The Bemidji area is a popular destination for anyone who likes to fish, with many of the best fishing lakes in Minnesota within easy driving distance from Bemidji.
July is the hottest month of the year, as far as average air temperatures. It is also the hottest month of the year in the lakes, with most lakes reaching their peak surface water temperatures towards the end of July or early August.
Surface water temperatures in most lakes have risen to over 70 degrees this past week, which is the point where summer fishing patterns start to take over the lakes.
Surface water temperatures can spike wildly during calm sunny days. The most accurate measure of surface water temperatures happens the first thing in the morning, before the sun has a chance to warm the water.
The most important factor for the fish is not how high water temperatures spike during the day, but how much heat the water holds overnight.
Problems with oxygen levels and a potential “summer-kill” of cold-water species usually begin after surface water temperatures exceed 80 degrees.
Algae blooms also increase in the lakes when water temperatures exceed 70 degrees. Warm weather with increasing water temperatures are the ideal conditions for algae blooms, especially in lakes with excess nutrients in the water.
Lakes with zebra mussels usually don’t have the extreme algae blooms because each individual zebra mussel siphons the phytoplankton out of approximately one liter of water every day.
The “greening up” of the lakes during the summer is much less noticeable in lakes with zebra mussels. The effects of zebra mussels grow over time, so a “new” zebra mussel lake like Lake Bemidji will be less affected than an “older” zebra mussel lake like Cass Lake.
As the number of zebra mussels grows in a lake, their effects on the lake increase. No one really knows exactly what is going to happen to each infested lake, but once zebra mussels become established, they are usually there to stay.
The word usually gets out about what lakes have the hottest walleye bite, with more anglers fishing the lakes with the best bites. Anglers can usually tell a lot about the bite by the number of vehicles parked at the accesses.
Lake of the Woods and Upper Red Lake continue to have the hottest walleye bites in the area, with anglers having the best days when the winds are light. Bright colors usually work best in the stained water.
Walleyes in Leech Lake have been moving out of the shallow bays and spreading out into the main lake. Anglers are using bottom bouncers to locate fish and live bait rigs once they have located some active fish.
Leech Lake walleyes are using the large points and reefs in the main basin and in the deep bays on shoreline and mid-lake humps.
Lake Bemidji still has a lot of walleyes, perch and northern pike using the weed beds that surround most of the lake. There are also a few walleyes showing up on some of the mid-lake structures.
Walleyes in Cass Lake are moving farther off the sides of the large flats and food shelves that lead into deep water. Anglers should fish the windward portions of the lake to find the most active fish.
Winnie has been good for walleyes along the shoreline cabbage most of the spring. More walleyes have been moving offshore and populating the large mid-lake bars and smaller humps that are spread out across Winnibigoshish.
Most anglers have been using live bait rigs with nightcrawlers, leeches or larger minnows. A few anglers have also been using jigs and plastics. More anglers will start using bottom bouncers and spinners as surface water temperatures exceed 70 degrees.