Most anglers have been anxious for colder weather to arrive, so the lakes would make enough ice to go ice fishing.
All of the lakes in the Bemidji area have been quickly adding more ice recently, but the long drawn-out process of freezing this year has made the ice very inconsistent from lake to lake and also from spot to spot on many larger lakes.
Most lakes that froze over late now have between 6 and 8 inches of good clear ice. Upper Red Lake has more ice than most of the other lakes in the area with at least 10 inches of ice.
A few lakes partially broke up and refroze earlier in the year, so anglers need to watch out for patches of bumpy ice where the broken sections of ice froze back together. These areas could be dangerous for anglers using ATVs, snowmobiles and eventually vehicles on the ice this winter.
If anglers are looking at the calendar, this should be the tail end of the good early ice fishing, even though anglers are just getting out on the lakes.
It’s hard to say what the fishing activity will be like mid-winter this year if the long periods of sub-zero temperatures never arrive.
January is usually the coldest month of the winter and also the toughest month for ice fishing. By the time the ice fishing season is in full swing this year, the lakes should already be well into the time frame when the mid-winter blues usually occur.
Fishing has been good for walleyes on Upper Red Lake, with most anglers fishing in depths from 7 to 10 feet of water. Three-fish limits of walleyes have been fairly common for anglers fishing through the peak morning and evening bites.
The key is to keep moving if anglers are not catching fish or at least seeing fish coming through on sonar. If the fish are there and not biting, anglers may need to change lures or alter their presentation until they find something the fish like better.
Flutter spoons usually work better than heavy slender spoons on Upper Red Lake because of the shallow water.
Anglers can get the wider flutter spoons to shoot out to the side of the hole when they freefall the lures to the bottom. Then anglers can lift the lure off of the bottom and walk the lure back into the center of the hole, which is usually when the walleyes like to hit.
Slender spoons drop faster and straighter when they fall to the bottom and usually work better in deeper water. Fishing flutter spoons usually drop too slowly to be effective in deep water.
Now that anglers are able to access many more areas on the lakes with ATV’s and snowmobiles, the number of stationary fish houses on the lakes will grow rapidly as anglers jockey to put their houses on their favorite locations.
There are many variables to consider when selecting a location to put a fish house. It is usually best to put the house where the fish will likely be located when they are most active and then try to use the fish house during peak periods.
The best spots on humps for walleyes or perch may be right on top, depending on the depth of the hump. The best spot may also be near the most direct route to the deepest water, which is usually where walleyes will access a hump when they get active.
The best part of a hump may also be on some feature of the hump that is unique and likely to be used like a marker by the fish as they move past that location.
Anglers can drill a series of holes in strategic locations on a structure and then look down each hole with an underwater camera try to find something on the bottom that might attract the fish.
The other choice is to fish different areas on the lake and wait until they find a spot that is good enough to put out a stationary fish house.
Paul A. Nelson runs the “Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service.” He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org