by: Steve Suman
This week’s cool, dry start should continue through the week, with highs rising through Friday, followed by another cooling trend. However, with so many recreational opportunities in the North Woods during the brief fall season, do not waste time worrying about the weather!
“Despite cool temperatures and rain, anglers reported some success last week,” says Pat at Happy Hooker.
“Musky anglers are finding some success and this is arguably the best time of year to target muskies with live bait and it out-fished artificials by 3:1 last week. A good tactic is dragging a sucker while casting and retrieving artificials near the sucker in case there are follows.
“Both northern pike and largemouth bass are very active in the shallows, just off weed edges and drop-offs, in the later afternoon hours. Casting spinnerbaits and plastics continues to be a good bet.
“Crappie anglers are making some nice catches fishing crappie minnows under bobbers or vertically jigging minnows and tube jigs. The crappies are in a roaming mode so it is important to find them using electronics.”
Mike at Jenk’s says the Chippewa Flowage remains at full pool, with water temperatures in the high 40 to low 50s.
“Musky action is solid on suckers and trolling, in that order. When fishing suckers, target areas in 5-10 feet with baitfish and cast Bull Dawgs, Suicks, Warlocks, and similar baits. If fish follow, but do not hit, they might hit the sucker. Troll off deep breaklines with Mattlocks, Jakes, Grandmas, and Crane baits, using electronics to find baitfish and trolling baits through the baitfish clouds.
“There were few walleye reports last week, but with cooling temperatures we are heading toward the late fall pattern. Try holes in 25-30 feet with walleye suckers on Lindy Rigs with fluorocarbon leaders (4-8 feet). Jigging Raps also work, but Lindy Rigs are your best bet.
“Crappie anglers are catching fish in 10-12 feet. Spot fish with your electronics and then use crappie minnows, Mini-Mites, and Gulp! baits.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies Inc. fall tournament.
“The Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies Inc. hosted its annual fall musky tournament October 5-7, with anglers fishing the most popular Hayward area musky lakes. The Chapter was kind enough to share records of all fish caught in this tournament since 1987 and we can put this year’s results into context with fish anglers caught in past tournaments.
“In 2018, 475 anglers brought in 67 fish. That did not set a record for most fish (that would be 104 fish in 2010) or highest catch per angler (also 2010, followed closely by 2017).
“This year did set several size records, though biggest fish was not one of them. That record still stands at 51.5 inches, achieved in 1988, 1993, and 1995. However, 2018 marked only the second time anglers caught two 50-inch fish in the same year (a 50.5 and a 50.0) and this year had the highest ever average of the three biggest fish (49.75 inches).
“When looking at all fish registered this year, the total average size was a record as well, eclipsing 40 inches for the first time in the history of the contest (40.1 inches was the technical average). The previous highest average was 39.5 inches set in 2012.
“In addition, this year’s tournament saw the highest ever proportion of fish more than 40 inches, with 46 percent surpassing that mark (the previous record was 42 percent in 2008).
“It has been fun to follow this event through the years and see how our musky fisheries have changed. It is also important to recognize the incredible hard work that the club does to put on this event. Funds raised by the tournament go back into a wide range of excellent natural resource and youth related projects.”
Grouse hunters should note the 2018 ruffed grouse season in Zone A now closes Dec. 31 – and the printed regulations do not reflect this change. This does not affect the Oct. 20 through Dec. 8 season dates for Zone B. Bag limits remain five birds in Zone A and three birds in Zone B.
The Wisconsin State Park system is changing to a new reservation provider beginning December 17. The new company, Camis USA, awarded the contract through the competitive bidding process, currently operates state park reservation systems for Michigan, Maryland, and Washington. Reservations booked through the current provider, Reserve America, will transfer to the new system and customers will receive email confirmation of their reservations. Under the new system, users pay $7.75 to make a reservation, compared to the current cost of $9.65, and campers can make reservations for sites up to 11 months in advance.
Flambeau River State Forest allows “traditional deer camps” in designated areas throughout the forest during the nine-day gun deer season. For more information, call (715) 332-5271 (before the Oct. 31 deadline). Lake of the Pines Campground is open through Dec. 15, but Connors Lake Campground closed for the season. The forest also manages 14 river sites, with up to three camping units at each site that include a picnic table, fire ring, and toilet facilities.
Brule River State Forest has a new online video, “Welcome to the Brule River,” that includes some gorgeous views of the forest, river, and Lake Superior shoreline. The four-minute video also contains some important information about paddling the river. A new bridge is in the works on the Coyote Loop of the snowshoe trail. There is more work to do, but things will wrap up just in time for the upcoming snowshoe season.
There is still time for anglers of all skill levels to register for the Ladies’ Musky Fishing School Oct 19-21 at Deerfoot Lodge & Resort. Instruction covers necessary gear, baitcasting basics, fishing handling, strike-triggering techniques, fly-fishing for muskies, and on-water fishing time. The course fee is $60 per angler. For more information, visit www.deerfootlodgeresort.com or contact Amanda Wilson (608) 215-7397; email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Musky fishing is good to very good, with most anglers reporting some degree of success. Look from shallow to deeper water, around weeds, baitfish, and off breaklines. Live suckers on quick-strike rigs produces the most consistent action, but trolling stickbaits works well, too, and anglers casting lures are catching a few fish. Combine casting baits such as jerkbaits, rubber baits, and gliders with sucker fishing to improve your odds for success.
Walleye anglers are not currently out in force for whatever reason (frustration?), but the fish are still in the lakes. Concentrate on deep holes and drop-offs out to 30 feet, fishing walleye suckers on jigs or Lindy Rigs with fluorocarbon leaders, or try Jigging Raps and jigging spoons.
Northern pike action is good as fish continue to cruise shallow weeds, weed edges, drop-offs, and any areas holding concentrations of panfish. Best success is in later afternoon once sunshine warms shallower water. The most productive offerings include spinners, spinnerbaits, spoons, swim baits, and plastics, but it is hard to beat minnows and northern suckers under bobbers.
Largemouth bass are still in mid-depth to shallow weeds and other cover and on the edges of drop-offs. As with pike, the best action is in late afternoon after the sun warms the water. Plastics, spinners, spinnerbaits, and live bait will all catch fish.
Smallmouth bass fishing is good on deeper weeds, weedlines, and hard bottom humps and bars containing a mix of rock and weeds. Best baits include soft plastics, crankbaits, and walleye suckers in various presentations.
Crappie fishing is fair, though some anglers are doing quite well at times. Locating fish with electronics can go a long way toward making for a successful trip. Look for fish around weeds out to 18 feet and once you find them plan on moving to stay with the school. Crappie minnows, tube jigs, plastics, Mini-Mites, and Gulp! baits are all catching fish, whether fished under slip bobbers or vertically jigged.
Bluegill fishing is good when you find them in and along weeds and weed edges. Baits of choice include waxies, worms, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs and teardrops, and small minnows often work well for bigger ‘gills.
Oct. 14: Trapping seasons opened: Coyote; Fisher (see regs).
Oct. 15: Inland trout season closed (see regs).
Oct. 20: Seasons open: Pheasant; Ruffed grouse in zone B; Sharp-tailed grouse (by permit); Bobwhite quail; Hungarian partridge; Cottontail rabbit; Raccoon gun and trapping (resident); Red and gray fox hunting and trapping; Bobcat hunting and trapping Period 1 north of Hwy. 64 (see regs).
Oct. 28: Seasons open: Muskrat; Mink (see regs).
Nov. 1: Wild ginseng season closes.
Nov. 3: Seasons open: Beaver trapping; Otter trapping.
Nov. 5: Woodcock season closes (see regs).
Nov. 15: Seasons close: Fall crow; Trout, salmon fishing downstream Lake Superior tributaries (see regs).
Nov. 16: Fall turkey season closes in zones 6, 7.
Nov. 17-25: Regular gun deer season.
Nov. 27: Duck season closes in north zone.
Nov. 26: Muzzleloader deer season opens.
Nov. 29: Mourning dove season closes.
Nov. 30: Seasons close: Muskellunge; Turtle.
For more information on area events and activities, visit the Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau website, view its Calendar of Events, or call 800-724-2992.