By: Steve Suman
This week’s forecast indicates a return to more seasonal, winter-like weather, with chances for snow and temperatures around the historical average. The following week, however, temperatures return to the mid-30s, so make the best of it – get out and enjoy outdoor activities not usually possible this time of year!
“Ice thickness varies from lake to lake,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “and presently averages 12-14 inches, still considered unstable for vehicle traffic. The safest access is by snowmobile, ATV, and walking.
“Walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups are still producing walleye, northern pike, and bass. Now that we are through the holidays, there is low angling pressure and a good chance you will have a lot of area to yourself.
“Panfish are showing up on electronics, but certainly not biting like before the weather change. During a slow bite, it is important that you downsize and/or change presentations. Tipping tiny tungsten jigs with waxies or crappie minnows is always a good set-up for taking a few fish.”
Erik at Hayward Bait says there is plenty of ice and anglers report good success.
“Walleye anglers should look for steep breaks and mud flats, particularly during early morning and last light evening hours, and use jigging spoons and minnow-style baits such as Hyper Glides and Jigging Raps tipped with fatheads.
“Northern pike action is great on northern suckers and large shiners under tip-ups set off shoreline weed beds in 6-12 feet.
“Panfish anglers should look for deep basins in 28-38 feet. The fish move and graze, to drill and move to stay on top of them. Use tungsten jigs tipped with waxies, spikes, and plastics, switching to lead jigs for more subtle presentations during tough bite windows.”
Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says fishing is very productive on Chequamegon Bay.
“On the Ashland side, with up to 12 inches of ice, anglers are walking and using machines to get close to the channel and catching perch, brown trout, splake, and northern pike.
“Anglers are also starting to fish the ‘s’ curve, with some walking out from Bono Creek and some on machines approaching the area from the Ashland side. They report a mixed catch, with brown trout more prevalent.
“No one is currently fishing off Washburn and the warm spell will probably not make much ice. If you are going out on new ice, be sure to bring a spud bar and check your way!”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses woody habitat projects planned for Hayward area lakes.
“The benefits of woody habitat (fish sticks) in the water have received a lot of attention in recent years – and justifiably so. Existing studies have found that many different species prefer that type of habitat and it serves an important ecological function.
“Several lakes in Sawyer County have already seen additions of woody habitat, most notably Nelson Lake, where Nelson Lake Association has worked with the DNR and Sawyer County to add more than 1,000 trees to shoreline stretches across the lake.
“Additional woody habitat projects are in the plans for the Hayward area over the next few years. The state-owned islands in Grindstone, Round, and Spider lakes are set to see additions of trees to provide fish and wildlife habitat.
“An extension of a Chippewa Flowage project that has already added several hundred trees to eight stretches of shoreline will see an additional several hundred trees added to another eight shorelines, all of which are state-owned stretches.
“These projects not only benefit the fish and wildlife communities, but also provide interesting places for anglers to fish, particularly in the spring.”
Wisconsin’s Winter Free Fishing Weekend is January 19-20. Residents and nonresidents can fish anywhere in the state without a license or trout stamp, including all inland waters (some exceptions) and Wisconsin’s side of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River. For more information, search “free fishing weekend” on the DNR website.
Staudemeyer’s Four Seasons Resort will host its 9th Annual Ice Fishing Contest Saturday, January 19, on Lake Namakagon. Fish categories include walleye, northern pike, and panfish. The $15 registration fee includes lunch and snacks. For more information, call (715) 798-2346 or visit www.4seasonsresort.net.
Northland Area Builders Association is hosting its 9th annual NABA Ice Fishing Event Saturday, January 19, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Nelson Lake. Register at Nelson Lake boat landing on Gerlach Road. For more information, call NABA at (715) 296-7881
Elk Country ATV Club will host its 11th Annual Ice Fishing Contest on Upper Clam Lake Saturday, January 19, from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. The entry fee is $5. Tickets for the ATV raffle and cash drawings are available for $10 each at local businesses and on the lake. For more information, visit www.elkcountryatvclub.com.
Sevenwinds Casino, Lodge, and Convention Center on Hwy. B will host the Hayward 300 SnoCross Races Saturday and Sunday, January 12-13. Tickets cost $8/day or $12/weekend in advance; $15/day or $20/weekend at the gate; and $5/weekend for youth (ages 4-12). For more information, visit www.sevenwindscasino.com, or call (833) 479-4637.
Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies, Inc. invites the public its meeting Tuesday, January 8, starting at 7 p.m., at Flat Creek Eatery. Members will plan the 2019 budget and other activities. Attend the meeting and purchase a half-price Muskies Inc. membership. For more information, call Mike Persson (715) 634-4543.
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 7 Travel Wisconsin trail report for the Clam Lake area says trails are open, including the tri-county corridor from Superior to Ashland, with the exception a closed section from Marengo to the east end of Ashland. Trails are in poor condition, with a base from 0-6 inches. Crews groomed trails last Thursday (conditions are rough), and marked hazards, so use caution when approaching ribbons, barricades, and cones.
The January 3 Cable area trail report says trails have a base of 3-5 inches. Riders should expect “early” riding conditions, as not all marshes are frozen and some still have areas of open water. Crews have rolled and groomed most trails, with the exception of the bigger marshes and some outlying areas. Please remember groomers have the right-of-way and can be grooming day or night.
The December 31 HLVCB trail report says riders should watch for heaves, particularly on Round and Lac Courte Oreilles. Some are marked, but there can be others! Crews groomed trails #9 and #5 near Seeley Hills, Trail 217 southeast of Douglas County, and Trail 17 from The Cabin Store to Clearwater Resort. Visit www.sawyercountyalliance.com to report a trail concern or issue.
Fluctuating weather patterns that include sunshine, mild temperatures, and rain (yeah, January rains) are keeping ice thickness hovering around 12 inches. Colder weather later this week should help maintain ice, if not build it. Check with your favorite bait shop for the most current ice conditions and fishing updates.
Walleye success is fair, with early morning and late evening (low light periods) producing the best action. Target mud flats and steep breaklines, fishing shallower in the evening hours. Walleye suckers and shiners under tip-ups are most productive, but jigging spoons, Jigging Raps, and similar baits tipped with fatheads are producing fish.
Northern pike action is good to very good in depths to 14 feet around weeds and weed beds. Most anglers are having success using northern suckers and shiners under tips.
Crappie fishing is fair to good, with late afternoon into evening hours the best times. Small jigs and plain hooks with crappie minnows, waxies, and plastics work well. For finicky fish, downsize offerings. Target deep water and – as always – check the ENTIRE water column!
Bluegill fishing is fair to poor, having slowed with the weather changes. Use small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks tipped with waxies, spikes, and plastics. Plan to move with the fish and expect a challenge once you find them!
Dec. 31: Seasons closed: Frog; Ruffed grouse in Zone A; (not in printed regs); Muskellunge in Southern Zone.
Jan. 6: Seasons closed: Fall turkey in zones 1-5; Fisher trapping; Pheasant; Hungarian partridge.
Jan. 6: Early catch-and-release only trout season opened statewide (see regs).
Jan. 8: Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies, Inc. meeting at Flat Creek Eatery, 7 p.m. (715-634-4543).
Jan. 10: Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area Sunset Snowshoe Hike 3:45-4:45 p.m. (715-463-2739).
Jan. 12-13: Hayward 300 SnoCross Races at Sevenwinds Casino, Lodge, and Convention Center (833-479-4637).
Jan. 18: Crow season opens statewide.
Jan. 19-20: Free Ice Fishing Weekend No fishing license required.
Jan. 19: 9th Annual NABA Ice Fishing Event on Nelson Lake (715-296-7881).
Jan. 19: 9th Annual Ice Fishing Contest at Staudemeyer’s Four Seasons Resort (715-798-2346).
Jan. 19: Seeley Big Fat Bike Race (715-798-3599).
Jan. 19: Elk Country ATV Club’s 11th Annual Ice Fishing Contest.
Jan. 31: Seasons close: Bobcat hunting/trapping Period 2; Squirrel (gray, fox).
Feb. 15: Seasons close: Fox (red, gray); Raccoon; Coyote trapping.
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.