By: Steve Suman
Snow and wind to start the week, a few days with “milder” weather, followed by more snow just in time for the 44th Annual American Birkebeiner Saturday February 24. Cross-country ski trails are in good condition and snowmobile trails are good to very good. Finally, although there is surely plenty of winter remaining, anglers should be aware that game fish season closes in less than two weeks (March 4).
“A mid-week warm-up brought a few anglers onto the lakes last week,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “but this week, skiers and snowmobilers welcomed fresh snow to their respective trails.
“Walleye action is slow, with the best time late evening just before dusk and into dark. Use fatheads or walleye suckers on tip-ups, setting up over weeds or just off weed edges in 6-8 feet to catch the fish as they come in to feed.
“Northern pike anglers are catching pike on medium shiners and walleye suckers fished under tip-ups set in 8-10 feet over green weeds.
“During the past week, the best bite on inland lakes was for crappies and bluegills. If you can find an active daytime ‘honey hole’ for bluegills, stick with it until late afternoon to dusk when you will find some crappies. Crappie minnows work best, followed by soft plastics. Use light tackle and small jigs. The fish are also hitting waxies and Crappie Nibbles.”
Erik at Hayward Bait says anglers are getting out for the last few weeks of game fish season.
“For some walleye anglers, the season has been a roller coaster ride, but some report success using medium shiners on glow hook trebles under tip-ups. Jigging spoons are still effective, as are Jigging Raps and Hyper Glides. Tip your jigs with fatheads for dead sticking or with just the heads for active jigging.
“Northern pike and panfish are producing the most angler success.
“Northern pike fishing is going well for anglers using medium and large shiners. Make a good spread with your tip-ups, setting them from shallow weed edges to deeper water (10-15 feet) and vary bait depths from 3-7 feet below the ice.
“Crappie action is the most consistent in deeper lake basins and being mobile will put more fish on the ice. Try jigging small tungsten jigs with waxies and spikes, or trying fishing smaller spoons tipped with crappie minnows during the morning and last light evening bites. The key to bluegill success is hole-hopping and fishing weed beds with waxies and spikes on your favorite jigs.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses early salmon stocking in Wisconsin – and its failures.
“The success of introducing Pacific salmonid species (Chinook salmon, coho salmon, rainbow trout) to the Great Lakes to provide a sport fishery and prey on alewives is well-known. However, most anglers likely do not know about earlier salmon stocking efforts in Wisconsin, in large part because the attempts were utter failures.
“In the 1870s, the ‘Commissioners of Fisheries of Wisconsin’ undertook a salmon rearing project and received eggs from the Pacific Northwest. While they successfully hatched Chinook salmon, their choice of locations to stock these salmon were very flawed.
“The state introduced salmon into lakes Mendota and Monona in Madison, in tributaries to the Mississippi River in Grant County, and even in the Wisconsin River. Today’s understanding of the biology of salmon tells us that, in addition to many other habitat limitations, all of these waters are far too warm to support a coldwater species such as chinook.
“Keep in mind, these were the early days of fisheries management – and fish stocking and mistakes such as these advanced our understanding of fisheries science.”
Turkey hunters who missed the initial drawing for spring turkey harvest authorizations (formerly known as permits or tags!) have a second opportunity when sales of remaining spring turkey harvest authorizations begin March 19. The DNR sells the leftover authorizations on a first-come, first-served basis, one per day, one zone per day, for five consecutive days, starting with Zone 1 Monday March 19. At the end of the week, any remaining leftover authorizations go on sale Saturday, March 24, one per day per customer, until they sell out or the season ends. (Note: There are no leftover harvest authorizations remaining in Zone 6.) Cost is $10 for residents and $15 for the nonresidents. Please note that at the time of purchase you must purchase a spring turkey license and stamp. For more information, search “turkey” on the DNR website or call (888) 936-7463.
The 44th Annual American Birkebeiner is this Saturday, February 24, with special events leading up to the big race starting Thursday, February 22. The “Birkie” is North America’s largest cross-country ski marathon, attracting more than 10,000 skiers, with a course from Cable to Hayward spanning 50 kilometers for skaters and 55K for classic skiers. For more information, visit www.birkie.com or call (715) 634-5025.
SNOWMOBILE TRAIL REPORT
The DNR reminds snowmobilers to make sure snowmobile registrations are current and snowmobiles display a valid snowmobile trail pass. Wisconsin requires a trail pass to operate on all public snowmobile trails. You can order trail passes online, as well as renew registrations.
The February 19 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Washburn County says all trails are open, in fair to good condition with a base of 5-6 inches (less in some places due to warmer temperatures), and groomers are grooming. Always use caution when riding the trails, as you may encounter active trail grooming equipment.
The February 15 Hayward Power Sports trail report says the trails still have a good base and the wooded trails and lake trails in particular are still very good. Trails did lose some base due to some warmer temperatures, but primarily on trails in the open and on/near roads. Riders will find some scattered bare spots and some icy and/or bare corners and intersections. Wooded trails are grooming very nicely, with a base of 4-7 inches, and lakes are still very good.
The February 13 Namakagon Trail Groomers trail report says there is a base of 4-6 inches and trails are holding up well, considering the traffic. Trails are grooming well and range from fair to very good, though heavy use areas show some brown and riders should expect some icy corners. Areas of concern remain. For Trail 90 east between Old Grade and Federal Road, follow reroute signs and watch for logging trucks. There is still heavy ice over Trail 15 between Club Lake Road and Camp Eight Road where a spring is spreading water on the trail, so SLOW DOWN.
There are 55 miles of snowmobile trails on Flambeau River State Forest, all in very good condition, with groomers grooming almost daily. The trails link to Tuscobia Trail and to trail systems in Sawyer, Rusk, and Price counties.
If for some reason you think winter is moving along slowly, please note that game fish season closes at the end of the day March 4. This means you have less than two weeks to get out and catch a few walleye and northern pike!
Walleye action is slow and inconsistent, with the best time late evening into dark. Suspend fatheads, shiners, and walleye suckers under tip-ups set over/on the edge of weeds and weed beds, or try Jigging Raps and jigging spoons tipped with fatheads/fathead heads. During the day, fish deeper humps and holes.
Northern pike action is good to very good and they offer an all-day bite. Use northern suckers, walleye suckers, and shiners on tip-ups set on/over shallow weeds and weed edges in 6-15 feet. Vary the depth of your bait and fish bigger baits in deeper water for trophy pike.
Crappie action is fair to very good on most lakes. Look for them in deeper water – stay on the move – and make sure to check over the entire water column, from top to bottom. Top baits and presentations, on light tackles, include crappie minnows, waxies, spikes, soft plastics, and Gulp! baits on tungsten jigs, teardrops, plain hooks, and small jigging spoons. The best bite is in the later afternoon into evening hours.
Bluegill fishing is good in and near weeds and weed beds for anglers using waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks.
Feb. 15: Seasons closed: Coyote trapping; Raccoon trapping and hunting; Red and gray fox gun and trapping.
Feb. 21: Lake sturgeon management plan public meeting; Park Falls, 6 p.m. (920-303-5450).
Feb. 22-24: American Birkebeiner (715-634-5025).
Feb. 26: Seasons close: Cottontail rabbit; Mink trapping.
March 1: Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area snowshoe adventure, 11 a.m.-noon (715-463-2739).
March 4: Game fish season closes.
March 6: Lake sturgeon management plan public meeting; Ashland, 6 p.m. (920-303-5450).
March 15: Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area snowshoe adventure, 11 a.m.-noon (715-463-2739).
March 19: Sales begin by zone for remaining spring turkey harvest authorizations (888-936-7463).
March 20: Crow season closes.