By: Steve Suman
One week ago, the Hayward area was dealing with 20 inches of blowing snow. Now, with 65 degrees Monday and an extended forecast showing 60- to 70-degree highs in the next few weeks, it appears spring is (finally!) here for good. The sun and warm temperatures may or may not be enough to melt lake ice for the May 5 gamefish opener, but the weather is certainly moving in the right direction!
“This has been the April of our cold discontent,” says Pat at Happy Hooker. “The impacts of frigid weather this month will last well into May, with expectations of near-record late ice-outs.
“This spring is shaping up similar to those of 2013 and 2014, with some of the latest ice-outs ever across the state, but this year might even be later. The first 12 days of April were bone-chilling cold, averaging 23 degrees, a full 10-15 degrees below normal. The first 12 days of March were warmer, with an average of 25 degrees!
“In some areas, through mid-April, ice anglers continue to report virtually no ice melt. At this point, many lakes remain covered in snow that reflects sunshine and protects the ice from rotting.
“If you plan to fish open-water lakes come the May 5 gamefish opener – that is less than two weeks away – you may want to be flexible on where and how you plan to fish. Maybe try a river – or bring an auger!
“The good news is that we do have some melting now and the 10-day forecast says temperatures will rise into the 50s and even into the 60s, with lots of sunshine. However, that is short of the number of days required to melt the snow and ice in earnest. A few days ago, a friend said it would take about 27 days of these higher temperatures, along with some rain, to rid the lakes of ice, and he predicted about May 16. What is your guess?”
“The anglers who are getting on the ice report decent success. Most of the anglers are targeting crappie and bluegill and say the fish are starting to push shallow. Use caution and definitely be aware, as ice conditions are starting to change.
“A few anglers who are now hitting the rivers and streams for suckers and redhorse report some success and crawlers will get the job done.
“There are also success reports coming in from anglers fishing the Brule River. The bite is sporadic, but anglers are catching some good fish. Spawn, flies, and hard baits can all produce some action.
“Turkey season is now open and hunters are taking a few birds. They report there is a little gobbling and strutting going on and things should really fire up with this warming weather.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses how long it takes fish eggs to hatch.
“Very soon, many species of Wisconsin fish will be spawning and dropping fertilized eggs along the beds of the lakes – and DNR hatchery crews will be on the water collecting eggs to bring back to hatcheries for rearing. Governor Thompson Hatchery foreman Phil Neubich sheds some light on how long it will take for these eggs to hatch.
‘On average, it takes walleye eggs 14 days to hatch out and 16 days for musky eggs. However, at the hatchery we have the unique ability to speed up or slow down this process, the incubation period, by either warming up or cooling down the water temperatures.’
“According to Neubich, water temperature is one of the most important factors determining how long it takes eggs to hatch.
‘Warmer than normal temperatures will increase egg development and cause the eggs to hatch out quicker and usually with a higher hatching percentage. Colder than normal water temperatures will delay or slow down egg development, resulting in a longer period for eggs to hatch. Colder water temperatures also tend to result in lower hatching percentages. Eggs are very susceptible to fungus and the longer the incubation period is the greater the chance for fungus growth to occur and kill the eggs.’
“While Governor Thompson Hatchery reports a 75 percent hatching rate for walleye eggs, hatching success in the wild varies considerably based on numerous factors, but is often reported to be between 30-50 percent.”
The 34th Annual Treeland Challenge catch and release bass and walleye tournament is May 11-13 on the Chippewa Flowage. The event offers thousands of dollars in contest and drawing prizes. Walleye and bass division prizes are (for each division) First Place $1,000; Second Place $600; and Third Place $300. Winners also receive an embroidered trophy jacket. Door prizes, drawn daily, include Elk River and St. Croix fishing rods and Cabela’s gift certificates. Every walleye and largemouth bass an angler registers and releases will earn that angler another chance to win. The Grand Prize drawing is for $2,000 in the Adult Division and a G. Loomis rod w/Shimano reel in the youth division. Entry fees (after April 15) are $95/single, $160/with spouse, and $25/per child (17 years of age or younger) w/parent. For more information, visit www.treelandresorts.com or call (715) 462-3874).
The Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies, Inc. invites the public to attend its meeting Tuesday, May 1, starting at 7 p.m., at Flat Creek Eatery in Hayward. Admission is free. Featured speaker DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter will highlight recent musky stocking, the PIT tag project, a new skin and scale sampling project to learn more about the genetics of the local musky populations, and other musky matters. Anyone who is interested in becoming a new member of Muskies Inc. can purchase a half-price membership at the meeting. For more information, call Mike Persson (715) 634-4543.
Area lakes still have considerable ice depths and some anglers continue to have success in their pursuit of crappie and bluegill. Sunshine and warm temperatures (and some rain and wind) could take out much of the ice between now and the May 5 gamefish opener, but plan for the best (open water) and prepare for the “not best” (i.e., an ice fishing opener!)
April 30: Seasons close: Beaver and otter trapping in North Zone.
May 4: Early catch and release trout season closes.
May 4: “State of the Chippewa Flowage” DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter presentation, 8 p.m., Deerfoot Lodge.
May 5: Frog season opens.
May 5: “Fishing” presentation by Frank Pratt at Weiss Community Library (715-634-2161).
May 10-13: 34th Annual Treeland Challenge bass and walleye release tournament (715-462-3874).
May 26: Muskellunge season opens north of Highway 10.
May 18-19: Fishing Has No Boundaries Hayward Annual Event.
May 23: Fishing Has No Boundaries Kids Day at Nelson Lake.
Through July 31: Illegal to allow unleashed dogs to run on DNR lands and FWPAs (see regs for exceptions).
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