It's a sad day for many walleye anglers when the supply of spottail shiners runs out in the bait stores for the summer.
Many successful walleye anglers will use spottail shiners as long as they can get them and will only switch to other baits when the supply of spottail shiners runs out, which is what happened this week.
There are many different minnows that will catch walleyes, even other types of shiners, along with leeches and nightcrawlers and many different plastics and artificial lures. The problem is, none of them catches fish like a spottail shiner.
Jigs and plastics are an important bait for anglers fishing weed walleyes all summer long. Anglers can cast jigs and plastics and work them through the weeds, alternating between slowly swimming the baits and letting them settle to the bottom, especially after tearing through a weed.
Slip bobbers and leeches are another method of catching pin-pointed walleyes all summer long. They can be used in most depths and can be cast to let sit or worked back to the boat and recast to another spot to better cover the area.
Anglers can use their electronics when bobber fishing to spot the groups of fish and to mark the edges and pockets in the weed beds, so they know where to cast.
The surface water temperatures have been holding in the mid-60s in most of the larger lakes. There was a mayfly hatch this past week of the smaller dark colored mayflies, with more bug hatches on the way.
Many perch that had been on the shallow rocks and chara covered sand flats have moved out of the shallows and relocated on the edges of the basin, where they can feed on insects emerging out of the mud.
Most walleye anglers will switch from jigs and minnows to live bait rigs with either leeches, nightcrawlers.or larger minnows.
There are a lot of little tweaks anglers can use to dress up live bait rigs, from adding a single bead, to using micro spinners or floats on the line or using floating jig heads to help keep the bait from dragging on the bottom.
There are some anglers that have started using bottom bouncers, but that usually works better when the water is warmer than 70 degrees. The warmer water encourages the walleyes to start chasing baits from longer distances, rather than only striking at things that come close to them.
Anglers wanting to use spinners early should try using smaller spinners or use styles of spinners like Butterfly Spinners that will turn at slower speeds.
Anglers need to keep the boat speed to less than 1 mph in most situations when water temperatures are still cold. Faster speeds for walleyes usually work better when water temperatures get a little warmer.
Upper Red Lake remains good on the calmer days and should stay good until warmer water temperatures dispearses the walleyes further into the lake. All of Upper Red Lake is suitable for use by the fish because of the shallow depth, so there is nowhere in the lake the walleyes can't go.
Winnibigoshish has been very good for larger walleyes, but suitable keepers under 17 inches have been tough to catch. The protected slot limit on Winnie is 17-23 inches, so a lot of anglers have been keeping their one walleye longer than 23 inches to eat.
There is a good age class of walleyes around 12 inches in Winnie, so there should be more keeper fish by next summer.
Lake of the Woods continues to be hot for walleyes, with anglers fishing anywhere from the shoreline break all the way into the basin.
Lake Bemidji has been good for walleyes, with some fish using the shoreline cabbage weeds and other fish moving to the edges of mid-lake structures.
Cass Lake and Leech Lake have been best on the days with some wind and cloud cover, with more walleyes moving out of the shallow bays and into the main lake.
Paul Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. Guided trips can be booked for 2019 by calling or texting (218) 760-7751 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org