PAUL NELSON FISHING: 'Fall patterns are showing up'

Fishing web art.jpg

Surface water temperatures in the Bemidji area continue to fall, with most lakes now in the low 60s. The fall patterns are showing up and the walleyes and perch are starting to bite.

The big perch are looking for crayfish and minnows on top of structures. They like what the forage likes, so rocks and chara covered flats are ideal. In lakes with rusty crayfish, they like where the crayfish have eaten the black moss off the bottom, so the bottom is fairly clean.

Anglers can do good for perch with a simple jig and fathead minnow. There will also be smaller walleyes in many of the same areas as the perch, so there can be lots of action if you find the right locations.

If the bottom still has some junk, anglers should consider using a bobber rig and fish it aggressively, to keep their baits clean enough to catch more fish. Spotlock or a Talon really helps keep the boat in place, otherwise a slow drift through an area or the dreaded anchor are other answers.

Most of the largest lakes are loaded with small perch, so the walleyes have plenty to eat. Anglers have to give them something better than the natural forage, so anglers are buying river mix or chubs to try to give walleyes something they want to eat more than small perch.


The walleyes have moved off the breaks and are holding in the areas with all the baitfish. Anglers need to look with their electronics to see the walleyes holding under the piles of baitfish.

The leaves are starting to change colors on the trees, even though most areas have not received the first frost of the year yet. A slow cool down is fine with most people and stretches out the favorite season of the year for many who love the outdoors.

It also gives gardeners more time to pick their root crops. Carrots and beets add sugar to the roots at the end of the year, so they taste much sweeter if harvested after some cold.

Goose hunting has been really good for some people who have done their homework and have figured out what to do. Don’t know how they eat them all, but jerky seems to be one of the best ways to eat them.

Anglers fishing smaller lakes are finding schools of bass and pods of northern pike along the steep breaks too. A smaller sucker minnow on a hair jig is a good way to catch both species. Anglers can use a 10 to 14 pound test line and still get plenty of bites and hold onto most pike without breaking off.

Many sunfish are also holding off the steep edges of the weeds in tight schools. Anglers can use tungsten jigs with wax worms, small leeches, pieces of nightcrawlers or maggots on a three to six pound test line and catch good numbers of sunfish.

Please release all sunfish over eight inches or for sure nine inches, to help protect the size structure of the fish. One additional tiny fork full of sunfish is not worth ruining the size structure of a population of sunfish. Please don’t be greedy.

Crappies may or may not be mixed with the schools of sunfish. Many times they are, but more times they are not. Once the thermocline has broken down in the lakes, crappies like to suspend over the basin in deep water.


Sunfish prefer to be located nearer to the bottom on medium depth flats with the right type of mud. They prefer insects, so that’s the type of habitat where they like to be located in late summer or early fall and into early ice.

Crappies like zooplankton and small minnows, so suspending over the basin is more suited to what they like. Each lake is different and the fish will take what they can get. Anglers like to use small jigs and plastics, jigging minnows or small jigging spoons.

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

Paul Nelson WEB.jpg

What To Read Next
Get Local