Memorial Day Weekend is close to the peak of the spring walleye bite in the Bemidji area almost every year. Most things in the lakes this year are behind, but things should catch up soon with warmer temperatures in the forecast.
Female walleyes take a little longer to recover than male walleyes after spawning. Female walleyes usually are at their peak spring activity about the same time surface water temperatures are able to hold 60 degrees overnight for the first time.
Surface water temperatures can spike during the day, especially when there are clear skies and light winds. The most accurate way to track surface water temperatures is to measure the temperature right away in the morning, before the sun has a chance to warm the water.
Most deep lakes were in the low 50s at the beginning of this week, with some of the shallowest lakes in the mid to upper 50s. Walleyes should keep getting more active this week, with the peak spring bite for walleyes happening the last week in May.
Anglers can follow the peak walleye bite by targeting the warm shallow lakes first and then moving on to the deep cold lakes as they move through the same range of temperatures.
The weed beds and emerging reed beds have been slow to develop this year. There is very little cover, so most walleyes have been using rocky areas or hard bottom areas that are holding baitfish and other forage.
A minor midge hatch has been happening in many lakes this week, with most of the “fish fly” hatches still ahead of us. Panfish, minnows and other small fish eat the midge larvae as they emerge from the mud. Predators like walleyes, northern pike and bass may be keying on the smaller fish.
The spottail minnow spawn draws walleyes and northern pike into the shoreline areas where the shiners are spawning. Not every lake has a good spottail shiner population. Shiners are king for walleyes in the spring in lakes where they exist.
Walleyes and other predators in lakes without spottail shiners have to feed on other things like perch, common shiners, suckers or chubs.
The location of the food determines the location of the walleyes. Many shallow lakes without spottail shiners move right to mid lake structures. Walleyes in lakes with spottail shiners usually key in on the spottails whenever they can find them, especially when they are spawning.
Walleyes act differently depending on what they are eating. Anglers need to adapt to the circumstances in each lake to figure out where walleyes are feeding and what they are feeding on.
Anglers can also switch species in the spring, to fish peak periods for different species of fish. Crappies and walleyes are both popular species with good fishing opportunities in the spring
Crappies progressively get more active as water temperatures move through the mid to upper 50s, just like walleyes. Crappies spawn when surface water temperatures reach the mid 60s, so their feeding activity right now is pre-spawn.
Walleyes have already spawned, so walleyes are post spawn and feeding to add back some of the weight they lost when they spawned.
Walleyes have two growth spurts during the year, post spawn in the spring and again during the fall, when walleyes begin forming their eggs for next spring.
Walleyes feeding on shoreline structure tend to move around a lot, staying with their forage. The wind shifts directions and the weather pattern changes, which pushes the minnows up and down the shoreline structure.
Baitfish move up or down the breakline with the wind. They like to hold on inside turns and points. If they get strong winds for several days from the same direction, they can blow downwind a long distance.
Predator species move more when they are on shoreline structure than they do when they are on mid-lake structure.
It can be here today and gone tomorrow on shoreline structure, while predators on mid-lake structure move around on the structure, but once they are there, they tend to stay for awhile.