December 10, 2018
Hayward Lakes Area Outdoor Report
The extended forecast (for what it is worth) shows highs in the low 30s for this week and next, with few chances of precipitation. The following two weeks indicate highs in the low to mid 20s, also with few expectations for precipitation. This will continue through much of January, with indications of some days in the 30s during the month.
“Now that we are into December,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “it appears we are in for a long, productive ice fishing season. There are safe walking ice conditions on several lakes, but always use caution, and we are still a long way from heavy vehicle traffic. Stories of vehicles breaking through first-ice never fail to amaze and vehicles have already broken through some Wisconsin lakes.
“In this area, lakes have 6-8 inches of ice, but deeper lakes with larger water volume will not be as safe, so again, use caution. Right now, small to mid-size shallower lakes are most suitable for safe ice fishing on foot and often the most productive lakes this time of year.
“Walleyes are showing up in the late afternoon into past dark – and please be selective if taking some fish for a meal. Northern pike and bass are moving during the daytime hours.
“Anglers fishing around weeds in 10-18 feet report good success catching nice mixes of panfish and occasional predator fish. Crappies seem to be a later afternoon bite, but are here and there throughout the day. Tip-ups are seeing lots of action in shallower water near shorelines. A good presentation is a 1/32-oz. jig tipped with a crappie minnow or a couple waxies. A nice set-up is a jigging-stick hole and next to it a dead-stick hole with a crappie minnow under a float fished 1/4 of the way up off the bottom.”
Erik at Hayward Bait says anglers are getting on the ice, with many lakes having at least a solid 4 inches or more of ice and some with up to 8 inches.
“Still, on any new body of water you decide to get on, err on the side of caution. With the low over-night temperatures, anglers should start to have a larger variety of lakes to ice fish.
“Walleye anglers should look for steep breaklines and points close to deep water and set tips-ups with small shiners or walleye suckers, and jigging can be extremely effective for walleyes in the early ice time of year. Jigging Raps, Hyper Glides, and other various styles of spoons work quite well, and try tipping these jigging lures with fathead minnow heads to seal the deal on walleye.
“Northern pike are fairly active and many anglers report some success just off weed edges fishing large shiners or northern suckers under tip-ups.
“Many anglers are chasing panfish and the fish are providing a solid bite. Panfish anglers are finding both crappies and bluegills as shallow as 16 feet to as deep as 26 feet.
“Schooled panfish tend to move often, so the key to success is to drill holes and keep moving. Tungsten jigs tipped with plastics and/or waxies and spikes are the baits of choice.”
Mike at Jenk’s says the Chippewa Flowage ice depth is about 7 inches.
“A few northern pike anglers say there is a decent pike bite on the west side, primarily on shiners, with the bays of Chief Lake offering the most action.
“The crappie bite is ‘okay,’ but as of yet there are no feeding frenzies, with crappie minnows and tungsten jigs the most popular presentations. Most action reports are from Scott Lake, although Pine Point and Moore’s Bay are also always popular spots this time of year.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses ice fishing walleye mortality.
“A new study conducted in Canada sheds light on a topic that worries many Wisconsin anglers: What is the mortality of walleyes released by ice fishing anglers? To answer that question, researchers caught fish through the ice using a variety of angling methods and released them into an underwater pen to track their survival.
“Researchers noted that anglers using active methods (jigging) were less likely to hook fish deeply, which improved survival odds. Anglers catching walleyes with passive methods (tip-ups) were more likely to hook fish deeply. Overall mortality of released fish was slightly less than 7 percent.
“The researchers determined hook type did not make a difference in survival odds, nor did the depth of the fish or the air temperature at the time of the catch. Cutting the line on deeply hooked fish, as opposed to removing the hook, appeared to improve survival, but the result was not statistically significant.
“Results from the study show catch and release mortality on walleyes caught through the ice is generally low, but there are things anglers can do, by modifying the methods they use, to improve survival of released fish. This might be particularly important on lakes with slot limits or lakes where you expect to catch many walleyes smaller than the minimum size limit.”
If you cannot sleep Thursday and Friday nights Dec. 13-14, get out of bed, wander outside, and if the sky is clear, view the peak of the Geminid meteor shower, according to the American Meteor Society. The Geminid is currently the most dependable meteor shower and would be more popular if it peaked in August – cold weather puts a damper on viewing interest. Meteor activity is impressive for several nights prior to the peak, but drops quickly after December 14. There are periods when there is little activity, but during other periods, meteors fall constantly and observers might see up to 120 multi-colored meteors per hour. For more information, visit the American Meteor Society (www.amsmeteors.org).
Anglers are on the ice, with walking the wise and safest choice, even with reports of a few taking ATV/UTVs and, in some cases, vehicles. Again, the safe and wise choice is walking – ice depth reports range from 4-8 inches and you should definitely check the thickness as you go. On your way to the lake, stop at your favorite bait and tackle shop for the most current reports on ice conditions and fishing information.
Walleye fishing is best in late afternoon into after dark, with daytime fishing okay during overcast days. Concentrate on weedlines and weed edges, breaklines, and points adjacent to deeper water. Best success is coming on walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups, though jigging spoons tipped with fathead heads are also producing good action.
Northern pike fishing is good in/on weeds and weed edges during the day, with shiners and northern suckers under tip-ups the baits of choice.
Crappie fishing is fair to good, with late afternoon offering the best action. Work weed areas in depths from 6-28 feet, with plans to be mobile – you have to move to stay on the fish. Use jigs tipped with crappie minnows, waxies, and plastics suspended under a small float suspending the bait just off the bottom – but search the entire water column!
Bluegills are hitting throughout the day, but better in late afternoon hours. Look for weeds and cover in about the same depths as for crappie – 6-28 feet – and use jigs tipped with waxies, spikes, and plastics.
Dec. 12: Bobwhite quail season closes.
Dec. 16: “Chilly” Cook-off and Winter Beer Bar.
Dec. 24-Jan. 1: Antlerless-only Holiday Hunt in farmland units (see regs).
Jan. 6: Seasons close: Fall turkey in zones 1-5; Fisher; Pheasant; Hungarian partridge.
Jan. 18: Crow season opens statewide.
Jan. 31: Seasons close: Bobcat hunting/trapping Period 2; Squirrel (gray and fox) statewide.