It has been a strange fall in the Bemidji area. There was an extended cool down followed by an extended return of summer weather.
There have been a couple close calls with frost in a few areas, but it looks like most of Bemidji will make it to October again before receiving their first killing frost.
The lakes cooled down into the mid-50s earlier in September, which was cool enough to begin dissolving the thermocline in deeper lakes.
Then the weather changed and got warm again, with air temperatures in the upper 70s and low 80s for almost two weeks.
Most lakes had surface water temperatures rise back into the mid-60s during the unseasonably warm temperatures, with at least a 10-degree rise in surface water temperatures in most lakes.
It is not an unprecedented rise over that short time period, but a significant rise in water temperatures this late in the season is unusual. It was certainly enough of rise for the fish to notice and make many of them scatter and change locations.
Some crappies and sunfish had been gathering into larger schools in deep water, but when warmer temperatures returned, many panfish split into smaller groups, with some fish heading back into the green weeds.
Walleyes had been schooling up and feeding more heavily as the water cooled, but the warm up moved some fish off structure and made them less active.
Anglers often needed to be in the right place at the right time to catch fish. Electronics are usually a big key to locating fish in deep water during the fall.
The winning patterns in tournaments are often the result of anglers doing things a little differently than the other anglers. It often pays to think outside the box and not be afraid to try something different.
Some anglers are using larger minnows on live bait rigs, although leeches and nightcrawlers will also catch walleyes in most lakes.
Many other anglers are using jigs and minnows. Some anglers like to use lighter jigs, while other anglers like heavier jigs, so they can have better control of their jig and feel the bottom better.
The value of using electronics to find fish can not be underestimated, but all anglers are not created equal when it comes to using and understanding electronics.
The first trick is to look in the right areas for fish and then to be able to interpret what you are seeing on sonar. Once the fish are located, then anglers need to figure out an effective presentation to catch the fish.
Now that the lakes are cooling down again, fall patterns for all species will develop much more quickly than they did during the first cool down.
There have been lows in the mid-30s in low lying areas this week, so the first frost of the season can’t be too far away.
There are a few deep lakes that still have a thermocline, but that should disappear quickly as soon as the lakes cool back down into the mid-50s.
The length of day adds into the equation for the fish as they move into their cold water patterns. The availability of forage is another key to location, with most fish wanting to stay close to their food in the fall and winter.
Lake of the Woods has had one of the best bites for walleyes in front of Pine Island. Most anglers are fishing from an anchored position in 28-30 feet of water during the day.
Some anglers look for baitfish and larger fish on sonar before anchoring, while other anglers just look for other boats and anchor nearby. It is a lot like ice fishing from a boat, with anglers anchoring and using jigs minnows to fish around the boat.
Most lakes have been best for walleyes during stable weather with moderate to light wind. Walleyes tend to scatter when the barometer goes up and down and the wind keeps changing directions.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted by calling or texting 218-760-7751 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org