By: Steve Suman
The forecast through Christmas includes highs in the 20 and lows in the teens. There are chances of a “major” snowstorm moving through the area starting Wednesday evening, followed by dropping temperatures and lows in the single digits to start the New Year.
“We had a bit of a thaw last week,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “but cold nights kept ice thickness the same.
“Most area lakes have 6-12 inches of ice and some offer snowmobile and ATV opportunities, but they are still not suitable for vehicle traffic, and as always, it is important to take safety precautions.
“The lakes are providing some good fishing and there is a noticeable increase in the number of portable shelters.
“Anglers using tip-ups with shiners and suckers are catching northern pike, bass, and an occasional walleye. It is important to check tip-ups often to chip ice away from the holes and get the minnows moving again. Please release the big fish and remember the importance of selective harvest on the fishery’s future.
“Panfish anglers report good success, with most fish coming from areas near vegetation in 10-16 feet. Use small jigs and tip them with crappie minnows, waxies, and soft plastics. The fish do move, so it is important to stay mobile. Cameras and/or electronics are definitely of benefit in finding fish.”
Erik at Hayward Bait says ice conditions are solid, with depths ranging from 6-10 inches, and fishing is exceptional.
“Walleye anglers are having success both jigging and using tip-ups, with most action during early morning and last light evening hours. For jigging, tip jigs with fatheads or minnow heads. For tip-up fishing, use medium shiners and walleye suckers.
“Northern pike anglers are getting fish, too. Look just off weed beds and points in 6-10 feet. Northern suckers and large shiners are the favored baits.
“Crappie and bluegill fishing is good, with anglers finding action in deeper basins. Small tungsten jigs tipped with waxies, spikes, and plastics is still the favorite presentation.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses wood habitat for brook trout.
“Readers of this column have seen plenty of instances where I have highlighted the benefits of woody habitat in both lakes and streams – and a recent study out of Vermont adds to our understanding of how fish populations benefit from that kind of habitat.
“Researchers worked on a river previously logged and used for log drives (as were many Wisconsin rivers). These activities significantly changed the habitat in the river, including leaving very little woody habitat present for fish.
“The researchers chose to add wood in both control and treatment sites. Surveys performed before and after the wood addition revealed that adding wood improved the brook trout population. Areas where researchers added wood showed a three-fold increase in trout biomass. Areas where they did not add wood showed similar biomass. This indicated that trout did not simply move into the areas with wood and increases in treatment areas were in fact a result of the habitat change.
“Maintaining wood in rivers can be challenging, as it can lead to large debris piles and at times difficult navigation for canoers and kayakers. However, studies such as these indicate fish populations respond positively when seeing a return of woody habitat to pre-logging levels.”
The 2019 state park admission stickers and trail passes are now on sale and state properties will honor them through the remainder of 2018. The stickers and passes make excellent Christmas gifts outdoor enthusiasts can use throughout the year. Admission stickers cost $28 for residents and $38 for nonresidents. Households registering more than one vehicle can purchase additional stickers for $15.50 for residents and $20.50 for nonresidents. Residents 65 and older can purchase senior citizen annual stickers for $13. Annual trail passes cost $25 for residents and nonresidents. For more information, search “sticker” on the DNR website.
Now (before the snow finally starts falling!) is the time to order your new annual Wisconsin snowmobile trail pass (as well as make sure your snowmobile registration is current). Wisconsin requires an annual snowmobile trail pass to operate on all public snowmobile trails for snowmobiles registered in the state. Please note the DNR sends all snowmobile trail passes – including those ordered at license agent locations – by U.S. Mail. Two types of trail passes are available. For snowmobile owners who currently belong to a Wisconsin snowmobile club affiliated with the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs (AWSC), a $10 discounted annual Wisconsin trail pass is available and members may order passes through the AWSC website (www.awsc.org). For snowmobile owners who are not members of snowmobile clubs affiliated with the AWSC, the annual trail pass costs $30 ($50 nonresident) and is available online or at any DNR license vendor. Until you receive your pass, a temporary trail use receipt issued at the time of sale allows legal operation on snowmobile trails. Snowmobile registration renewal is also available online. If your registration expires June 30, 2019, renew after April 1 to get full use of the three-year registration.
The DNR is seeking nominations for its annual Wisconsin DNR Hunter Ethics Award for an ethical action that took place during the 2018 Wisconsin hunting season. The nomination submission deadline is January 15. Anyone – hunters and non-hunters alike – can nominate a licensed Wisconsin hunter for the award. A four-person committee considers nominations for any DNR-regulated hunting activity and selects the person most deserving of the award, focusing on singular actions or events rather than long-term programs. An eligible nominee must be a licensed resident or nonresident Wisconsin hunter and the ethical hunting act must have occurred in Wisconsin during the 2018 calendar year. For more information, search “Hunter Ethics Award” on the DNR website.
Ice conditions continue to improve with the cold night temperatures and lack of snow, and ice depths now range from 6-10 inches and more. However, these depths can vary significantly in short distances on lakes, so use extreme caution and check as you go. Anglers and others are taking snowmobiles and ATVs/UTVs on the ice, but the ice is not yet thick enough or consistent enough for vehicles. Use common sense and do not take unnecessary risks. Anglers should check with their favorite bait shop for the most current ice and fishing information for both their safety and fishing success.
Walleye anglers are enjoying good success, with best action in early morning hours and late afternoon into dark. Set up around weeds and weed beds in depths from 5-12 feet, using tip-ups with walleye suckers and shiners, or try jigs with fatheads or fathead heads, jigging spoons, Jigging Raps, and rattle baits.
Northern pike action is very good in, on, and around the edges of weeds, weed beds, and points in depths to 12 feet. Tip-ups with northern suckers and large shiners remain the most productive offering.
Crappie fishing is good to very good for anglers who can locate and stick with them as they move. Concentrate on areas with vegetation in 10-20 feet and deep holes. Best success is with crappie minnows, waxies, and plastics.
Bluegill fishing is good when you can find and stay on the fish, as with crappies. Look for them around weeds and weed beds in 8-18 feet, as well in deeper holes. The most productive presentations include small tungsten jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks tipped with waxies, spikes, and plastics. Try small minnows for larger ‘gills in deeper water.
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; (not in printed regs); Muskellunge in Southern Zone.
Jan. 5: Pat’s Landing 7th Annual Tipper Tourney on the Chippewa Flowage (715-945-2511).
Jan. 6: Seasons close: Fall turkey in zones 1-5; Fisher trapping; Pheasant; Hungarian partridge.
Jan. 6: Early catch-and-release only trout season opens statewide (see regs).
Jan. 8: Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies, Inc. meeting at Flat Creek Eatery, 7 p.m. (715-634-4543).
Jan. 18: Crow season opens statewide.
Jan. 31: Seasons close: Bobcat hunting/trapping Period 2; Squirrel (gray and fox).
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.