The meltdown is continuing in the Bemidji area, with temperatures above freezing most days and then refreezing each night. As long as temperatures remain below freezing at night, the ice fishing season should continue.
The end of the ice fishing season is getting close when the days begin to exceed 40 degrees and stay above freezing at night.
The access points on the lakes usually go first because the water begins to accumulate from the traffic and splashes under vehicles, washing off the salt and dirt, which exacerbates the problem.
The dry weather pattern may be changing later this week, but hopefully the heavy snow that is possible in March doesn’t happen this year.
There are still a few patches of slush on the lakes, including Leech Lake. There are a few areas that have the “trap door effect,” which is what it feels like when you break through a thin layer of ice over a patch of slush in a vehicle.
Traveling in pairs with shovels and a tow strap is a good idea as long as anglers are still ice fishing on the lakes. Snowmobiles spread out the weight on the ice better than vehicles, so they are much less likely to get stuck fishing on late ice.
The full moon is this week, which means eelpout should be spawning under the ice. Eelpout are one of the most ancient fish in the lakes and occupy the deepest parts of the lakes most of the year.
Eelpout move on top of structures covered with gravel or chara when they spawn. This is so their eggs have a safer place to rest for more than a month, before the ice goes out on the lakes. Eelpout eggs don’t hatch until the ice goes out and the water temperature in the lakes begins to rise.
Eelpout are the first species to spawn in the spring and the only species that spawns while the lakes are still covered with ice. Eelpout eggs are huge compared to other fish eggs because they need enough food in the egg to feed the embryo until it hatches.
Eelpout eggs are high in calories and fat content, which is why other fish like to eat them. Eelpout eggs a preferred food choice of perch, whitefish and other species that feed on the bottom.
Eelpout spend most of the summer in water deeper than most anglers fish and are most active during the winter months, when the water is cold.
Anglers can find eelpout in most deep lakes in the Bemidji area. Presentations include heavy jigs or jigging spoons tipped with plenty of live bait. If the bait looks like “the blob,” it probably will be good for catching eelpout.
Eelpout feed on the bottom and use their sense of smell, vibration (hearing) and night vision to locate their food. Using lures that glow at night, using scents and pounding the lures into the bottom are all things anglers can do to increase their catch of eelpout.
Anglers have been fishing perch on most large lakes in the Bemidji area. The best action has been in moderate depths or on the edges of the shallow flats, usually close to deeper water.
Minnow heads on jigging spoons or several wax worms on a small jig or spoon are often the best baits for perch.
Large perch travel in schools just like small perch. If you aren’t catching the size perch you want, keep moving until you catch a few perch in the right size range and then try to locate the larger school.
The season on border lakes like Lake of the Woods is still open for walleyes, sauger and northern pike. Most anglers are fishing shoreline areas around Pine Island for walleyes and sauger that are staging up before running up the Rainy River to spawn.
The spring walleye season started on March 1 on the Rainy River, so anglers are not allowed to keep any sauger or walleyes. Most of the Rainy River is still covered with ice.