By: Steve Suman
Temperatures should show some improvement this week, though the current forecast calls for rain, fog, and some snow, and no sunshine until the weekend. Let’s hope the “big storm” developing to the west tracks to the north of the North Woods!
“Anglers will not soon forget this ice fishing season,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “by far one of the most challenging thanks to deep snow, drifts, slush, some extreme cold, and horrendous ice conditions on most lakes.
“Some anglers are walking off shorelines, if they can get to the shorelines, and finding some panfish success close to shore. Warmer temperatures and snow run-off certainly will help. Unless you are ready for a challenging, exhausting day, you might consider staying home and organizing tackle boxes or picking up the now available 2019-20 fishing and hunting license to get a head start on open water season.
“Snowmobile trail conditions are excellent, though lake trails a little rough, so consider a slower speed and definitely stay on the trails. Snowmobilers going off trails could find themselves stuck in deep snow.”
Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says conditions in the Islands are fantastic for lake trout action.
“Most days have plenty of action and anglers are landing some nice fish.
“Near shore, anglers are starting to target whitefish, and the bite in Chequamegon Bay is slowly improving for splake, burbot, perch, and smelt. Snowmobiles are still really the only way to get around out there.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses air exposure effects on catch and release trout.
“Anglers who practice catch and release typically make exceptional efforts to release fish with as little harm as possible to maximize survival odds for the fish. In most cases, even the most careful hook removal and release efforts still require the fish to be out of the water for some time. Researchers in Idaho looked into whether air exposure led to greater mortality of angled trout.
“The researchers caught trout by hook and line (surely a hard day at the office!) and exposed them to one of three different treatments.
“They held some fish out of the water for 60 seconds, some for 30 seconds, and some fish never left the water, even for hook removal and tagging. The researchers released all fish back into the stream, returning later to electrofish it and recapture trout to see if there were survival differences in the three different treatments.
“The researchers found no differences in survival related to the amount of time they held trout out of the water. However, since the longest air exposure time in the study was just one minute, the results cannot tell us the threshold at which air exposure becomes problematic.
“Anglers can still use these results to set a goal for themselves to return a fish to the water as soon as possible, preferably in less than 60 seconds – which includes hook removal, photo, and admiring the fish, all in that quick minute.”
Ice anglers with shanties on waters north of Hwy 64, Lake Superior, and WI-MI boundary waters must remove those shelters by Sunday, March 17. The DNR urges all owners to take steps now to remove shanties by the deadline. Owners who are having difficulty meeting the removal deadline should call the DNR Hotline (800) 847-9367 and provide their name, waterbody, and shanty location. The information will pass on to the local conservation warden who will use discretion in the deadline enforcement.
Sales of bonus spring turkey harvest authorizations by zone begin at 10 a.m. Monday, March 18 and runs through March 22. Saturday March 23, starting at 10 a.m. the DNR will sell any remaining authorizations until the zone and period sell out or the season ends. Bonus authorizations cost $10 for residents and $15 for non-residents. Hunters who use the Go Wild system for purchase and enter between 9:45 and 10 a.m. will receive a randomly selected processing number. Customers entering after 10 a.m. go on the list in order of arrival. Zone sales go as follows, starting at 10 a.m. each day: Zone 1 - March 18; Zone 2 - March 19; Zone 3 - March 20; Zone 4 - March 21; Zones 5, 6, 7 - March 22; all remaining authorizations for all zones and periods - March 23. Visit the DNR website to check the turkey zone map and bonus authorization availability for the time and zone.
Hayward Bass Club is holding a pre-season planning meeting this Wednesday, March 13, starting at 7 p.m., at Hayward Rod and Gun Club. During the meeting, members will discuss lakes they want to fish during their Wednesday night league fishing outings this summer. The Club welcomes any anglers who have an interest in bass fishing. For more information, contact Wayne Balsavich at (405) 227-1789 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
SNOWMOBILE TRAIL REPORT
Snowmobilers should make sure their snowmobile has a current registration and displays 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 March 11 Cable area trail report from the Namakagon Trail Groomers says trail conditions are very good, the base is 15-18 inches, and groomers are hitting the entire system today following 4-6 inches of fresh snow over the weekend. Please remember the groomers have the right-of-way and can be grooming day or night.
The March 11 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Washburn County says trails are in excellent condition, groomed, and with a base of 13-19 inches. All Washburn County trails remain open and clubs are out grooming regularly.
The March 8 HLVCB trail report says groomers are grooming, there is a base of 24-30 inches, and conditions are excellent for riding. The season got off to a late start, but we are making up for lost time!
The March 7 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Bayfield County says trail conditions are excellent, groomed, with a base of 12-18 inches, and the snow keeps coming! All clubs still report the best riding conditions of the year.
The March 7 Travel Wisconsin trail report for the Phillips area says trails are excellent, groomed, and have a base of 20-28 inches. All clubs report Price County trails in are back to the excellent condition they were in before the huge snowfall a week ago. Please be careful and stay on the trails. The snow is very deep in some areas, with hidden objects, and there is considerable slush on the lakes. Watch for wildlife on the trails as they, too, are looking for places to travel.
The March 5 Travel Wisconsin trail report for the Clam Lake area says trails are in excellent condition, groomed, and have a base of 15-20 inches. The trail from Marengo north to the east end of Ashland remains closed, with a marked detour in place. There is also a detour on Trail 9 that goes from Trail 16 to Middle Lake.
The March 5 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Rusk County says trails are in excellent conditions, groomed, and have a base of 14-20 inches. There is plenty of snow, the fun trail system offers a variety of terrain throughout the county, groomers are out in force, and the entire trail system is in excellent shape. It just does not get much better than this!
Deep snow, slush, constantly changing (though consistent winter!) weather conditions, and the closed gamefish season continue to negatively affect angler participation and interest. The few panfish anglers making the effort to get on the ice (kudos to them!) report some success along shorelines. The slight warming trend in the extended forecast should help improve access, but will not help the slush conditions to improve travel on the ice.
March 10: Mink trapping season closed.
March 18-22: Remaining spring turkey permits go on sale.
March 20: Winter crow season closes.
April 8: Spring fish and wildlife hearings in each county, 7 p.m.
April 13-14: Youth turkey hunt.
April 15 through July 31: Illegal to allow unleashed dogs to run on DNR lands and FWPAs (see regs).
May 4: Seasons open: General inland gamefish (see regs); Musky south of Hwy 10; Frog.