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Area lakes begin to freeze but Rainy River remains open

The lakes in the Bemidji area have finally cooled to 40 degrees and are starting to freeze. Anglers may still be able to find some locations where they can get a boat in the water but most anglers have given up on open-water fishing for the seaso...

The lakes in the Bemidji area have finally cooled to 40 degrees and are starting to freeze.

Anglers may still be able to find some locations where they can get a boat in the water but most anglers have given up on open-water fishing for the season and are waiting for the ice fishing season to begin.

The Rainy River is one of the last places in northern Minnesota where anglers are able to fish out of their boats in the fall. It is also one of the first places in the spring where anglers can fish open water because of the current.

The Rainy River has been good for walleyes this fall. Huge schools of emerald shiners from Lake of the Woods make a feeding migration into the Rainy River late in the season and thousands of walleyes follow them up the river.

The concentration of emerald shiners in the Rainy River in the fall allows local bait dealers and resorts to trap enough minnows to supply ice anglers on Lake of the Woods all winter long.

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The migrating walleyes will stay in the Rainy River as long as the shiners are there, which is usually until after Lake of the Woods freezes, before moving back into Lake of the Woods.

Water temperatures can cool beyond 40 degrees in rivers during the winter, so most fish prefer to stay in the lakes where water temperatures are several degrees warmer.

Anglers fishing the Rainy River in the fall usually anchor along the river channel near deeper water and wait for feeding walleyes to move past their anchored positions.

Many anglers consider fishing the Rainy River late in the season to be like ice fishing from a boat. Anglers will wear their warmest winter gear and even use portable heaters in the boats to make things as comfortable as possible.

The most productive presentations are very similar to ice fishing. Many anglers use a jig and minnow, which they work slowly or hold it still below the boat. Other anglers will use a dead stick and put their rod in a rod holder, set about a foot off the bottom.

Other ice fishing techniques will also work. Jigging spoons usually have to be the more narrow spoons instead of the wider flutter spoons because of the current.

The right spoon can make a big difference so anglers should experiment with different styles and colors, including spoons with rattles. Most anglers use a minnow head on the spoon to add some scent.

Jigging minnow lures can also be very good, with anglers needing to use heavy enough jigging minnows to stay vertical in the current. Some anglers have difficulty working a jigging minnow properly and are not comfortable fishing with something that does not have any bait.

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Some anglers just rip-jig the jigging minnows and end up snagging fish because they are so aggressive. Anglers trying to make the fish eat a jigging minnow are usually more successful with little twitches and hops, followed by pauses of different lengths, rather than ripping and tearing the baits.

It can be helpful to look at what your presentation looks like in the water to try and develop a cadence that looks good and, hopefully, catches fish.

The rifle deer season in the Bemidji area has one more weekend remaining, with the season closing Sunday evening.

It should be a good last weekend for deer hunting with a little snow on the ground. Snow helps hunters track animals and see the most recent sign.

The white background with the snow also makes deer lose some of their natural camouflage and helps hunters see the darker colored animals against the lighter colored background in the woods.

Hunters are reminded they can now register their harvested deer both at the usual registrations stations and also online at the DNR website.

Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be e-mailed at panelson@paulbunyan.net .

Related Topics: FISHING
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The following is a letter to the editor submitted by a reader and does not reflect the views of the Pioneer. Letters can be sent to letters@bemidjipioneer.com or P.O. Box 455, Bemidji, MN 56601.
The following is a letter to the editor submitted by a reader and does not reflect the views of the Pioneer. Letters can be sent to letters@bemidjipioneer.com or P.O. Box 455, Bemidji, MN 56601.
The following is a letter to the editor submitted by a reader and does not reflect the views of the Pioneer. Letters can be sent to letters@bemidjipioneer.com or P.O. Box 455, Bemidji, MN 56601.