Wet, windy, and warmer weather (even if it does not feel like it!) to start this week, with a Wednesday temperature of 51 degrees (so says the current forecast). Spring is “officially” in session, but this is early spring in the North Woods, so expect a diverse assortment of conditions for the next week… month… or more. Enjoy the mild, dry days and use “other” days to plan and prepare for late spring and summer weather activities!
“It may be spring,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “but we still have plenty of snow cover on the ground and on the lakes. There is more than a foot of snow, with a 3-inch crust of ice, with areas of slush below the snow, and ice thickness remains at 22-25 inches. However, traveling on the ice is tricky and almost impossible except for following existing trails.
“Even with the interesting conditions, fishing is fair to good, depending on the time of day. Anglers are catching crappies, bluegills, and perch, as well as an occasional northern pike they release due to the closed gamefish season.
“Crappie anglers are fishing in 14-18 feet, jigging teardrop jigs tipped with crappie minnows. For bluegills, target mid to shallow weedy areas, looking for open pockets in those weeds. For both bluegill and perch, anglers are using tiny yellow and orange teardrop jigs tipped with waxies.
“It is time to start thinking ahead to the gamefish season opener May 5 – which is less than six weeks distant! The 2017-18 licenses expire Saturday March 31 and anglers should consider renewing their licenses early to avoid the busy, last minute rush. Check over equipment for conditions that might require attention and/or repairs, re-spool reels with fresh line, and oil and grease where necessary. The season will be here before you know it!
“Finally, it is the end of another snowmobile season, with the lake trails closed and crews have pulled the stakes.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the Hayward fish team’s spring survey list.
“Spring is a busy time for DNR fisheries crews around the state. Most survey activities coincide with fish spawning periods, and almost all Wisconsin species, with the exception of some coldwater fish, spawn in spring.
“There is so much water around this area that the Hayward fish team always seems to enter spring with a long list of survey locations.
“In 2018, the DNR will survey walleye and musky on Grindstone and Osprey lakes (led by a team out of Spooner), the Chippewa Flowage, Whitefish Lake, Radisson Flowage, and Lost Land/Teal (with help from the Governor Thompson Hatchery crew). Other survey locations include Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO), Ashegon, and Tiger Cat Flowage.
“Spring surveys have a variety of objectives, including checking on stocked fish, assessing the success of regulations, and gathering data to set harvest levels for sport anglers and tribal harvest. The two most common methods fisheries crews use are fyke nets and electrofishing, which can target different species at different times.”
Hunters who pursue wild turkey in Wisconsin during the fall season no longer need apply or enter a drawing for fall turkey harvest authorizations. Instead, the DNR will issue one fall turkey harvest authorization, at no additional cost, to hunters who purchase a fall turkey or Conservation Patron license. Customers will need to specify their zone of choice during purchase. For select zones, the DNR will sell bonus authorizations (formerly known as leftover tags) over the counter for $10, on a first-come, first-served basis, and will post availability in late summer. For more information, search “turkey” on the DNR website.
According to DNR Forestry, the fire season is just starting and so far, 57 fires in DNR protection areas, caused by debris burning and equipment, have destroyed three outbuildings and threatened 14 homes and 12 outbuildings. Each year, an estimated 1,100 wildfires burn in DNR protection areas, with another estimated 2,500 wildfires in parts of the state where fire departments are the primary responders. Two-thirds of these fires occur in spring when there is a great deal of dry vegetation, fallen leaves, and other debris present, which dries out quickly. Combined with warmer weather, drops in humidity, and gusty winds, wildfires can quickly ignite and spread. Debris burning is the leading cause of wildfires, especially this time of year. There are alternatives to burning, such as composting or leaving brush in the woods for wildlife cover. If you choose to burn, get a burning permit and stay aware of fire danger and permit requirements – search “fire“ on the DNR website or call 888-WIS-BURN. The DNR updates information at 11 a.m. each day. Homeowners who heat with wood or live in a wooded area should visit the “Preparing your Property” web page to assess fire risk.
On Monday, April 9, starting at 7 p.m., Wisconsin will see spring fish and wildlife hearings and Conservation Congress county meetings in every county in the state. The Sawyer County meeting is at Winter High School this year. These hearings and meetings offer people the opportunity to provide their input on advisory questions pertaining to the natural resources, input that might lead to future rule changes. The questions cover fish and wildlife management, as well as fishing, hunting, and trapping seasons and regulations. The Natural Resources Board (NRB) is seeking input on various proposals, including a $5 annual fee for all users (between the ages of 16 and 64) of state fishery, wildlife, natural areas, and leased public hunting grounds. Other questions include eliminating the group deer hunting law so that the only person who can fill a tag is the hunter issued the tag, and adjusting crossbow season length for those not disabled or elderly. For more information, and to view the 2018 questionnaire, search “spring hearings” on the DNR website.
Panfish anglers should be aware their 2017-18 fishing licenses expire Saturday, March 31. As such, consider purchasing your new license now to avoid the embarrassing (and perhaps costly) experience of fishing with an invalid license. The 2018-19 licenses are available and are valid immediately upon purchase. In addition, the 2018 inland gamefish season opens Saturday, May 5, which is not very far away! (Pay no attention to the ice and snow today!)
Crappie action is fair to good. Look for fish suspending and/or near weeds in depths out to 25 feet. The most productive baits and presentations include crappie minnows, rosy reds, waxies, spikes, and plastics on small jigs, plain hooks, teardrops, and small spoons. Check the ENTIRE water column!
Bluegill fishing is fair to very good. Search around weeds and structure from shallow out to 20 feet. Top producing baits include waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks. If fish seem reluctant, try downsizing tackle and bait.
Perch fishing is fair, with action better on the deep, clear lakes. Check weeds and soft bottoms from shallow out to about 25 feet. Best offerings include small jigs, teardrops, rattle spoons, and Jigging Raps tipped with crappie minnows, fatheads, waxies, spikes, and plastics.
March 24: Remaining spring turkey harvest authorizations now on sale (888-936-7463).
March 20: Crow season closed.
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