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PAUL NELSON FISHING: Spawning season starts as water temps rise

The first 80 degree temperatures of the season arrived about the same time the calendar turned from May to June.

Surface water temperatures in most lakes have risen above 60 degrees. The most accurate measure of water temperature occurs first thing in the morning, before the sun has had a chance to warm the water for the day.

Surface water temperatures can rise rapidly during the day when the sun is out and the wind is calm. In reality, the warmer water is only the first few inches of the water column, with the rest of the water below much colder.

Once the water mixes overnight or the wind comes up to mix the water, the warmer surface water mix together with the cooler water below.

Muskies and the entire sunfish family are spawning now or will be spawning soon. Members of the sunfish family spawn when water temperatures are in the mid-60s, while muskies spawn somewhere in the upper 50s and the low 60s.

Bluegills, pumpkineeds, rock bass, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass and crappies clear out beds in the hard sand to spawn. The males guard the nests from predators to give their young a head start before they are on their own.

Anglers can often see the disk shaped beds in the reeds and shallow hard bottom areas where the bass and sunfish spawn.

The ideal spawning conditions for the sunfish family are high water levels with a steady warm-up with no drastic drops in water temperatures while they are on their nests.

Hopefully, this year will produce good age classes of many different species of fish. Most lakes in the Bemidji area rely exclusively on natural reproduction to keep the lakes stocked with fish.

Walleyes are still the most sought after fish in the Bemidji area. Many walleyes are still using shoreline connected structure, but the warmer water temperatures will begin to push more walleyes into deeper water.

Lake of the Woods and Upper Red Lake continue to have the hottest walleye bites in the area, but there are walleyes being caught on all the larger lakes.

The walleye bite on Lake of the Woods is moving farther offshore, with many fish beginning to move away from the Rainy River mouth and the south shore to the humps and basin areas further into Traverse Bay.

Upper Red Lake continues to be hot on the days with light winds. Most anglers are using jigs and minnows along the shoreline break in 6 to 10 feet of water. Anglers can also crankbaits, spinner rigs and bobber rigs for walleyes in Upper Red Lake.

Winnibigoshish has been good for walleyes, but most of the fish are either in the protected slot limit for too small for most anglers to keep. That doesn't stop anglers from having a great day catching and releasing a bunch of walleyes.

Leech Lake has also been good for walleyes, but anglers have to deal with a lot of water to find pods of fish. Anglers can try to make long drifts to locate fish or go to where the other boats are located, but that is not nearly as efficient as being able to look for fish yourself with good electronics.

Cass Lake is extremely clear, with anglers able to see bright objects like clam shells in water deeper than 20 feet when the wind is calm. There are also very few standing weeds, with chara and rocks offering the fish most of the cover.

Fishing walleyes in water shallow enough to see the bottom is unnerving, but it is still possible to catch walleyes. The best fishing has been on days with some wind, with many anglers also fishing Cass Lake for perch.

Lake Bemidji has been good along shoreline structure with jigs and minnows. Lake Bemidji still has some of the best cabbage weeds of any area lake, so many walleyes, northern pike, perch and muskies have been sharing the same weed beds at different times of the day.

Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. Guided fishing trips for 2019 can be booked by calling or texting 218-760-7751 or by email at panelsonbemidji@gmail.com.