The midway point of June has passed, with surface water temperatures in the local lakes still going back and forth in the 60 degree range.
Much warmer temperatures late this week have triggered the first major "fish fly" hatches of the spring with millions of midges hatching out of most large lakes between Mille Lacs Lake and Lake of the Woods. Midges are the adult phase of the blood worm and are similar to mosquitoes in size, but without the stinger. Bloodworms are a critical food source for many species of fish including sauger, perch, sunfish and crappies, especially during the winter months.
Surface water temperatures in most of the Bemidji area are now in the low-to-mid 60s, with most species of fish done spawning, including spottail shiners. Spottail shiners can only be trapped in the spring when they are in shallow water to spawn. Once they are done spawning, spottail shiners leave the shoreline and head for deep water where they become virtually impossible to trap.
Memorial Day Weekend is a busy time on the lakes in the Bemidji area. It is rivaled only by the Walleye Opener, Fourth of July weekend and Labor Day weekend for the number of anglers on the lakes.
The 2016 Minnesota Fishing Opener was about as cold and windy as most anglers could stand. Sunday was considerably better heat wise, but the wind was still plenty strong from a slightly different direction. Surface water temperatures were as high as 62 degrees in some lakes less than a week before the opener, but by Sunday morning on opening weekend, surface water temperatures were as low as 47 degrees in many of the same lakes. A drop in water temperatures of more than ten degrees in less than a week is about as fast as water temperatures ever drop in the lakes.
The 2016 Minnesota Walleye Opener is just two weeks from this Saturday, with the date set for May 14. Bemidji is surrounded by excellent walleye lakes. Upper Red Lake, Winnibigoshish and Leech Lake are usually three of the hottest lakes for walleyes early in the season because they all have shallow water, which means they will warm-up faster in the spring than most other walleye lakes.
The ice is finally gone, so anglers are now able to get their boats into most lakes. Most anglers like to make at least one test run of their boats before the walleye season opens, to be sure everything is in good working order. Early in the spring, before the walleye season opens is a good time for anglers to get out on their favorite lakes when there is no pressure to catch fish. That way anglers can spend their time learning more about the lake and also learning how to use their sonar and GPS units better.
Most people have had enough winter by the time April arrives. Any additional snowfall is not appreciated, with most preferring rain over snow at this point in the spring. The remaining ice on the lakes is waterlogged and very unpredictable. The ice is also rotting along the shoreline, with very few places where ice is still tight to the shore.
The Bemidji area appears to be on standby, waiting for spring to return. Two weeks ago it looked like an early spring, and then it started snowing and turned cold again. This weekend the forecast is also cold and windy for the Bemidji area. Temperatures are expected to drop back into the teens overnight, with strong winds making outside activities uncomfortable at best.
It is not too late to have an early spring, but it’s not going to be quite as early as it once appeared it would be. The average ice-out date for Lake Bemidji is April 26. The earliest recorded ice-out was on April 2, 2012, and the latest recorded ice-out for Lake Bemidji was May 22, 1950. For comparison purposes, Lake Minnetonka was declared ice-free on March 18 this year, which is 26 days earlier than the average ice-out date of April 13.