often scatters the schools of fish while they adjust to the temperature change in the water.
The fish will eventually regather into larger schools once they adjust to the cold water and begin to feed normally again.
Once lakes have gone through turnover, the fish can be in very deep water, so anglers will need to rely on their electronics to find fish late in the season.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. Guided trips for the rest of 2018 and 2019 can be booked by text or phone at 218-760-7751 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.