by: Steve Suman
Sunny weather to start this week eventually gives way to somewhat mild temperatures and more snow – the latter of which will surely brings smiles to participants in this week’s 45th American Birkebeiner cross-country ski event.
“The lakes have ample ice following the brutal cold weather,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “but recent snow increased snow depths on the ice to the point it now limits some access.
“Where people in vehicles had been accessing, there is now danger of getting stuck and it is best to use lighter weight snow machines in such spots. With the amount of accumulated snow, there might be some slush pockets, so have shovels readily available as part of your equipment arsenal.
“The lakes are not seeing much fishing pressure due to the snow and success is hit and miss, which is not uncommon this time of year.
“Walleye, northern pike, and bass are still coming in on setlines off weed breaks, with northern pike and bass action during the day and walleyes during the low light periods.
“Panfish success is rather slow with the weather changes, but it should improve as we move toward longer days. The best bet for anglers is to keep on the move, searching for active, feeding fish. This time of year, it is important to downsize and slow presentations, but some days it is best to just dead-stick and wait.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter remembers Representative John Dingell.
“Retired U.S. Representative John Dingell of Michigan passed away February 7 following a long (the longest ever for a representative) and storied career.
“Anglers owe this man a great deal, as Dingell and Senator Edwin Johnson of Colorado proposed the Sportfish Restoration Act, passed in 1950. Though amended several times over the years, the act’s concept remains the same.
“The Sportfish Restoration Act places a small user tax on fishing related items, including motorboat fuel, fishing tackle, and electric motors, among other items. The federal government distributes this tax revenue to individual states based on land area and fishing licenses sales.
“Combined with Pittman-Robertson, the sister legislation that generates funds for wildlife programs, these pieces of legislation have returned more than $15 billion in funding to state agencies over the years. These funds can make up a large portion of budgets for state agency fisheries and are responsible for countless projects, mainly including infrastructure improvements such as boat landings and parking lots. States also use funds to renovate hatcheries and conduct habitat work.
“Although Representative Dingell is no longer with us, his vision for supporting our fishing heritage will live on as his legacy.”
Walleyes for Northwest Wisconsin (WFNW) was host to more than 425 people for its 23rd annual Family Ice Fishing Event Saturday, February 16, on Lac Courte Oreilles. The turnout included 352 anglers (228 adults; 124 kids/youth), 26 volunteers, and approximately 50 non-angling family members, sponsors, and spectators. (Due to the adverse snow conditions on the lake, this was the event’s lowest turnout in many years.) In the youth division, 76 youth anglers registered 169 qualifying fish, including two walleye, 16 northern pike, 3 crappie, 115 yellow perch, and 33 bluegill and sunfish. In the adult division, adult anglers registered 247 qualifying fish, including two walleye, 16 northern pike, 14 crappie, 142 yellow perch, and 73 bluegill and sunfish. Registered fish of significant size included a 32-inch northern pike; 28.5-inch walleye; 13.75-inch crappie; 13.5-inch jumbo perch; and 12.5-inch bluegill. Anglers made live releases for approximately 28 percent of their catches. This year’s event netted more than $12,000 in fundraising that will go into walleye stocking and other fishery improvements to Sawyer County waters. For more information, visit www.wfnw.net.
The DNR reports hunters registered 3,782 birds during Wisconsin’s 2018 fall wild turkey season, a harvest very similar to the 3,971 turkeys registered during the 2017 fall season. For the 2018 fall season, the DNR issued 73,915 harvest authorizations, awarding 70,420 licenses and selling 3,495 over the counter as bonus harvest authorizations.
The fall 2018 season marked an important change, as rather than hold a drawing, the DNR instead awarded one harvest authorization for the zone of choice to any hunter with a fall turkey license and stamp. In addition to the harvest authorization included with fall turkey licenses, the DNR made 13,000 bonus harvest authorizations available for purchase for zone 1-4.
Although the DNR issued a greater number of harvest authorizations for the 2018 fall season, the number of birds registered declined compared to last year, resulting in a harvest success rate of 5.1 percent (compared to 5.9 percent in 2017). The DNR calculates the success rate based on harvest authorization sales and does not correct for non-participation.
According to DNR upland wildlife ecologist Mark Witecha, the DNR has observed a steady decline in fall turkey harvest over the past decade. He says that recent reductions in harvest are largely due to a decline in hunter effort, as the annual fall hunter survey shows that more and more hunters are pursuing turkeys secondary to other species.
The 45th American Birkebeiner is this Saturday, Feb. 23, with special events leading up to the big race starting Thursday, Feb. 21. The “Birkie” is North America’s largest cross-country ski marathon, attracting more than 10,000 skiers, with a course from Cable to Hayward spanning 50 kilometers for skaters and 55K for classic skiers. In 2018, skiers from 49 states and 36 countries participated in the event. For more information, visit www.birkie.com and view 2019 Official Race Guide, or call (715) 634-5025.
SNOWMOBILE TRAIL REPORT
Snowmobilers should make certain their snowmobiles have a current registration and display a valid snowmobile trail pass, required to operate on all public snowmobile trails. You can order trail passes online, as well as renew registrations.
The following snowmobile trail reports are all from the Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trails report.
The February 18 report for Washburn County says following several recent heavy snow events, all trails are open, groomed, in excellent condition, and have a base of 9-12 inches.
The February 14 report for Sawyer County says trails are in excellent condition, have a base of 14-24 inches, and crews are grooming.
The February 14 report for the Clam Lake area says trail conditions are in very good condition, the base is 15-20 inches, and grooming is in progress. The trail from Marengo north to the east end of Ashland remains closed, with a marked detour in place.
The February 14 report for Bayfield County says trails are in excellent condition, groomed, have a base of 10-24 inches, and all clubs report some of the best riding conditions of the year.
The February 14 report for the Phillips area says all trails are open, in excellent condition, have a base of 16-24 inches, and all clubs are grooming several times a week. Please stay on marked trails!
The February 13 report for Rusk County says trails are in good condition, groomed, and have a base of 10-16 inches. Trails are open throughout the county, but beware of logging operations and some rough spots.
The February 13 report for the Cable area says trails are in very good condition, groomed, with a base of 6-10 inches. Remember groomers can be grooming day or night and have the right-of-way.
Significant snowfall in recent weeks built snow accumulation on the lakes to levels making travel nearly impossible in some areas. As such, very few anglers are able to get on the ice to fish, reducing fishing reports to nearly nothing! However, these current conditions will not last forever and this is a good time to repair/replace equipment and prepare for your next ice fishing expedition. Be aware game fish season closes March 3 and current fishing, hunting, and trapping licenses expire March 30.
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.
March 10: Mink trapping season closes.
March 10: Daylight Saving Time begins at 2 a.m.
March 18-22: Remaining spring turkey permits go on sale.
March 20: Winter crow season closes.