PAUL NELSON FISHING: Look for fall fishing patterns soon


The dry weather pattern in the Bemidji area finally broke this past week, with several days with measurable rain.

People's lawns were brown and dry if they were not being watered, but everything responded quickly to the much needed moisture, which should lower the fire danger in the area.

Rain is usually part of the fall cool down in the lakes, with the September rains usually coming down at a cooler temperature than the water in the lakes.

The air temperatures are on the decline in the Bemidji area, with the surface water temperatures in most lakes falling below 70 degrees this week.

Summer fishing patterns will begin to break down once the water temperatures drop below 70 degrees and the fall fishing patterns will quickly begin to develop in the lakes.

One of the first things that happens when the water temperatures begin to drop is species like walleyes, crappies, sunfish, bass and even larger perch will begin to gather into larger schools and move into more specific types of areas.

The thermocline plays a key role in the deeper lakes. The water temperatures have stratified over the summer, with the warmest water in the lakes on the surface and the coldest water on the bottom.

The thermocline is the narrow band of water between the warm layer and the cold layer of water that acts like a barrier during the summer, preventing the water above and below the thermocline from mixing.

Once the water above the thermocline cools down to a similar temperature as the water below the thermocline, the thermocline will disappear.

Once that happens, the water begins to mix again as the cooling water on the surface sinks and mixes into the water below. Once the warmer water on the bottom is displaced by the colder water from above, the lakes go through "turn-over."

The lakes actually flip the entire water column in the fall, which oxygenates all of the water in the lakes before winter arrives. This way the lakes go into the cold water period with maximum amounts of oxygen from the surface all the way to the bottom.

This only happens in the deep lakes or deep bays of larger lakes. The big shallow lakes or bays continue to cool and mix in the wind until they cool all the way down to the bottom.

Many fish in the deep lakes will move deeper as the lakes cool, while many of the fish in the shallow lakes move shallower as the lakes cool. This means there will be fish heading in the opposite directions in the fall, depending on the type of lake they live in.

Lakes like Winnibigoshish, Upper Red Lake, Traverse Bay of Lake of the Woods and the main lake and shallow bays of Leech Lake are noted for their shallow water walleye bites in the fall.

Lakes like Bemidji, Cass, Pike's Bay, Plantagenet. Walker Bay of Leech Lake, Cutfoot Sioux and many less known medium sized walleye lakes with deeper water are noted for their deep water walleye bite in the fall.

Many anglers use heavier jigs with minnows for deep walleyes when casting or hovering over schools of fish. Another method is to slowly troll with live bait rigs and a larger minnow or a leech if you can find one.

Anglers can also have success with nightcrawlers during the fall in some lakes, so they can be worth a try along with jigging lures and spoons normally used ice fishing for walleyes.

Jigs and minnows are the most common presentation for walleyes in the shallow lakes. Anglers can cast or troll 1/8th ounce jigs tipped with minnows on the edges of cabbage weeds or along areas with gravel, broken rock and boulders.

If the areas are snaggy, anglers can downsize to a 1/16th ounce jig with a decent sized hook. Lighter jigs keep the jigs higher in the water column and out of the snags, but still go deep enough for the walleyes to bite.

Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. Guided trips for 2018 can be booked by calling or texting (218) 760-7751 or via email at