The extended period of subzero temperatures have continued to add more ice to lakes in the Bemidji area. Lake Bemidji has between 14 and16 inches of ice in most locations, while many of the shallow lakes like Lake Irving have at least 18 inches of ice.
The cold has helped keep the slush on the lakes to a minimum, with most lakes lakes having a few shallow patches of slush in the areas with the most snow. Cracks and ice heaves can also bring water to the surface, so they are usually the areas anglers have to watch out for the most on the lakes.
The snow is deep enough on the lakes for anglers to get stuck without a 4-WD vehicle with ample clearance and good tires. Anglers planning to go off the trails on the ice should travel in pairs and bring a tow strap and a shovel.
Snowmobiles and other track vehicles are the best way to access parts of the lakes that are off of the trails. The most popular lakes for fishing have the most trails on the ice. There are also clusters of fish houses on most of the community spots, so anglers not familiar with the area can get an idea about what types of structures are holding fish.
Many of the perch have been feeding on insect larvae on the edges of the basin in deeper water. Anglers can use tungsten jigs and tungsten lures to fish deep water because tungsten is heavier than lead, so lure manufactures can make smaller lures that weigh more and fish heavier.
Most fish want a smaller presentation during the winter, so anglers should use smaller spoons and smaller ice jigs whenever the fish are not in an aggressive feeding mood.
Scented plastics like Impulse can be very effective during the winter. The skeleton minnow has been a good plastic for panfish this winter. Anglers can fish them on an ice jig “plain” or add a wax worm or a couple of eurolarvae in situations where the fish want live bait.
Paul A Nelson, Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service, firstname.lastname@example.org