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The walleye challenge: Fish either love or loathe the weeds

Walleyes will be both in the weeds and outside the weedline during this time of year. Dawn Pappas caught this 30" walleye just outside of the weedline in 22-feet of water on a leech. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

Anglers in the Park Rapids area have noticed a slight change on the surface of our lakes in the past week; the prevalence of weeds has dramatically increased.

Now, when people typically think about surface weeds, they envision lilypads, pencil reeds and rice.

Yet the weeds poking out of the water right now are vegetation that usually grows on the bottom of the lake.

Is the lake turning over? Is the fall season knocking on the door?

Simply put, no. Technically stated, yes.

The lake has not "turned over," yet the entire process of turnover is in the beginning stages, which takes months.

People often view turnover as the point in time when the water becomes murky, decomposing weeds float to the surface and fishing turns sour for a few days.

The majority of the local lakes have seen some weeds floating at the surface and water clarity on numerous bodies of water has declined.

The diminished water clarity is attributed to an algae bloom, essentially tiny plants growing in the water.

At times, especially on wind-blown shorelines, the water might look like pea soup.

And the increase in floating weeds is a result of several factors, including a surge in lake use, such as boaters and swimming, along with environmental conditions such as wind and natural decomposition of lake weeds.

Don't forget to factor in the size of the underwater weed "gardens" which will sometimes become too large for their roots to hold. Current and natural springs contribute to the excess in floating weeds, as well as active fish, aquatic birds and other freshwater wildlife like turtles. There is no single contributor.

During this period of warm water, growth and simultaneous decomposition, walleye fishing can be frustrating.

Some walleyes will be suspended in deep water, while others will be in shallow to medium depths. The entire walleye population in a lake won't inhabit a specific depth or location at the same time.

After pulling up to the launch dock after a successful guide trip this last week, two anglers moored just seconds later. Our boat had caught walleye in 17-23 feet. Their boat landed nice walleye in 17-23 feet too, though their fish were suspended over 80 feet of water.

The walleye in our boat were landed using live bait rigs tipped with nightcrawlers and Northland Fireball and Vegas Jigs garnished with leeches. The other boat used crank baits, trolled at 1-1.5 m.p.h., positioned 125-feet behind the boat. To achieve the precision for those accurate statistics, a GPS and line-counter reel is imperative.

The deep-water trolling bite is definitely working, but with the floating surface weeds, the procedure can be tough. Even though a crank bait may dive 15-25 feet, the surface vegetation often gets caught in the anglers line and follows the braid, leadcore or monofilament down to the hooks of the lure.

In other words, if looking to catch a walleye this coming week, go with your strengths. There are shallow fish available, in addition to deep, suspended walleye.