PAUL NELSON FISHING: 'Be careful and keep your distance'

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Jokes aside, April has finally arrived with most people saying good riddance to March, which was an epically bad month for practically everyone worldwide.

This should be the time of year when anglers from all over Minnesota are headed north to fish the spring walleye season on the Rainy River.

The public accesses on the Rainy River have been closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The spring walleye season is still open, but anglers have to find a private access in order to get a boat into the Rainy River.

There are also orders from the Governor to stay at home. I have heard anecdotally from other anglers that some game wardens are telling anglers they need to stay within 30 miles of their homes. This is hard to find in writing, but it makes good sense.

The spring walleye season on the Rainy River is catch and release. This year it might only be enjoyed by local anglers with cabins or homes on the river or by those living in the immediate area with a private access they can use.


This whole situation is fluid and not written in stone. In fact, it is hard to find anything specific written down about any new regulations due to COVID-19, because most of it is still evolving and subject to change as the conditions change.

To put it bluntly, this is all new and there needs to be an element of common sense in everyone’s decisions, including when people decide how they use the outdoors during the shutdown.

The downside of making the wrong decisions right now could be life threatening or put others at risk. This should be enough reason for most people to pause and think before they act.

Many people have loved ones in the medical field and family and friends in the high risk categories, so this hits very close to home for most of us. It’s not a joke and we don’t need any extra “April Fools” this year.

The financial stress of trying to earn enough money to pay your bills in this environment is going to change the world. It will be hard to find anyone that has not been affected by the current situation when this is all over.

There are still a few anglers on the lakes ice fishing, but they are mostly Minnesota anglers fishing lakes close to their homes. There are also a few out of state anglers still in the area, which is disappointing considering the possible consequences.

We live in cabin country, so there are a few people “hiding-out” in their cabins for the immediate future, which is understandable and hard to criticize even though it has the potential to cause more problems.

When it comes to fishing, most larger lakes have a good movement of pre-spawn perch moving into the shallows to feed. Perch like chara-covered sand flats with some standing weeds and patches of gravel in the right depth range.


Perch like to feed on flats in the 6- to 10-foot depth range best. If the flats are too shallow, many of the perch may prefer to hold off the breakline instead.

Wherever the perch are located, there has to be a plentiful food source. This usually means both minnows and crayfish, which both love to hide in and around patches of chara. There are also insects hiding inside the chara, which makes it perfect cover for schools of feeding perch.

Anglers fishing on the shallow flats should keep their lures further off of the bottom than they might in deeper water. Think of the sight lines for the fish. If the lure is too close to the bottom in shallow water it is harder to see from a distance.

Think about breaking the water column into thirds and keep your bait in the middle third when fishing on the shallow flats for perch.

The ice fishing season is on borrowed time, so be careful and keep your distance from other anglers.

Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. Guided trips for 2020 can be booked by calling or texting (218) 760-7751 or by email at

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