PAUL NELSON FISHING: Cool water temps have fish on the move

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Surface water temperatures continue to cool in the lakes around the Bemidji area. Most lakes are now in the upper 60s, with cooler temperatures continuing for the near future.

Most local lakes are now in the mid to upper 60s, which is changing where many of the baitfish are located in relation to the weeds.

The shallow areas slowly start to get abandoned, with the baitfish moving off to the outside edges of the weeds, schooling together in tighter schools.

The steepest and deepest weeds are often the areas that attract the most baitfish, which in turn also attract the most gamefish and panfish.

The schools of baitfish can attract schools of bass, walleyes, crappies, sunfish and even groups of northern pike, so it can be very productive for anglers to locate the right deep weed edges late in the summer.


Depending on the species, anglers can use spinner baits or crankbaits for bass and pike along the steep edges. A jig and small sucker minnow can also be very effective.

A jig and larger minnow can also work for walleyes and a slip bobber can also be a good choice when anglers locate an active school of gamefish.

These fish can be spooky, so anglers can use side-imaging to see them, rather than driving right over the top of the fish. Technology can be very helpful when anglers learn to use it correctly.

Sunfish and crappies will move off the edges of the weeds as the water cools. Sunfish like insects and smaller prey, so they tend to move off more slowly than crappies, but a lot of it depends on the food.

Crappies like small minnows and zooplankton, so they may be feeding on different things than the sunfish.

Walleyes are eating minnows in most situations, as are bass and northern pike. They also eat crayfish, especially on top of the rocks and chara flats. The lakes with rusty crayfish can have everything feeding on them in the fall too.

Anglers can tell when the fish are feeding heavily on the rusty crayfish when they see a lot of fish with blue looking lips. Crayfish are high in iodine, so that is what makes their lips appear to be blue.

Many anglers also like to fish live bait rigs with larger chubs in the fall. Nightcrawlers and leeches will also work in some situations, so it is a matter of finding out what the fish want to eat.


The populations of smaller perch are very high in many lakes, so there is plenty of food in the lakes. This means anglers have to tweak their presentations to find what is triggering the most fish to bite.

The walleye bite on Lake of the Woods continues to be good all around Pine Island and the mouth of the Rainy River.

There is a run of emerald shiners up the Rainy River in the fall, which is very productive for walleye anglers. Most anglers will anchor or use spot lock to hold on key areas and fish jigs and minnows vertically below the boat.

Anglers want to stay vertical, so use heavy enough jigs to hold below the boat. The last thing anglers want is for the jigs to wash downstream, so anglers lose control of their baits.

The bottom is mostly sand with some rocks around Pine Island, so most angers want to find the areas with some rocks. The Rainy River is current and current seams, so anglers are looking for the areas where good numbers of fish are passing through.

Sometimes the best approach is to find the bottom with the jig and then hold the jig a few inches off the bottom. The best height is usually from a few inches to less than a foot in most situations. Some anglers use rod holders to hold the rods at the right depth and watch the rod tip for movement.

Outside of fishing, sports fans will have some professional football to watch this week, with the Green Bay Packers coming to town to play the Vikings this coming weekend.

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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