by: Steve Suman
Spring arrived in the North Woods, but apparently went into hiding! More than a foot of snow fell on the Hayward area this past Saturday, followed by an Easter Sunday morning low of near zero. The current forecast says two storm systems moving in late Monday afternoon/night through Tuesday could drop another 8 inches or more of accumulation.
“Lake ice remains solid at 20-25 inches,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “but ice fishing has had some very limited participation.
“Anglers who do venture out report somewhat moderate success, picking up some crappies in deeper holes, as well as finding some perch just off shallow weeds. The baits of choice include crappie minnows and waxies, with the better bite seeming to occur in the afternoon hours into dusk.
“Travel on the lakes can be difficult, as the snow has compacted due to some melting, leaving a crust on the top. If you break though, you could find yourself standing in a foot of snow and water. Snowshoes will help you traverse the lake, but otherwise stay on the beaten paths or trail.
“The new 2018-19 fishing regulations are now available. The most notable change is that the ‘temporary’ trolling regulations in effect during the past years are now permanent trolling rules. Be sure to check what new regulations apply to the county or counties you intend to fish.
“The new inland gamefish season opens May 5, but until that time, renew your fishing license (the old licenses expired!), check your equipment, and repair and/or replace as necessary.”
Erik at Hayward Bait says there is still plenty of ice on Hayward area lakes.
“It looks as if ice season could extend well into mid-April, but anglers should use caution on lakes with flowing water, such as a river coming in or exiting. Overall, conditions vary from lake to lake as to whether a lake has a lot of slush, minimal slush, or no slush at all.
“Anglers chasing crappies are finding active fish, as well as some slight, beginning signs of staging fish. Look for those active crappies as shallow as 12 feet, with some anglers catching fish 3-5 feet just below the ice. Keep moving to keep on top of the crappie schools, dropping smaller spoons or jigs tipped with waxies, spikes, and crappie minnows. For active fish, panfish plastics can usually seal the deal.
“Bluegill anglers are finding the most success just off weed edges and flats. Many of these fish are very active, yet the bite can vary from a light bite to a hard-hitting one on a day-to-day basis. Try fishing smaller jigs tipped with waxies and spikes, or try small panfish spoons for the real active fish. Drill holes in 12-18 feet of water and if you are not on active fish, keep moving and drilling more holes.
“Lake Superior tributaries and the lower Brule River opened for steelhead fishing March 31, but you might want to take your snowshoes!
“If you are not interested in getting on the ice, keep in mind the general fishing opener is coming soon and this is a good time to start going through rods and reels, installing new line, and rigging boats.
“Spring turkey season is also starting in a couple of weeks and hunters should start preparations by going through and checking their various calls, decoys, ammo, camo, and shotguns.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses musky age and trophy potential.
“Anglers across North America value muskellunge as a trophy species – and a combination of factors determine if a fish is able to achieve trophy size. A study by Dr. John Casselman presented at the 2016 Muskellunge Symposium in Minnesota detailed how conditions that lead to creation of trophy muskies have changed over time.
“Harvest of muskellunge was once the norm. Since fish were not living as long, this led to populations of smaller average size and lower average age. In the late 1970s, the age of trophy muskellunge (obtained from examining fish sent to taxidermists) averaged around 10 years. Today, trophy muskies average around 15 years old, but that is just an average. The maximum age of trophy muskellunge is typically between 25-30 years.
“Of course, the biggest muskies will be the ones that are able to live the longest, meaning that limiting mortality is a key management goal for creating trophy fish.
“Since the 1990s, musky anglers have practiced catch and release nearly universally, leading to reductions in muskellunge mortality as well as being responsible for creating fisheries with older fish and a bigger average size. However, even with catch and release, an estimated 16-26 percent of trophy muskellunge die of natural causes each year.
“Muskies are not immortal, after all, and even by giving them a hand through catch and release, it takes a special fish to live for 30 years.”
The Hayward Area High School Bass Team is holding an organizational meeting Tuesday, April 3, starting at 6 p.m., at Loggers Mill Restaurant and Bar. This meeting is to recruit boat captains, substitutes, and other adult helpers to get the team off the ground and running this year. If you are curious about how it is all going to work or even if you are on the fence about being able to commit any time to the team, please come to the meeting. For any questions you have about the team prior to the meeting, contact John Prickette at (715) 699-5160, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The DNR is holding two public master plan meetings and open houses, Tuesday April 24 in Ashland and Wednesday April 25 in Spooner, with both meetings running from 5-7 p.m. People attending these meetings have the opportunity to learn more about and submit comments on the DNR’s regional master plans for the Superior Coastal Plain, Northwest Sands, and Northwest Lowlands landscapes. These areas fall in portions of Polk, Burnett, Washburn, Sawyer, Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland, and Iron counties. A master plan establishes the level and type of resource management and public use permitted on DNR-managed properties. Under the process, DNR staff develop a plan for all properties located within a defined region. The Natural Resources Board (NRB) approved this planning process at its June 2017 board meeting. For more information, search “master planning” on the DNR website and select the landscape of interest. The public comment period is open through April 16.
This coming Monday, April 9, the DNR will host the spring fish and wildlife hearing and Conservation Congress county meetings in every county in the state. The Sawyer County meeting is at Winter High School. All meetings start at 7 p.m. People attending these hearings and meetings have the opportunity to provide their input on advisory questions covering fish and wildlife management, fishing, hunting, and trapping seasons, and regulations that might lead to future rule changes. The Natural Resources Board (NRB) is also seeking input on various proposals. For more information, and to view the 2018 questionnaire, search “spring hearings” on the DNR website.
Here’s the final reminder that 2017-18 fishing licenses expired this past Saturday, March 31, so get your new license now so you are ready for the 2018 inland gamefish season opener Saturday, May 5 (whether or not snow and ice cover the lakes!) Speaking of which, ice conditions remain good for ice anglers, though access and travel on the lakes can present a challenge due to snow accumulations and slush.
Crappie fishing is good, with fish near weeds or suspending out to about 25 feet. Be sure to check the entire water column – fish can be on the bottom or just below the ice. Move with the schools and the best action is in later afternoon until dark. Bait choices include crappie minnows, rosy reds, waxies, spikes, and plastics fished on teardrops, small jigs and spoons, and plain hooks.
Bluegill fishing is fair off flats, weed edges, and structure out to about 20 feet. Best baits include small jigs and teardrops tipped with waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits. Smaller can be better – downsize for more action.
Perch action is fair to good, with fish just off shallower weeds and on deeper soft bottoms, hitting crappie minnows, fatheads, waxies, spikes, and plastics.
March 31: 2017 licenses expired.
April 15: Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum opens (715-634-4440).
April 15 through July 31: Illegal to run unleashed dogs 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