PAUL NELSON FISHING: Main growth spurt of the season

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Surface water temperatures are near 60 degrees in most lakes in the Bemidji area. Schools of baitfish are holding along the breakline and walleyes are feeding on the baitfish trying to add some weight as they head into the cold water period of the year.

This is the main growth spurt for the entire season for all species of fish. Everything is actively feeding and adding both weight and length.

The females start to form their eggs for spawning next spring and the males will start to form their spawn in the fall, so everything needs to consume more calories to accomplish what they need to do.

Even the baitfish need to feed more heavily to get ready for the winter. They will need to change food sources to survive the winter.

Young perch need to get big enough to eat smaller fish and insects over the winter, while young walleyes need to get big enough to eat this years’ small perch as their main forage over the winter.


There are many anglers that are participating in more than one sport during the fall. Duck and goose hunting have been good across the area, with good numbers of birds and warmer temperatures to hold more birds in the area.

Bow hunting for deer is just getting started because hunters need some of the leaves and brush to thin out to be able to see their prey in the woods.

Grouse hunting is very similar to deer hunting and is very dependent on hunters being able to have good visibility in the woods. Visibility is the key to early hunting success, so a little more cold weather and less leaves to give better sight lines for hunters is the key.

Most of the larger walleye lakes are producing a good mixture of fish for anglers. Cass Lake has been one of the better lakes, but it has been receiving a lot of fishing pressure for both walleyes and perch.

Lake Bemidji has also been producing good numbers of eating size walleyes and jumbo perch. Huge schools of small perch have kept the walleyes well fed with full stomachs and harder to catch.

Winnibigoshish is full of smaller walleyes that are growing large enough for anglers to keep. There are also good numbers of larger walleyes in Winnie, so many anglers are keeping their “one over” walleyes as part of their limit.

Lake of the Woods has been good for sauger, walleyes and perch along most of the south shore. Anglers have been fishing both in the Rainy River and in the main lake outside of Pine Island. Many anglers have been anchoring where they see the big schools of baitfish and fishing vertically for walleyes with jigs and minnows and also jigging minnows and jigging spoons..

There are many medium-sized lakes with mixed populations of fish to catch in the fall. Anglers can bring with different rods and different baits and see what they run into for fish and change their approach based on what they are seeing.


Crappies and walleyes are a common combination for anglers to fish in the fall. Many lakes also have fishable populations of sunfish, perch, bass and pike along with crappies and walleyes. Lakes for anglers to consider include Blackduck, Plantagenet, Bowstring, Little Winnie, Cutfoot and many others.

Many anglers like to fish Upper Red Lake during the winter, which makes this the perfect time to scout for spots to put a fish house during the winter. Small patches of rocks and other small changes in structure will attract baitfish during the winter and can be key areas for walleyes early in the winter.

Upper Red Lake has a lack of structure, so anglers need to find subtle areas that attract fish early in the season and get them marked on GPS. Anglers also need to find areas close to the places where they have access, so they are close to the places they want to fish.

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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