Summer fish kill continues on Bemidji area lakes
The hot weather continues in the Bemidji area with surface water temperatures holding in the upper 70s on most area lakes.
The summer kill on cold water species is expanding, the result of heavy algae blooms and low oxygen levels in deep water.
The main species of fish involved in the fish die-off so far has been tulibees, with suckers the second most common casualty.
Other species of fish are also getting involved in the die-off, including whitefish, perch, walleyes, northern pike and at least one muskie (estimated by this writer to be in the upper 40-inch range), dying from too much handling and/or heat related causes.
It is a reminder for anglers that they need to release fish quickly in the hot weather and consider keeping any fish that has been hooked deeply because of high delayed mortality rates for injured fish in the warm water.
Fish that get caught have to eat quickly or they won't be able to keep up their strength in the heat.
Old fish, young fish, weak fish and injured fish of all species, as well as any fish that is unable to catch enough to eat, are vulnerable to summerkill.
Fish have to stay active longer and eat more frequently to combat the heat and anglers are seeing small groups of fish filtering in and out of feeding areas at all times of the day. There has also been a flurry of feeding activity for most species in the mornings and evenings.
There was a full moon Thursday night so there will also be fish feeding at night through the weekend on most lakes. The effects of the full moon start several days before the full moon and last several days after the full moon with the increased feeding activity lasting about a week.
Walleyes typically feed near the bottom during the day but walleyes feed near the surface at night so they can use the moonlight to see the silhouette of their prey as they look toward the surface.
Anglers can use artificial floating minnow baits or safety pin spinner rigs to fish for walleyes at night. The vibration of the lures and the action of the spinner blades help the walleyes target the lures.
People with lakeshore property on a walleye lake may be able to catch walleyes right off the end of their dock during the full moon phase. Anglers can also use waders or even shorts and a pair of old tennis shoes to do some shore fishing for walleyes at night.
Anglers should work the safety pin spinners with a raised rod tip and start reeling immediately when the lure hits the water to keep the lure just under the surface.
Artificial minnow baits can be casted or trolled. When casting minnow baits, anglers can alternately twitch and pause the lures to keep them near the surface.
When trolling artificial lures at night, it usually works better for anglers to hold the rod in their hands rather than put it in a rod holder so they can work the lure and know when it gets fouled by weeds.
Anglers fishing for walleyes out of a boat at night can start looking for fish in the same areas they have been fishing for walleyes during the day. Most large mid-lake structures or the edges of shoreline flats are potential feeding areas for walleyes at night.
Anglers should check when the moon rises if they want to try fishing after dark since the best bite usually occurs in the first couple hours after the moon rises.
Anglers should also be sure the lights on their boat work before heading out at night. It is also a good idea for each angler to have an LED head lamp or clip-on hat light so they can turn it on when they hook a fish. Any tools for unhooking fish should also be handy to minimize potential kayos when using things with hooks in the dark.
PAUL A. NELSON runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org