The Bemidji area is in the middle of the hottest part of the summer, with highs in the 80s still prominent in the extended forecast.
The historical average temperatures in the Bemidji area indicate the warmest part of the year is usually between the middle of July and the middle of August, so try to enjoy it while it lasts.
Once we reach the last half of August, summer is usually past its peak and heading into late summer and early fall. These are the days we need to remember when the temperatures are 20 degrees below zero this winter.
The surface water temperatures in the lakes are also peaking in the Bemidji area. Most of the local lakes now have surface water temperatures in the upper 70s, which is about as warm as water temperatures get in the Bemidji area.
Surface water temperatures may spike into the low 80s during hot calm days, but the temperatures cool off again overnight.
Morning surface water temperatures seldom exceed 80 degrees in the Bemidji area for any length of time. If that does happen, the chances for a “summer-kill” of fish increases dramatically.
The most susceptible species of fish to summer-kill are the cold water species. These species include tulibees, whitefish, suckers and eelpout, but they are not the only species of fish affected by hot water temperatures.
Any fish that gets caught and released when the water is this warm has to recover fast enough to resume normal feeding patterns before they burn up all of their reserves and get too weak to recover.
Muskies have higher delayed mortality rates during the heat of summer because they give up most of their energy they have in the fight, especially if they get caught on lighter line and have an extended battle.
Anglers targeting muskies usually use heavy enough tackle to land the fish more quickly, which gives the muskies a higher chance for survival when they are released quickly.
Anglers should do everything they can to minimize the amount of time they hold any fish out of the water when the water temperatures are this high. The goal should be to get the fish back in the water as quickly as possible with minimal damage from being hooked to increase their chances for survival.
It doesn’t do much good to release fish if they don’t survive the encounter. Anglers should also consider keeping fish to eat that they don’t think have a good chance to survive.
Anglers also need to embrace eating more northern pike, especially the smaller fish that are excellent to eat as long as the bones are removed.
Learning how to boneless fillet pike is worth the effort and will insure anglers have plenty of fish to eat even if they aren’t able to catch enough walleyes for a meal. It will also help the lakes avoid becoming over populated by small pike, which is not good for any of the fish living in the lake.
Many walleye anglers have been using spinner rigs during the day to cover water and try to locate pods of active fish. Anglers can use live bait rigs or jigs during low light periods when walleyes tend to be more active.
The weight of sinker anglers use on spinner rigs depends on how deep anglers are fishing. The goal is to keep about a 45-degree angle on the line and avoid having to let out too much line to stay close to the bottom.
Leeches and nightcrawlers both work on spinner rigs, but many anglers prefer using leeches on lakes with lots of smaller perch to avoid the constant pecking that happens when using night crawlers in those lakes. Anglers can also try minnows or plastics on spinner rigs, with both working well in some situations.
Muskie anglers have been seeing less follows and catching more fish since the lakes “greened-up” from an algae bloom. Using lures that add more sound and flash will help the muskies locate anglers baits when the visibility in the water is limited.
Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org