The ice conditions continue to improve on the lakes, but there are still spots with some slush just under the first layer of ice.
Anglers drilling holes are finding solid ice in some areas and a thin layer of ice under the snow in other spots, with a layer of water and another layer of slushy ice under the water.
Any vehicle that breaks through the first layer of ice is in big trouble and probably very stuck. Most snowmobiles with a long wide track spread out the weight and act like a snowshoe, so they are still the best mode of travel on the lakes.
There is another two day dip into below zero temperatures this week, which should help make a little more ice for this coming weekend.
Unless there is a plowed trail or road, anglers should still avoid any wheeled vehicles on the lakes as their main mode of travel. Many resorts are only plowing roads for their fish house rentals, so be sure to check ahead to your access point.
Fishing has been spotty for most species. The lack of fishing pressure provides anglers a good opportunity to find a good bite if you can locate the fish.
The shallows in most lakes are not very active, especially if there are a lot of decomposing weeds up shallow to rob the areas of oxygen.
The sunlight gets filtered from the cloudy ice and snow cover, but it is still pretty bright down there on the clearest lakes like Leech Lake and Cass Lake. Even Lake Bemidji is too clear to have a good day bite for walleyes.
There was a full moon this past weekend, so many walleyes were waiting to feed until dawn and dusk or into the night. There was very little movement of walleyes during the day.
It’s much easier to catch walleyes when they are actively feeding and on the move. When walleyes are resting in one spot, they are much more difficult to locate and catch.
Anglers seeing walleyes on an underwater camera may notice walleyes that are further from bottom, with their back fin up and their side fins moving. These fish are active and can be caught.
If anglers see a walleye on the camera that is laying on the bottom with their fins down, they can almost bump into them with the camera before they react, almost like they are sleeping with their eyes open.
The lack of mobility during the winter forces an angler to keep moving until they contact some active fish or stay in one spot and hope the fish come to them.
Anglers may find little perch in many locations, but no trace of larger fish. If anglers keep moving until they catch a keeper size perch or two, they know they are getting close to the right spot..
Larger perch usually travel in small to medium size schools. Anglers will know they are getting close when they catch a couple of larger perch. Then they need to fine tune their location to figure out exactly where the biggest concentration of larger perch is located.
The same thing with walleyes, anglers need to find the types of locations walleyes are using and then catch a couple of fish to know for sure they are close to a good area.
If the walleyes are located on a flat, they usually move around the area following the food. The best spot might not be obvious and it can be good enough to be close to the area the fish are using to feed. This is usually the case on large lakes like Upper Red Lake and Lake of the Woods.
Larger lakes tend to have larger fish and larger schools of fish. Getting close to the exact spot is usually more important on smaller lakes.
Spoons with a minnow head or half a minnow have been working well for walleyes, with lipless crankbaits and dead sticks with a lively minnow also catching their share of fish.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. Guided fishing trips for 2020 and the rest of 2019 can be booked by phone or text at 218-760-7751 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.