By: Steve Suman
According to the current forecast, once we move past Tuesday night and Wednesday skies clear and temperatures turn mild (for awhile), with highs in the upper 40s to lower 50s. It was a big change in a short period! The down side is dealing with wet and sloppy conditions – but not too much to ask for warmer temperatures and to welcome the official arrival of spring Wednesday!
“It has been a strange winter, with deep snow and extreme cold conditions,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “but this past week we experienced some warmer weather, nighttime temperatures above freezing, and even rain.
“The snow is still deep, but rain-soaked, and the rain/melting snow created pools of standing water and even flooding to homes, streets, and low areas.
“Lakes are in the same condition, most likely bringing a halt to ice fishing season. The challenge is getting on the lakes – and once on the lake, there is slush – but anglers willing to endure the workload might find some good fishing. It appears most anglers have decided against ice fishing until we again have open water.”
Trent at Hayward Bait says ice conditions are sloppy and it is tough sledding.
“For now, anglers should find a landing or access point where they do not have to walk out too far because of all the standing water and slush.
“Panfish are just starting to move towards the shallows and anglers should see an increase in fishing productivity. Most panfish are still holding at about 20 feet, though some anglers are finding bluegills shallower. Lac Courte Oreilles and Grindstone are producing some decent perch and that should continue to get even better.
“Early season inland trout fishing is open, restricted to catch and release and artificials only.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the overwinter panfish mortality.
“Winter in Wisconsin is a tough time for all animals and fish are no exception. While fish under the ice have protection from some of the more extreme air temperatures terrestrial animals experience, there are still many challenges they must overcome to make it to spring.
“The first winter fish experience, before they are even one year old, tends to be the most dangerous. Young fish are small and have less energy reserves to rely on through the winter. Winter also pushes them out of the shallow water refuges they might inhabit into summer and into deeper water where they can have contact with more predators. For these reasons, it is common to see high rates of overwinter mortality.
“Researchers have found that even within a single year class, bigger panfish tend to survive at a higher rate than smaller ones. This means that growth in the first year is critical to having a good shot at making it through winter.
“However, in an extreme (long, cold) winter, overwinter mortality might be very high regardless of fish size, particularly if oxygen depletion becomes an issue in a given lake.
“For this reason, sometimes the recommendation is to not assess a year class strength (the abundance of fish born in the same year) until that class is one year old and has made it to its first birthday.”
County Deer Advisory Councils (CDAC) will hold meetings in March to start the antlerless quota and permit setting process for the 2019 seasons. The Sawyer County CDAC meeting is this Tuesday, March 19, starting at 7 p.m., at the Hayward DNR Service Center. Meetings are open to the public to provide feedback on preliminary recommendations. Councils will also discuss season options, which may include extended antlerless seasons necessary to reach county deer population objectives. For more information, search “CDAC” on the DNR website or call (715) 266-6291.
Sale of bonus spring turkey harvest authorizations, by zone, started Monday, March 18 and continues through Friday. On Saturday, March 23, all remaining authorizations go on sale until the zones and periods sell out or the season ends. Bonus authorizations cost $10 for residents and $15 for non-residents. Visit the DNR website to check the turkey zone map and bonus authorization availability, as well as the purchasing process instructions.
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 18 Hayward Power Sports trail report says it is great that snowmobilers are still able to ride just three days before spring! The area has lost quite a bit of snow, but there is still a lot remaining, especially in the woods, though that may change quickly this week. Most grooming concluded for the season, but the trails are still open and certainly still rideable. There are bare spots in the open and standing water in some low spots. We want to thank all club members, volunteers, and groomers, as well as all riders who bring their passion and excitement to Sawyer County. We had a slow start but quickly caught up and are going out with a bang!
The March 18 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Washburn County says conditions are poor, not groomed, and with a base of 3 inches. All Washburn County snowmobile trails close for the season Wednesday, March 20. Recent rains have caused significant melting of the trail base and warm temperatures will destroy the remaining base.
The March 18 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Rusk County says trails closed for the season.
The March 15 Travel Wisconsin trail report for the Clam Lake area says trails are in good conditions, groomed, and with a base of 10-20 inches. Trails in Ashland County are soft, with the trail from Sanborn north closed. Open trails are in fair condition. Ride with extreme caution as there is a lot of ice on the trails. The Tri-County Corridor remains open and receiving grooming when possible.
The March 15 Travel Wisconsin trail report for the Phillips area says trails in north Price County are in very good condition, groomed, and with a base of 18-22 inches. The weather may soon take its final toll. There will be overflow conditions throughout the trail system resulting from the snowmelt and rain. Use extreme caution when riding.
The March 14 HLVCB trail report says the wooded trails are in good condition and there may be sporadic grooming as it is late season. Stay on the marked, packed trails will be best for riding. Chequamegon National Forest typically closes their trails March 15, but please note the closure is not for county forest and land – ALL county trails remain open.
The March 14 Cable area trail report and the Travel Wisconsin trail report for Bayfield County say rain and temperatures in the 40s have impacted all of Bayfield County. There is still significant snow and a base of 12-18 inches, but with the rain, thaw, and freeze cycles expect trails to be very hard, icy and slippery in some areas, and wet/slushy in others. Many road routes are starting to show bare spots. There may be some incidental grooming, but trails are generally in late season condition.
The fish are still under the ice, but getting to them is quite the challenge! Those who are willing to fight the snow and slush and water report decent panfish action, but few anglers are making the effort. If stream fishing is more to your liking, the early trout season – catch and release, artificials only – is now open. This is a good time to purchase a new license and to prepare equipment for open water season.
March 18-22: Remaining spring turkey permits on sale.
March 23: All leftover spring turkey harvest authorizations on sale until sold out or season ends.
March 19: Sawyer County CDAC meeting, DNR Service Center, 7 p.m. (715-266-6291).
March 20: Winter crow season closes.
March 30: Trout season opens on some sections of Lake Superior tributaries (see regs); Hunt, fish, trap licenses expire.
April 8: Spring fish and wildlife hearings in each county 7 p.m.
April 15 through July 31: Illegal to allow unleashed dogs to run on DNR lands and FWPAs (see regs).
April 16: Sawyer County CDAC meeting at the Hayward DNR Service Center, 7 p.m. (715-266-6291).
April 30: Otter trapping season closes in the North zone.
May 3: Early catch and release trout season closes.
May 4: Seasons open: General inland gamefish (see regs); Musky south of Hwy 10; Frog.
May 4-June 14: Smallmouth bass season catch and release only.
May 25: Muskellunge season opens north of Hwy 10.
Spring turkey season dates
April 13-14: Youth turkey hunt.
April 17-23: Period A.
April 24-30: Period B.
May 1-7: Period C.
May 8-14: Period D.
May 15-21: Period E.
May 22-28: Period F.
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.