By: Steve Suman
If you like cold temperatures, the extended forecast will suit you. Those who desire more snow could be in for disappointment. Regardless of the weather, make the most of each day!
“This weird winter has made ice fishing challenging,” says Pat at Happy Hooker.
“Most lakes have 14 inches of solid ice and anglers are driving vehicles on some of them, but the recommendation remains snowmobiles and ATVs as the best mode for travel. The slush froze, so wearing cleats might be wise.
“Tip-ups with small suckers and shiners still produce northern pike and bass, and an occasional walleye near dark.
“Panfish anglers are catching crappie and bluegill on small jigs tipped with crappie minnows, plastics, and waxies.”
Erik at Hayward Bait says ice conditions are great, but wear cleats!
“Anglers are driving on a few lakes, though some have 10-14 inches with ice heaves, so follow stick trails for safe travel.
“Walleye anglers should look for deep weeds/sand grass and a transition to mud or rock in 22-28 feet. Tip spoons with fatheads or fathead heads.
“For northern pike, fish shallow inside turns, weeds, and structure in 6-12 feet with shiners and northern suckers on quick-strike rigs.
“Crappie and bluegill are in deep basins, with some crappies near weeds in 18 feet. Tip tungsten jigs with waxies and spikes.”
Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says Chequamegon Bay anglers report some excellent fishing.
“The Ashland side has up to 14 inches of ice, with anglers out to the channel edge catching perch, whitefish, brown trout, splake, coho, and even sturgeon.
“On the Washburn side, there is a ‘mob’ starting at Bono Creek on north to Houghton Point, with reports of 4-7 inches of ice and very good brown trout, splake, and whitefish action.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses Chippewa Flowage northern pike.
“Chippewa Flowage anglers targeting almost any species are likely to encounter some northern pike, a species not considered native to the Chip, but quite abundant. This high abundance has led to poor pike size (19.3-inch average in the last DNR survey) and legitimate concerns about impacts on the species anglers prefer.
“Though the pike are not large, they have few natural predators, reproduce at a steady rate, and their abundant and small-bodied population persists.
“The DNR has encouraged anglers to harvest pike for years – back to the 2007 Fishery Management Plan – but few take advantage of the relatively liberal regulations. According to creel survey data, Flowage anglers release 85-90 percent of all pike they catch (learn here how to fillet pike and remove the y-bones). There is hope 2019 will be different.
“The DNR and partner groups such as the Chippewa Flowage Resort Owners and Property Owners Associations, Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, and Muskies Inc. are making a big push to increase pike harvest and have created an incentives program to get people more interested in harvesting pike, particularly small ones. This follows the very positive results of pike reduction efforts on Lac Courte Oreilles, which saw nice increases in pike size and better musky stocking survival. This is a great year to enact this program, as the DNR plans to stock muskies in the Flowage this fall.
“Do this not just for the prizes, but for the fishery’s overall health. There is a wide variety of fishery benefits that might result from reducing pike abundance in this lake.”
Wisconsin’s Winter Free Fishing Weekend is this weekend, Saturday and Sunday January 19-20, when 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.
The following ice fishing contests take place this Saturday, January 19:
• Northland Area Builders Association’s 9th annual NABA Ice Fishing Event from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. on Nelson Lake. Register at Nelson Lake boat landing on Gerlach Road. For information, call NABA at (715) 296-7881.
• Staudemeyer’s Four Seasons Resort’s 9th Annual Ice Fishing Contest on Lake Namakagon. Fish categories include walleye, northern pike, and panfish. The $15 registration fee includes lunch and snacks. For information, call (715) 798-2346 or visit www.4seasonsresort.net.
• Elk Country ATV Club’s 11th Annual Ice Fishing Contest on Upper Clam Lake from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. The entry fee is $5. Raffle tickets for the ATV and cash drawings are $10 each. Visit www.elkcountryatvclub.com for information.
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 14 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Washburn County says trail conditions are fair, with 1-2 inches of snow cover. Open trails include #8 east to Sawyer County and west to Burnett County, and Wild Rivers Trail #35 from Minong north to Douglas County. Riders may encounter ice, rough trails, standing water, and some segments not groomed. All other trails remain closed.
The January 10 Cable area trail report says Namakagon Trail Groomers report a base of 2-4 inches, with trails groomed (except bigger marshes) and in fair to good condition. The Drummond Sno-Jacks say trails are in fair condition, groomed, but with icy/slick spots, and there is very little snow north of Grand View. Remember that groomers have the right-of-way and can be grooming at any time, day or night.
The January 10 Travel Wisconsin trail report for the Clam Lake area says all trails are open, with the exception the closed trail from Marengo north to the east end of Ashland. Groomers are grooming trails from Marengo south. There is a posted detour on Hwy 77 by Cayuga. Conditions are rough and you ride at your own risk. The Tri-County Corridor is groomed and open from Superior to Ashland, but in poor riding condition. Several areas on the east end require attention, but crews marked all known hazards so use caution when approaching ribbons, barricades, and cones.
The January 11 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Bayfield County says trails are open and in fair condition, with a base of 3-12 inches. Trail conditions are highly variable throughout the county, with hard bases and icy conditions. Use extra caution on the trails. Some swamp crossings may not be frozen and some trails have received minimal grooming. Be wary of low hanging branches, wet areas, downed trees and/or limbs, and other hazards. Use extra caution, stay on the trails, and be prepared to turn around or find an alternate route. Groomers can be out at ALL times of the day or night.
The January 8 Hayward Power Sports trail report says Sawyer County trails in the southern part of the county are pretty bare and groomers are not able to groom. Some groomers, such as in the Moose Lake area, churned the ice and panned, creating a nice base. Most other area groomers cannot groom until we receive more snow. Trails in Rusk and Barron county are closed; Washburn and Ashland partially open; Price poor; Bayfield fair; and Douglas good with lake effect snow.
The January 9 HLVCB trail report says club members, volunteers, and seasoned riders report trails from the center of the county such as the Chippewa Flowage to the north are surprisingly good, though icy and need more snow. Recommended snow covered trails to ride include the Chippewa Flowage, LCO, Grindstone, Seeley Hills, Moose Lake, Lost Land Lake, and north around Lake Namakagon. Exercise caution due to icy corners and conditions. To join a club or volunteer time for trail maintenance, visit www.sawyercountyalliance.com to view options.
Walleye action is fair, but inconsistent, with best success during the low light hours. Concentrate on 20-28 feet in areas with weeds and sand grass transitioning to mud or rock, using jigging spoons with fatheads or just fathead heads.
Northern pike fishing is fair to good, with anglers catching fish around weeds and structure in 5-15 feet. Use tip-ups with various sizes of suckers and shiners.
Crappie action is fair, though slow, with fish primarily in deeper water, but some around weeds in less than 20 feet. Top baits include tungsten jigs with crappie minnows, waxies, and plastics. Downsizing can improve success.
Bluegill fishing is fair, with anglers finding some success around deeper water and/or near weeds and weedlines. Use small tungsten jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks with waxies, spikes, and plastics. Again, downsize to improve success.
Jan. 18: Crow season opens statewide.
Jan. 19-20: Free Ice Fishing Weekend statewide. No fishing license required.
Jan. 19: NABA’s 9th Annual Ice Fishing Event on Nelson Lake (715-296-7881).
Jan. 19: Staudemeyer’s Four Seasons Resort’s 9th Annual Ice Fishing Contest (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. 2: Flambeau River State Forest’s 27th Annual Candlelight Ski and cookout (715-332-5271).
Feb. 2-3: Deerfoot Lodge’s 7th Annual “Freeze Your Buns Off” Crappie Ice Fishing Tournament (715-462-3328).
Feb. 9: Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing season opens.
Feb. 15: Seasons close: Fox (red, gray) trapping/hunting; Raccoon trapping/hunting; Coyote trapping.
Feb. 20: Remove ice fishing shelters from Wisconsin-Iowa boundary waters.
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.