By: Steve Suman
This week, the forecast promises a considerable change in weather patterns and temperatures that will bring joy or consternation, depending on personal recreational and lifestyle preferences. The temperatures in particular might come as a shock, as lows hit the single digits and with some highs only in the teens. If nothing else, keep in mind a Norwegian proverb referenced on the DNR website and elsewhere: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” Get out and enjoy the outdoors, regardless of the weather!
Erik at Hayward Bait says ice season is approaching, but it is taking its darn time!
“With the unusually warm weather, some of the big lakes have yet to freeze up, but for a few smaller lakes and bays we have reports of 3-5 inches of ice. This can vary and is very dependent on the lake.
“Anglers should always use extreme caution during first ice. Luckily, nightly lows dropping below freezing combined with the lack of snow has helped to maintain and build some ice.
“If you do go out for some first-ice fishing, please err on the side of caution. Carry the essentials for ice fishing and safety tools that include ice picks, spud bar, life jacket, float suit, rope, throw-able flotation – and always fish with a friend!
“With ice on a few lakes, there are some anglers getting out fishing. Most anglers are chasing panfish and northern pike. Much of the panfish bite is on small jigs tipped with euro larva and wax worms in somewhat shallow water.
“For crappies, anglers are finding success on ultralight Jigging Raps, Slab Raps, Acme Gliders, and small spoons.
“For northern pike, bait a tip-up with a northern sucker or shiner minnow on a quick-strike rig. When setting up tip-ups, it is a good idea to spread them out in various types of structure, such as over weed beds and off the edges of weed beds, points, and steep breaks. Vary the depth of your bait throughout the day.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses bowfin, also known as dogfish.
“The bowfin, or ‘dogfish,’ is a somewhat rare species in Wisconsin, found only in a few drainages in the north, some parts of southern Wisconsin, and most of the Wisconsin River. Perhaps it is their prehistoric appearance or because most anglers have little experience with them, but many people look at bowfin with fascination.
“Some remarkable anecdotes about bowfin reported in Becker’s 1983 Fishes of Wisconsin add to the legend of the bowfin.
“After bowfin fry hatch, male bowfins guard them aggressively. The male will try to distract predators by splashing around, giving the fry time to escape. If that does not work, there are reports of bowfins launching themselves out of the water to try to attack a potential predator.
“The bowfin is also very hardy. A report stated that a bowfin accidently left in a fish tank and abandoned for an entire year was still alive, though quite hungry, when finally discovered.
“Bowfin can also breathe air and are reported to survive in ponds that have almost completely dried up, essentially riding out the drought in the mud.”
Even though we do not yet have good ice fishing conditions, mark your calendar for Wisconsin’s Free Fishing Weekend January 20-21 when anglers can fish almost anywhere in Wisconsin without a license or trout stamp. This includes all inland waters of the state (except spring trout ponds, but check the trout regulations for exceptions), Wisconsin’s side of the Great Lakes, and the Mississippi River. All usual regulations and seasonal restrictions are in force. Please exercise caution before heading out on the ice.
The Cable Natural History Museum and National Audubon Society seeks volunteers for the annual winter bird census, the “Christmas Bird Count,” Saturday, Dec 16. Participants record and count birds and bird species from dawn to dusk within 15-mile diameter circles in the Cable and Hayward area. In addition, participants survey bird feeders within the circles, so there is a need for feeder counters. For more information, contact the Cable Natural History Museum at (715) 798-3890 or e-mail naturalist Haley Appleman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a reminder for hunters interested in hunting wild turkey this spring and/or black bear next fall – the application deadline for permits is Sunday, Dec. 10. According the DNR, if you want to receive a kill permit for one of these species, you must submit an application by the annual deadline. You can submit applications through authorized license agents, DNR service centers, online, or by calling (877) 945-4236. Please note that paper applications are no longer available. Wisconsin’s 2018 black bear season runs Sept. 5 through Oct. 9 in four bear management zones. The 2018 spring wild turkey season runs April 18 through May 29, with six periods in seven turkey management zones. The 2018 Youth Turkey Hunt is April 14-15, prior to the start of the regular season. For more information, search “turkey” and “bear” on the DNR website.
Good (i.e., relatively safe) ice fishing conditions are developing slowly this year, but the significant temperature change this week should make a major difference. Still, some anglers are taking the risk and fishing for pike and panfish. For pike, try northern suckers and shiners on quick-strike rigs fished over weeds and weed beds. Catch crappies in mid-depths with crappie minnows, plastics, and small jigging spoons. Fish bluegills around shallow weeds – though bigger ‘gills are deeper – with waxies and spikes on small jigs and teardrops.
Nov. 27-Dec. 6: Muzzleloader deer season.
Nov. 30: Seasons closed: Musky in North Zone; Turtle.
Dec. 1: Lake Superior lake trout season opened (see fishing regs).
Dec. 6: Seasons close: Muzzleloader deer; Bobwhite quail.
Dec. 7-10: Four-day antlerless hunt.
Dec. 8: Ruffed grouse season closes in Zone B.
Dec. 16: North Exterior Zone Canada goose season closes.
Dec. 24-Jan. 1: Antlerless-only Holiday Hunt – farmland units only.
Dec. 25: Period 1 Bobcat season closes.
Dec. 26: Period 2 Bobcat season opens.
Dec. 31: Seasons close: Pheasant; Fall turkey zones 1, 5; Hungarian partridge; Fisher trapping; Frog.
Jan. 20-21: Free Fishing Weekend.