By: Steve Suman
If Tuesday’s forecast meets “expectations,” it will not seem like the official first day of spring (vernal equinox)! However, the remainder of the week looks mostly good, particularly for March in the North Woods.
Erik at Hayward Bait says warmer temperatures created some slush areas on the ice, making for difficult travel. Conditions are best in early morning after overnight, sub-freezing lows firm and freeze the slush.
“There is still plenty of ice on the lakes, with up to 30 inches and more on some lakes.
“Anglers chasing panfish are using small spoons to teardrops, depending on the bite that day. Crappies are in 16-22 feet and occasionally with the bluegills. Use small jigs, tungsten jigs, and various spoons. On ‘touchy bite’ days, downsize presentations and bait, using waxies and spikes. In early morning or in the late evening hours, tip panfish spoons with crappie minnows or rosy reds.
“For bluegills, use small jigs, tungsten jigs, panfish spoons tipped with waxies, spikes, and various plastics that imitate aquatic insects on which bluegills feed.”
Mike at Jenk’s says panfish fishing is now the only game in town on the Chippewa Flowage.
“Be careful on the ice, as some areas are getting a little sloppy. Ice depth is about 17 inches. There is no open water yet, but several folks report seeing some water breaking through by shorelines.
“Bluegills are fairly quiet, but crappies remain fairly active, with crappie minnows and various smaller plastics the way to go.”
Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says there is approximately 3 feet of ice on Chequamegon Bay and anglers are still driving out vehicles on the Ashland side.
“The bite is a bit finicky, with fish being most active during the dark morning hours and late afternoon hours. Anglers continue to catch a mixed bag of fish, including brown trout, splake, whitefish, coho, perch, northern pike, and walleye.
“On warmer days, work stream mouths for coho and trout that are attracted to the runoff out of the river.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses paddlefish in Wisconsin.
“Anglers in Wisconsin might spend their entire lives fishing and still never see a paddlefish, one of Wisconsin’s most interesting and prehistoric fish. Paddlefish are native to large rivers in Wisconsin and found in the Lower St. Croix, Lower Chippewa, Lower Wisconsin, and Mississippi rivers.
“The paddlefish is unique in both its appearance and biology. Its name comes from the paddle-shaped snout that makes up nearly one-third of a fish’s total length. Another unique trait is a gill cover that extends back to a point. Adults can grow large and other states have recorded paddlefish weighing more than 100 pounds. Paddlefish mature later than most other fish species, with males maturing around 7 years old and females at 9-10 years.
“A paddlefish’s gaping mouth and specialized gills are adaptations for filter-feeding on plankton. Paddlefish will sit in current and sway their heads side-to-side, funneling large volumes of water into their mouths, filtering for microscopic food. The ‘paddle’ of a paddlefish is a sensory organ, believed capable of sensing plankton density and may serve some function in stabilizing the fish while it feeds in current.
“Because the paddlefish is a drift feeding species, intentionally catching a paddlefish on hook and line is nearly impossible. Paddlefish will not actively chase baits and most anglers catch paddlefish by inadvertent snagging.”
The Wisconsin DNR has set the state’s first-ever managed elk hunt for this fall. The season will run October 13 through November 11, and December 13-21. Only Wisconsin residents are eligible to purchase an elk tag. The DNR is issuing 10 harvest tags for the bull-only hunt, distributed as follows: four tags to residents through a random drawing; one tag to a resident through a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) raffle; and five tags go to the six Wisconsin Chippewa tribes. The hunt will take place within the Clam Lake elk range of Sawyer, Bayfield, Ashland, and Price counties. The DNR will have applications ($10) available starting May 1. Prior to receiving a harvest tag ($49), all drawing winners must complete an elk hunter education course before the start of the season. People interested in purchasing raffle tickets should visit www.RMEF.org/Wisconsin. For more information, search “elk” (www.dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/elk.html) on the DNR website.
Wisconsin’s March County Deer Advisory Councils (CDAC) meetings start the antlerless harvest quota and permit-setting process for the 2018 season. The Sawyer County CDAC meeting is Tuesday, March 20, from 7-10 p.m., at the Hayward DNR Service Center. Meetings are open to the public. The DNR will make an online survey form available from April 2-12 for public comment on preliminary recommendations. In May, the DNR will present final recommendations to the Natural Resources Board for approval. For more information, search “CDAC” on the DNR website.
Remaining spring turkey harvest authorizations are now on sale through this Friday, one zone per day, starting at 10 a.m., at www.dnr.wi.gov/gowild/ or through all license agents. Any remaining harvest authorizations go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday. (Note: There are no bonus authorizations available for Zone 6.) Hunters can purchase one bonus authorization per day ($10/resident; $15/nonresident) until the zone and period sells out or the season closes. For more information, search “turkey” on the DNR website.
SNOWMOBILE TRAIL REPORT
The DNR reminds snowmobilers to make sure snowmobile registrations are current and their 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 March 19 HLVCB trail report says it is the end of another season. Though trails are open in some places, they are only good deep in the woods – and even then, there will be bare spots. The lakes closed and crews have removed the stakes or will remove them this week.
The March 19 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Washburn County says all snowmobile trails close for the season as of 8 a.m. Tuesday, March 20, and will not reopen, even with snowfall.
The March 15 Namakagon Trail Groomers trail report says it suspended grooming due to warm weather and ice conditions. Trails remain rideable, with late season conditions and icy hills and corners. South facing areas, road crossings, and routes have exposed brown.
The March 15 Lakewoods trail report says trails are (were) open and in fair, late season condition. For those riding forest roads, please use caution and stay alert, especially in areas where you see activity such as plowed roads. Remember, these are roads, not groomed snowmobiles trails, and conditions will vary. In places where logging occurred, there may be snow banks in the road that can be hard to see. Slow down and stay safe.
The 55 miles of snowmobile trails on Flambeau River State Forest are in poor condition in some areas and in fair condition under tree canopies. The trails link to the Tuscobia Trail and trail systems in Sawyer, Rusk, and Price counties.
Reminders: Current fishing licenses are valid through March 31, but 2018-19 licenses are now available and valid immediately. The 2018 inland gamefish season opens Saturday, May 5.
Crappie fishing is good around weeds in 12-25 feet, with the most productive baits sometimes fluctuating day to day. Top baits include crappie minnows, rosy reds, waxies, spikes, and plastics on small jig and teardrops, as well as spoons tipped with live bait. Check the entire water column!
Bluegill action is fair to good around weeds and structure out to 18 feet, with waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs, teardrops, and spoons producing the most hits.
Perch action is fair to good around weeds and soft bottoms out to 25 feet. Best success is on small jigs, rattle spoons, and Jigging Raps combined with crappie minnows, fatheads, waxies, spikes, and plastics.
March 19-23: Remaining spring turkey harvest authorizations sales begin by zone (888-936-7463).
March 20: Sawyer County CDAC meeting, 7-10 p.m., Hayward DNR Service Center.
March 20: Crow season closes.
March 23: 11th annual S.C.O.P.E. Fundraising Banquet.
March 31: 2017 licenses expire.
April 15: Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum opens (715-634-4440).
April 15 through July 31: Illegal to allow unleashed dogs to run on DNR lands and FWPAs (see regs for exceptions).
April 30: Seasons close: Beaver and otter trapping in North Zone.
April 14-15: Youth turkey hunt.
April 18-24: Period A
April 25-May 1: Period B
May 2-8: Period C
May 9-15: Period D
May 16-22: Period E
May 23-29: Period F