PAUL NELSON OUTDOORS: It's almost time to buy a 2020 fishing license

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Walleye and other game fish seasons are closed for Minnesota inland waters. The 2019 Minnesota Fishing Licenses are set to expire on Feb. 29, so everyone gets an extra day of fishing for free this year.

Anglers need to purchase 2020 Minnesota Fishing Licenses to continue fishing after March 1, with online or in-store options available.

Anglers can buy a combination license that includes fishing and small game hunting at the same time to save a few dollars over purchasing both licenses separately.

There are stamps to consider buying too. The walleye stamp is voluntary and it creates a designated fund for stocking walleyes that can’t be used for any other purpose. Hopefully everyone is willing to contribute $5 to help ensure good walleye fishing in the future.

There is also a trout stamp for $10, which is mandatory for anyone fishing trout in Minnesota lakes and streams. Anglers can get validation on their licences or they can purchase the actual collectible trout or walleye stamp for an extra .75 cents and receive it in the mail.


Now that the season is closed on the inland lakes, anglers have to travel to one of the border waters with extended seasons or fish for continuous species like crappies, sunfish, perch, tullibees, whitefish or eelpout.

The bite for walleyes on Lake of the Woods has been fair to good recently. The dramatic increase in the amount of fishing pressure this winter increased the number of walleyes and sauger getting harvested.

The increase in fishing pressure, partially caused by the increasing number of wheeled fish houses may impact future regulations of both walleyes and saugers during the winter on Lake of the Woods. .

Large numbers of Lake of the Woods walleyes spawn in the Rainy River each spring. The walleyes are already beginning to stage up around Pine Island and all along the south shore of Big Traverse Bay.

Anglers are using jigging spoons with a minnow head or half minnow, depending on the type of live bait anglers are able to find. Fatheads are available in most bait stores, but most anglers would prefer emerald shiners or rainbow chubs if they are available.

Some anglers targeting larger walleyes will use a lipless crankbait with no bait on the hooks, because the bait negatively affects the action of the lure.

Short little pulls on the crankbaits are usually best, with more action on the lure when there are no fish visible on sonar and less action when a fish gets closer to the bait. Large walleyes often come in fast and hit the baits hard, especially when they are actively feeding.

Some of the largest pike in the area are located in Lake of the Woods, which is open all year long for pike. Female pike seek out backwaters and slow moving areas in streams and rivers connected to their home lakes to spawn.


Pike will stage up near their spawning sites late in the season. Most anglers use tip-ups with dead baits or large minnows, but jigging larger spoons or jigging minnows can also be effective. Some anglers even have success using hot dogs because they put an oily scent in the water pike like.

Pike will look for dead fish laying on the bottom or smaller fish under the ice that anglers have released, but didn’t make it all the way back to the bottom because of barotrauma.

Perch fishing in the local lakes is picking up, with more perch starting to move into shallow water. It doesn’t take too much melting to get the perch to start moving back shallow. Just a little bit of fresh water flowing into the lakes is usually all it takes.

Anglers have been finding perch spread out either close to the break or on the edges of the shoreline flats, close to the breakline. Some flats with holes also hold big schools of tiny perch, which is a favorite food source for larger perch and many other species of fish.

Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. Guided fishing trips for 2020 and the rest of 2019 can be booked by phone or text at 218-760-7751 or by email at

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