By: Steve Suman
The North Woods is receiving another healthy shot of snow to start the week, but the forecast shows mostly cloudy after Tuesday, with daytime highs pushing into the 40-degree range by the weekend.
Love it or hate it, Daylight Saving Time begins this Sunday, March 11, so do not forget to rise at 2 a.m. and turn your clocks ahead one hour. (Some people might actually do so!)
“Snowmobile and cross-country ski trails are in good condition,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “though there are some slush areas on lakes as the snow compacts. These are the days (some of them!) when you can sit on a bucket and fish without shelter.
“Gamefish season closed March 4 and from now on out anglers will pursue only panfish.
“Crappies are the most active species and some anglers are catching their limits of fish. Anglers are finding fish in deeper holes in 18-20 feet, with the best success on light line, small jigs, and crappie minnows. Jig baits 12-15 feet above the fish to bring them up to the bait.
“Current licenses do not expire until March 31, but new licenses are now available and valid immediately.”
Erik at Hayward Bait says there is plenty of snow on the lakes, but the previous warm weather brought decent fishing.
“Gamefish season closed this past Sunday and anglers are now finding success chasing panfish.
“Crappies are starting to show up in shallow water, though on some lakes fish are still milling around in deep basins. Teardrops and tungsten jigs tipped with waxies and spikes are proving to be the favorite, but a crappie minnow can be dynamite on crappies during the early morning and late evening hours.
“Bluegills are near structure in 16-22 feet, though anglers will start to see fish shallower as the season progresses.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses where you can have a ‘lake to yourself.’
“Every angler wants to ‘beat the crowds’ whenever possible. Wisconsin is interesting in that the parts of the state with the most people tend to have the fewest lakes, particularly if excluding the Great Lakes.
“Which counties have the highest ratio of lake area to people? To explore that question, I used 2010 census data and DNR data on total lake surface area for each county.
“Iron County has one person for every 5 acres of lake surface area, the lowest people/water ratio in the state. The next two are Vilas and Sawyer counties, with one person for every 4 acres of lake surface area.
“Milwaukee County is on the other end of the spectrum, with 4,829 people for every 1 acre of lake area. Brown and Outagamie counties are also high on the list, with 1,532 and 886 people per acre of lake, respectively.
“Those numbers include all citizens, however, and only about 20 percent of Wisconsin residents are licensed anglers. Doing the same exercise with just licensed anglers offers more perspective.
“If every resident angler in Iron County went fishing on the same day, each angler would still have 25 acres of water all to themselves. In Milwaukee County, each licensed angler would have 43 square feet of lake – an area roughly the size of a small bathroom.
“Thankfully, Wisconsin anglers are mobile enough to spread their efforts more evenly throughout the lakes in the state, as well as to the Great Lakes.”
Wisconsin’s County Deer Advisory Councils (CDAC) mid-March meetings start the antlerless harvest quota and permit-setting process for the 2018 season. The Sawyer County CDAC meeting is March 20, from 7-10 p.m., at the Hayward DNR Service Center. Meetings are open to the public and the public. From April 2-12, the public can comment on preliminary recommendations in an online survey. In May, the DNR will present final recommendations to the Natural Resources Board for approval. For more information, search “CDAC” on the DNR website.
The Fat Bike Birkie is this weekend, Friday through Sunday, March 9-10, when snow bike riders test their skills on the American Birkebeiner Ski Trail. The event includes races, an expo, demonstration rides, a post-race party at Sawmill Saloon, and more. For more information, visit www.birkie.com/bike/events/fat-bike-birkie or call (715) 634-5025.
WWF (Wiwomenfish.com) Crappie Weekend is this Friday through Sunday, March 9-11, at Deerfoot Lodge. This is a members-only (Women Ice Angler Project) event. For information, visit www.deerfootlodge.com, or call (715) 462-3328.
Hot Air for Hearts Balloon Rally is this weekend, March 9-11, a fundraising event for the Cable Area Lions Heart Benefit. Weather permitting, crews help balloonists set up/take down balloons and may ride along during the flights. Crews schedule flights for Friday and Saturday mornings and afternoons, and for Sunday morning, as weather permits. Snowshoe races add to the excitement! During a “glow” after dark on Saturday night, spectators have a fantastic view of Lake Namakagon and 7-story high balloons illuminated from inside like giant luminary candles. For more information, visit www.lakewoodsresort.com/ or call (715) 794-2561.
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 March 5 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Washburn County says all Washburn County snowmobile trails are open and in great condition, with a base of 7-10 inches, even after a few days of warmer weather. Be aware the base might be a little slim at road crossings with a snow/dirt mixture. Always use caution on the trails, as volunteers are grooming daily to keep them in great condition!
The March 1 Hayward Power Sports trail report says trails are in good to excellent condition. Some areas are not ideal, but certainly passable, including road connectors and trails along the roadsides, and in the open in direct sunlight. There is also soft snow and/or bare spots at these areas and intersections. Wooded trails still have a base of 10-15 inches and the lakes are wonderful. When mapping your ride, look to the woods and lakes and minimize trails on or near roads.
The March 1 Travel Wisconsin trail report for the Clam Lake area says Ashland County trails are groomed and in good condition, with a base of 1-6 inches. Trail 25 north on Mineral Lake Road has some gravel – ride in this area at your own risk and use caution! Ashland County snowmobile season closes March 31, weather permitting.
The March 1 Namakagon Trail Groomers trail report says trails have a great base and are in good to very good condition, with grooming operations done in early morning. Trails are holding up well, however with warm weather the trails will likely have icy corners, bare spots on south facing areas, and the dreaded SNIRT!
The February 28 Cable area trail report says Trail 90 east between Old Grade and Federal Road is again open, but watch for logging trucks moving loads on Federal Road. Trail 15 between Club Lake Road and Camp Eight Road at the Great Divide still has heavy ice over the trail due to a spring spreading water across the trail.
The 55 miles of snowmobile trails on Flambeau River State Forest are in good condition on tree-covered areas, but with bare spots in open areas. The trails link to Tuscobia Trail and trail systems in Sawyer, Rusk, and Price counties.
Gamefish season closed at the end of the day Sunday, March 4, but panfish season remains open. Late season can offer some of the best fishing of the season when conditions allow. New fishing licenses are available, though the 2017 license is valid through Saturday, March 31.
Crappie fishing is good to very good once you locate them, but plan to be on the move to do so. Look for fish in depths to 25 feet, both suspending and around structure, and be sure to check the entire water column, from top to bottom. Downsize tackle and line and use crappie minnows, waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits for the best success.
Bluegill fishing is good in 15-25 feet in/near weeds and structure, but look for fish to move shallower. The standard bluegill fare – waxies, spikes, plastics – on small hooks, jigs, and teardrops are all productive.
Feb. 26: Cottontail rabbit season closed.
March 4: Mink trapping season closed in North Zone.
March 6: Lake sturgeon management plan public meeting; Ashland, 6 p.m. (920-303-5450).
March 11: Daylight Saving Time begins (2 a.m.) Turn clocks ahead one hour.
March 15: Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area snowshoe adventure, 11 a.m.-noon (715-463-2739).
March 18: Must remove ice fishing shelters from north of Hwy 64, Lake Superior, WI-MI boundary waters.
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 31: 2017 licenses expire.