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.
A good angler should be able to drive around a lake with their sonar and get a pretty good idea about what is going on in the lake without ever having to drop a line in the water.
Anglers can look for areas with rocks, new weed growth or other features in the lakes that might make them good areas to try fishing for walleyes when the season opens.
With three weeks to go before the walleye season opens, anglers have plenty of time for scouting and also time to do some early season fishing for panfish.
There should be some crappies and sunfish starting to move into the shallows in many lakes, with the warmer weather starting to warm-up the water temperatures in the lakes.
Crappies and sunfish often look for backwater areas or shallow bays with mud bottom early in the year. The dark colored mud absorbs the sunlight and triggers the first insect hatches of the spring.
The early insect hatches are a great feeding opportunity for crappies and sunfish, which will be drawn into the areas with the warmest water temperatures when looking for food.
Each lake is different, so anglers have to figure out what is available to the fish and also learn to recognize what areas have potential and what areas do not.
Water depth is one of the biggest keys along with food.
If the water is too shallow, there is no place for the crappies and sunfish to withdraw to when they are not actively feeding.
Both crappies and sunfish feel exposed if they can be seen from the surface of the water. They usually want to be able to drop back into some hole that has enough depth to hide the fish when they are inactive or feel threatened.
Boat harbors are a classic example of a place that might hold early season crappies and sunfish. Bays with Lilly pads usually have mud bottom, so they are potential spring areas for panfish.
There can also be wide spots in the river portions of inlets or outlets on the lakes, which can also draw early season panfish. Bridges can also be panfish magnets in some lakes.
Emerging wild rice beds can hold panfish, with the pockets and holes in the rice often the key areas.
There can also be stretches of shoreline with stumps or trees in the water, which can attract schools of minnows when cover is limited in the lakes.
There can also be leeches and other insects under the bark on the trees, which can also attract panfish.
Most of the lakes in the Bemidji area are surrounded with rushes and pencil reeds, which can be used as feeding areas for crappies and sunfish early in the year.
The best reed beds are usually the ones with the deepest water or the reeds that have deep water close to the edge of the reeds.
Some anglers like to use their front trolling motor on high to run the edges of the rushes while they watch the shallows for fish using polarized sunglasses.
Even if anglers spook the crappies, they will still be able to identify the patches of reeds being used by the fish.
Once anglers know the spots the panfish are using, anglers can come back later after the fish have had time to settle down and move back into the reeds.
With knowledge comes responsibility. Anglers need to spread out their carbon imprint and avoid overharvesting any group of fish.