Mostly seasonal, somewhat mild temperatures prevail this week – according to the forecast – but after Tuesday do not expect to see sunshine again until Friday. However... keep in mind forecasts can miss the mark, as did (fortunately) last week’s prediction for up to 16 inches of snow in the Hayward area! It is mostly a typical spring, which never seems to arrive quite soon enough to satisfy everyone – or anyone!
“Ice fishing season closed for many anglers,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “but there are still fish to catch in the rivers!
“Stream trout fishing is good at the Brule and drifting flies with indicators on deeper holes, bends, and structure is producing success. Moving around the river can pay off for anglers, but those holding in one area can often intercept a passing fish. Soft, muddy trails make walking tricky, but there are many paths to utilize.
“For the diehard ice anglers, we still have many fishable waters, but if you go, practice safety with every step. Check with bait shops, guides, and/or resorts before venturing out onto late ice. Small to mid-size lakes are still fishable and have about 20 inches of ice, but the ice is quickly deteriorating. Ice in front of some access areas has softened or melted and moved away from the shorelines and access is only by walking.
“Panfish anglers should look to transitional areas near shorelines and use small tungsten jigs tipped with waxies or jig and minnow combinations. Be very cautious, avoid clouded, dark, or soft ice areas, and as always, check as you go.
“Open water season begins May 4 this year and now is the time to prepare for the new season. Purchase your new license, clean your tackle boxes and discard damaged items, check your equipment, oil and grease the reels and re-spool with new line, and check rods for cracks and damaged eyelets.”
Guide Steve Genson at Hayward Bait says the warming temperatures are bringing some signs of spring.
“Ice on the lakes is just starting to break up and there are a few brave souls still venturing out on it. If you go, definitely fish with a friend – and use extreme caution!
“The panfish bite is decent for those who are willing to chase them. Waxies, spikes and crappie minnows get the nod, but plastics will certainly get some fish, too.
“A few anglers are hitting the local trout streams for catch and release trout fishing. Many report good success, with some catching nice brown trout up to 20 inches long. In addition, a good number of anglers are heading up to fish the Lake Superior tributaries for steelhead. Small crankbaits, spinners, and spawn sacs should produce some action.
“This week sees the first period (April 17-23) of the regular spring turkey season. There are good numbers of birds and even some reports of toms tending hens in the last few days.
Mike at Jenk’s says Chippewa Flowage ice ranged from 6-15 inches last week, with nearly all of the remaining ice honeycombed.
“We are now less than three weeks away from the fishing opener weekend it appears as if we will have open water for the opener – but nothing is guaranteed.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the diet of northern pike.
“Anglers know northern pike as voracious eaters, but do the pike deserve that reputation? Do pike really eat everything and eat all the time? Studies of pike diets can tell us a great deal about the day-to-day life of a pike and results of those studies have considerable relevancy for understanding other piscivore fish (i.e., fish that primarily eat other fish).
“In a study of pike diets in Canada, researchers carefully logged all aspects of the diet of nearly 1,300 pike. They found perch were the most common diet item by number, with suckers, burbot, and minnows common. Gamefish such as walleye and smaller pike were relatively rare, only appearing in pike diets during narrow time frames. Female pike consumed approximately one and a half to two times more food, pound for pound, than males.
“The researchers also documented how often pike stomachs were empty, which was about half the time, and the data allowed them to describe how long pike took to digest their food and start feeding again. They found that on average, pike ate a meal of every 2-3 days in the summer. In the winter, when their metabolism is considerably slower, the pike ate a meal only once every 25 days! In between feeding times, the pike were mostly resting and digesting.
“For anglers, the lesson from this study might be that if you see a pike sitting motionless and you cannot get it to bite, it may in fact be full. Applying this lesson to musky fishing, if you see a big fish but cannot get it to bite, you might need to return to that spot for several consecutive days and try to drop in on her when she is hungry again.”
The Natural Resources Board (NRB) approved the 2019 migratory bird seasons at its April 10 meeting in Madison and hunters who pursue ducks, geese, doves, woodcock, and other migratory birds in Wisconsin will see some small changes from previous years. September 1 ushers in the first openings of migratory game bird seasons, including early goose (Canada, light), early teal, and mourning dove seasons. Search “waterfowl” on the DNR website for more detailed information.
Spring turkey season opens April 17 and some bonus harvest authorizations remain available for purchase. Check the DNR website for availability. Hunters in the field must carry proof of their turkey license, stamp, and harvest authorization, with accepted forms of proof a printed copy, Go Wild conservation card, Go Wild authenticated Wisconsin driver’s license, or an original Go Wild digital file on a mobile device. Harvest registration is a requirement and a critical component of turkey population management. Successful hunters must register their harvest by 5 p.m. the day after recovery at www.gamereg.wi.gov or by phone at (844) 426-3734. The harvest authorization number, located on a paper or digital copy of the harvest authorization, is necessary to register.
The DNR offers a free, personalized certificate to help hunters commemorate their first harvest or hunting experience. Sign-up is easy and done online in a matter of minutes. First-time turkey hunters receive a customized certificate with hunt details that include a picture and location, the bird’s weight, beard length, and more. The DNR will send the certificate electronically within a few weeks of submission. Search “turkey” on the DNR website.
Spring is wildfire season and last week 26 wildfires in DNR protection areas burned 73 acres, threatening 11 buildings and destroying one. Debris burning caused half of the fires. Remember that spring snow and rain offer only a short reprieve from fire danger. For burning debris (not always necessary!), the safest time to burn leaves, brush, and pine needles is when snow covers the ground completely and will remain so for the entire burn duration. With no shortage of dead grass and leaves, it is easy for wildfires to start and spread. Keep aware of fire conditions and current fire activity by checking the DNR fire danger webpage or call 888-WIS-BURN (888-947-2876) after 11 a.m. each day. For more information, search “fire” on the DNR website.
A few anglers continue to extend ice fishing season, but conditions are changing quickly and access can be difficult. The gamefish opener is May 4 (soon!) and it might be more beneficial to use the time preparing open water equipment, from boats to tackle boxes. If fishing is at the top of your list, there are good reports coming from anglers fishing Lake Superior tributaries for steelhead, as well as those catch and release fishing local trout streams. If you insist on getting in a few final ice fishing trips, check with your favorite tackle shop for the most very recent conditions reports. What you saw four days ago does not count this time of year! Panfish are hitting crappie minnows, waxies, spikes, and plastics on jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks. Enjoy the time, but use common sense and extreme caution when moving around on whatever ice might remain. Fish smart so you can also enjoy the upcoming gamefish opener!
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 17-18: Fishing Has No Boundaries Hayward Event at Lake Chippewa Campground (715-634-3185).
May 25: Muskellunge season opens north of Hwy 10.
Through July 31: Illegal to allow unleashed dogs to run on DNR lands and FWPAs (see regs).
Spring turkey season dates
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.