The forecast for this week offers a wide variety of weather options (other than balmy, 70-degree days), with everything from rain to snow, sun to clouds, and temperatures ranging from single-digit nights to 40-something daytime highs. At this time, conditions look good Wednesday through Thursday for people traveling for Thanksgiving celebrations. Happy Thanksgiving!
“Most lakes have thin layers of ice,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “signaling the end of open water fishing.
“A cold front moving in a couple weeks ago brought some well below average temperatures, ice began forming in the bays, and there is good snow cover along with the cold. About the only activity on the lakes now is from cabin owners removing their docks that are stuck in the ice.
“By no means does this mean it is time to start ice fishing! The ice is not yet thick enough to walk on and is not safe. Safe walking ice occurs when it reaches three to four inches thick. Even then, no ice is ‘safe’ ice, so have a friend and equipment available with you in case of an emergency. Be patient and do not rush it – we do not need early ice (or any!) casualty reports.
“Bow deer season has been open for awhile and gun deer season opened this past Saturday, November 17. Anyone walking in the woods or on the roads should wear some orange or bright colored covering. Enjoy a safe and uneventful hunting season and have a Happy Thanksgiving!”
Erik at Hayward Bait says the woods is alive and there is still some open water, though small bays are gaining ice making momentum, and there are numerous options for outdoors enthusiasts.
“Many anglers have stored their boats for the winter, but some anglers are still getting out on big water or lakes with accessible boat landings.
“Musky anglers continue to catch fish on suckers and by trolling. Walleye anglers are catching fish on jigs and walleye suckers, and panfish anglers report success with crappie minnows on jigs and aggressively fishing plastics.
“With the cold temperatures, a few lakes are starting to freeze over and a few anglers report some small, protected bays with up to three inches of ice. It is necessary to use extreme caution on this early ice and safety is most important.
“If you decide to look for safe ice, take a friend, spud bar, life jackets, rope, ice picks, and if you have one, wear a floatation suit. If cold nights continue and highs barely break the 30s, there could be solid ice going into Thanksgiving weekend.
“There is a solid number of deer in the woods this year. Some bucks are past rut and some bucks are still chasing does. Consider using a doe in estrous scent wick, as it also makes a great cover scent.
“Grouse hunters report finding fair numbers of grouse, primarily around trees holding fruits and berries.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses guide and angler involvement in the musky PIT tag project.
“Passive Integrated Transponders (PIT tags) have become a very common and useful tool in muskellunge research and management. In Sawyer County, more than 23,000 muskellunge have received PIT tags.
“Local guides and anglers recruited to aid with recapturing tagged muskellunge received scanners. Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies Inc. generously supports this effort by purchasing tags and scanners and training members on their use.
“To date, there have been 914 recaptures of tagged muskellunge and the involvement of citizen data collectors in this project is huge. Guides and anglers have accounted for 90 of these recaptures (about 10 percent), with DNR crews accounting for the remainder during netting and shocking surveys. With more guides entering the project in 2018, it seems likely their data contribution will grow.
“The role of guides and anglers has expanded as well. Starting in 2018, five guides and anglers received permits to PIT tag the muskellunge they capture. This provides more tags in more muskies, including in locations DNR crews seldom go for surveys. In 2018, guides PIT tagged enough adult muskellunge to supplement DNR efforts by 50 percent.
“An unanticipated benefit of involving guides is an increase in very rare and valuable data on tiger muskellunge (northern pike/muskellunge hybrids). Surveys crews rarely capture tiger muskies and anglers catch them more often. Anglers contributed to two recaptures of tiger muskies in 2018 by either tagging or recapturing the fish.
“We thank the guides and anglers who have offered their time and expertise to this project.”
Ruffed grouse hunters should note the 2018 ruffed grouse season in Zone A closes Dec. 31 following the passage of an emergency rule. Emergency rules are effective for 150 days, so this early closure applies only to the 2018-19 season. This change does not affect Zone B season dates (Oct. 20 through Dec. 8), and bag limits remain five birds in Zone A and three birds in Zone B. For more information, search “ruffed grouse hunting” on the DNR website.
Each year, the Deer Donation Program donates thousands of pounds of venison to food pantries to help families in need by working through the efforts of hunters, meat processors, food pantries, and the DNR. Established in 2000, the program has since distributed more than 91,000 deer and more than 3.6 million pounds of processed venison to food pantries statewide. To donate deer, hunters should know the location of a nearby participating processor, call ahead to make sure the processor is prepared to accept the deer, and if CWD testing is necessary. For more information, including a list of participating processors and CWD sampling requirements, search “deer donation” on the DNR website.
The DNR encourages hunters of all ages who head out for their first hunt to mark the occasion with a free first harvest and/or first hunting experience certificate. Include a photograph of your special moment, along with details about the experience, to help preserve hunting memories with friends and family. Fill out information regarding when and where you harvested the animal for display on the customized certificate. The DNR sends certificates electronically within a few weeks. For more information, visit www.dnr.wi.gov/topic/hunt/firstcert.html on the DNR website.
Ice is building quickly on North Wood’s lakes, with reports of 3-4 inches in some areas, such as protected bays. However, inconsistency is common with early ice and four inches in one place can change to 1/4-inch only a few feet distant, especially with snow cover. If you “have” to go, go prepared, with a friend, and use extreme caution. While some open water remains and a few anglers continue chasing musky (season closes Nov. 30), walleye, and crappie, this is a very short-term proposition, with single-digit nights providing excellent “ice growing” conditions.
Nov. 15: Seasons closed: Fall crow; Trout, salmon fishing downstream Lake Superior tributaries (see regs).
Nov. 15: Flambeau River State Forest ATV/UTV trail system closed for season.
Nov. 16: Fall turkey season closed 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.
Dec. 1: Lake Superior lake trout season opens.
Dec. 2: Seasons close: Southern Zone duck and goose; South Exterior Zone Canada goose.
Dec. 4: Mississippi River Zone duck season closes.
Dec. 5: Muzzleloader deer season closes.
Dec. 8: Ruffed grouse season closes in Zone B.
Dec. 6-9: Antlerless-only firearms hunt.
Dec. 10: Permit application deadline: Spring turkey; Bear.
Dec. 12: Bobwhite quail season closes.
Dec. 16: Canada goose season reopens in Southern Exterior Zone.
Dec. 24-Jan. 1: Antlerless-only Holiday Hunt in farmland units (see regs).
Dec. 25: Period 1 bobcat hunting/trapping season closes.
Dec. 26: Period 2 bobcat hunting/trapping season opens north of Hwy. 64.
Dec. 31: Seasons close: Frog; Ruffed grouse in Zone A (Northern Zone) under emergency rule (not in printed regs).
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.