by: Steve Suman
This week’s forecast predicts some snow, temperatures significantly below average, and wind chill concerns all week. If you intend to enjoy some outdoor recreation, dress appropriately, go prepared, and use good sense! A slight warming trend begins the first of February and continues through the month (so “they” say).
“The bite was up and down last week due to weather changes,” says Pat at Happy Hooker. “Now we have the onset of some real winter weather and unless you have a shelter, ice fishing will be more difficult.
“Ice conditions have not changed much in the last two weeks, though some areas have slightly thicker ice. Most lakes now have vehicle traffic, but use caution, as always.
“Lately, the time of day is most important for the bite, which appears to be late afternoon into dusk. Walleye anglers are catching a few fish at dusk and it is important to spread out the tip-ups. Northern pike and bass anglers are taking some fish during daylight hours.
“Panfish anglers are catching fish in shallower, less-pressured areas having vegetation and transitioning to deeper basins. Small jigs and spoons tipped with minnows, waxies, and plastics are taking fish. If you cannot find fish willing bite it is time to change locations.”
Erik at Hayward Bait says ice conditions remain great, ranging from 11-14 inches.
“Walleye anglers using a ‘run and gun’ approach are still having success. If that is not your preferred method, try a good spread of tip-ups with fluorocarbon leaders, small treble hooks, and walleye suckers suspended just off the bottom. Jigging is still very effective, with flutter and rattle spoons tipped with minnow heads in 22-27 feet ideal at this time.
“Northern pike anglers are finding good success in 6-12 feet fishing tip-ups with northern suckers and quick strike rigs with large shiners.
“The panfish bite is steady, with anglers finding fish in 22-28 feet in some lakes and roaming fish in lakes with deeper basins. Tungsten jigs get down quickly, especially to panfish in deeper water, but do not overlook lead jigs if the bite becomes difficult. Lead gives more flutter and a slower fall when jigging. Tip your jigs with crappie minnows, waxies, and spikes.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses possession limits and pickled fish.
“It is important for anglers to understand the concept of bag and possession limits.
“Your bag limit is the number of fish you can harvest in a given day. Your possession limit is the number of fish you can control, which includes the total number of all fish in your livewell, fridge, freezer, fish basket on the dock, etc.
“In Wisconsin, possession limits for fish are typically twice the statewide daily bag limit for the species, but how do possession limits apply to fish preserved via canning or pickling? In the past, I have heard different answers from wardens on this topic.
“Recently, warden Tom Heisler made the effort to research if preserved (e.g., pickled) fish count towards a possession limit. The statute reads as follows: ‘Possession limit means the maximum number of game species that a person may possess at-large and includes all game stored or controlled by a person, regardless of the proximity to the location of storage. Note: Frozen, canned, or otherwise preserved or processed game remain in the possession of an individual until consumed or gifted to another.’
“This is important for anglers to know, especially if they had previously heard pickled fish do not count towards possession (something I previously believed myself). As noted, gifted fish do not count towards possession, so this can be a viable way for anglers to share their catch with others who appreciate it and help stay under their possession limits.”
According to DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter, the 2019 Sawyer County Fisheries Forum is February 7, at Hayward High School Auditorium, starting at 6 p.m. This annual event offers discussion of local fisheries issues, information on DNR fisheries projects, and gives anglers an opportunity to bring issues to the DNR.
Wolter will offer a presentation on the work the Hayward fisheries crew did throughout the past year. He will provide updates on the LCO pike removal project, Namekagon River fish surveys, creation of fishing trails on the Chippewa Flowage, and more, with short videos highlighting these projects.
A portion of the meeting will allow people to visit various stations to discuss topics of special interest including habitat projects, stocking, surveys, youth fishing opportunities, regulations, and law enforcement.
“The new format provides a better opportunity for people to share what is on their mind and how we can improve their fishing experiences. If you are interested in fishing in the Hayward area, this is absolutely the place to be Feb. 7!”
SNOWMOBILE TRAIL REPORT
The DNR reminds snowmobilers to make sure their snowmobile has a current registration and displays a valid snowmobile trail pass. Wisconsin requires a trail pass to operate on all public snowmobile trails. You can order trail passes online, as well as renew registrations.
The January 21 Cable area trail report says there is a base of 2-4 inches and Namakagon Trail Groomers groomed all trails Sunday. Conditions are fair to good. Drummond Sno-Jacks report trails in good condition and groomed except #4 to Sanborn due to lack of snow. The area expects 1-3 inches of snow through Tuesday night, with 18 degrees the high in the next 10 days.
The January 21 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Washburn County says trails are fair to poor, with a base of 1-4 inches. Open trails include #8 east to Sawyer County and west to Burnett County, and #35 from Minong north to Douglas County. All other Washburn County trails are closed.
The January 18 Travel Wisconsin trail report for the Clam Lake area says the base is 0-8 inches, with all trails open except from Marengo north to the east end of Ashland. There is a posted detour on Hwy 77 by Cayuga. Groomers are grooming from Marengo south.
The January 17 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Bayfield County says the trail base is 3-12 inches and conditions highly variable, with hard bases and icy conditions. Some trails have minimal grooming. Be wary of low branches, downed trees, and similar hazards. Stay on trails and be prepared to turn around or find an alternate route.
The January 17 Hayward Power Sports trail report says trail conditions are surprisingly good, with the best areas the Flowage north, Moose Lake, Seeley Hills, Cable, Lake Namakagon, and beyond. There are some icy corners and some thin/bare spots near roads, but many trails, especially wooded ones, are snow covered, flat, and smooth. The ATV/UTV trails are open and it is rare when you can enjoy both at the same time in Sawyer County!
Ice conditions remain good, with ice depths 14 inches and deeper on some lakes, and some anglers are now driving vehicles on the lakes. The lack of snow and incoming subzero temperatures this week should develop more ice thickness, but anyone going on the ice should still use great caution. Check with your favorite bait shop on the way to the lake for the most current information.
Walleye fishing is fair to good, but inconsistent. Best action is during low light periods such as late afternoon into dark. Tip-ups suspending walleye suckers near the bottom in 22-27 feet work well, as does jigging rattle and flutter spoons tipped with minnow heads. Work shallower water in the evening hours.
Northern pike fishing is good to very good during the day. Concentrate on weedy areas in 6-12 feet, using northern suckers on tip-ups and shiners on quick-strike rigs.
Crappie fishing is good to very good in 20-30 feet and around shallow weeds adjacent to deeper water. Use lead and tungsten jigs, jigging spoons, and plain hooks tipped with crappie minnows, waxies, and plastics. Be sure to check the entire water column, from bottom to top, and plan to keep on the move to stay with the schools.
Bluegill fishing is good in the same areas as for crappie – 20-30 feet and around shallow weeds adjacent to deeper water. The best presentations include lead and tungsten jigs, teardrops, and small jigging spoons, tipping all with waxies, spikes, and plastics. Try small minnows for larger ‘gills.
Jan. 18: Crow season opened statewide.
Jan. 31: Seasons close: Bobcat hunting/trapping Period 2; Squirrel (gray, fox).
Feb. 2: Flambeau River State Forest’s 27th Annual Candlelight Ski and cookout (715-332-5271).
Feb. 2-3: Deerfoot Lodge - 7th Annual Freeze Your Buns Off Crappie Ice Fishing Tournament (715-462-3328).
Feb. 7: Sawyer County Fisheries Forum, Hayward High School Auditorium; 6 p.m.
Feb. 9: Copper Falls State Park Candlelight Ski/Snowshoe event (715-274-5123).
Feb. 9: Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing season opens.
Feb. 15: Seasons close: Fox (red, gray) trapping/hunting; Raccoon trapping/hunting; Coyote trapping.
Feb. 16: Brule River State Forest Candlelight Ski and Snowshoe event (715-372-5678).
Feb. 20: Anglers must remove ice fishing shelters from Wisconsin-Iowa boundary waters.
Feb. 21-24: 45th American Birkebeiner Cross Country Ski Race (715-634-5025).
Feb. 23: Pattison State Park Winterfest and Candlelight Hike (715-399-3111).
Feb. 24: Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing season closes (closes earlier if spearers reach harvest caps).
Feb. 28: Cottontail rabbit season closes in northern and southern zones.