By: Steve Suman
This week’s forecast indicates somewhat decent weather ahead, though with a slight “hiccup” Tuesday evening and some precipitation possible, and then a low of 18 degrees Wednesday night. A warming trend starts Friday with a sunny 56 degrees, followed by 61 degrees Saturday and 63 degrees Sunday. Get out and enjoy some of the fresh spring air!
“Well, we have finally crossed over into spring,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “and now it actually feels like it! Warming temperatures are depleting the snow cover, improving lake access and travel conditions on the lakes for late season ice fishing. Note that 2018 fishing licenses expired March 31 and the new 2019 licenses seasons are now available.
“Late ice hazards are much greater than on early ice, thanks to soft-cored molecular mass – otherwise known as rotting ice. The most hazardous spots are shorelines and areas near springs. Anglers should be sure to bring proper safety equipment and make smart choices.
“We have a long way to go before ice out, but things have started. Ice conditions on most lakes should be perfect for walking mobility this week and it is time to break out the waterproof boots. Have ice cleats available, as it will get slippery with snow melting and water on top.
“Fishing success is improving and offering longer bite windows, with the best fishing times early to late afternoon when daytime temperatures are at their highest.
“Panfish are roaming soft bottom basins and it is important to set up near contour edges since fish seem to relate to them this time of year. Do not be afraid to seek out new areas that show little to no fishing pressure, as these can be good spots. Last week, anglers exploring a shallow back bay located some crappies and perch feeding off vegetation, so fishing in weed cover can be very good. Jigs with minnow or small soft plastics remain the best bait and tactic.”
Erik at Hayward Bait says thanks to warming weather and cool nights, ice anglers are now able to get out for some late season fishing.
“Travel conditions are now much easier, primarily with ATV and foot access.
“In general, panfish fishing is good and the crappies are providing a solid bite. Locations of fish vary lake to lake, but most anglers report depths of 12-22 feet. Since crappies are roaming constantly, it is a good idea to drill plenty of holes.
“Bluegill fishing is good to very good on most lakes and anglers should search for them in 12-16 feet.
“The perch bite is really starting to pick up for anglers, especially in and around any traces of old weed growth in 6-20 feet. Perch action usually gets better and better the nearer the fish get to spawning time. Best baits include tungsten jigs, teardrops, and spoons tipped with waxies, spikes, and crappie minnows.”
Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says Chequamegon Bay is starting to turn a little gray and mushy on top.
“We still have a couple feet of ice, however, and travel on wheelers is okay in early morning, especially with freezing temperatures at night. In the afternoons, travel gets more difficult, particularly at the landings.
“Perch fishing has really improved lately, with anglers also catching an occasional northern pike, whitefish, splake, and brown trout.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses trout territoriality.
“Looking at the complex habitat present in many trout streams, the location of trout within the stream might seem nearly random. For the trout themselves, however, there is nothing random about where they choose to spend their time.
“Trout, along with other salmonids, are fiercely territorial. Their urge to establish and defend a space in the river for themselves appears to start at birth. Biologists report observing some trout species setting up territories just one to four days after swimming up from the gravel where they hatched! Studies show adult brook and brown trout spend more than 90 percent of their time locked into one very small area of the stream where they feed.
“The ideal spot for a trout to establish its territory includes access to food, cover to evade predators, and when needed, an area to rest from strong current. There are limited spots in a stream that meet those criteria and anglers who learn to identify them will benefit.
“Good territory in demand means trout are constantly defending their areas from other trout. As trout grow, their territory grows with them, meaning a superior competitor might push out his or her neighbors. This sends the displaced competitor trout on a journey, often downstream, to find their own unoccupied territory.”
The DNR reminds outdoor recreationists their 2018 fishing, hunting, licenses, and trapping licenses expired March 31, as did many boat, ATV, UTV, and off-highway motorcycle (OHM) registrations. Licenses, registrations, and renewals are available online at GoWild.wi.gov and at more than 1,000 license agents. For ATV, UTV, and OHM registrations, there is a $5 late fee for renewals received after March 31.
The 2019 DNR Spring Hearings and Wisconsin Conservation Congress county meetings are this coming Monday, April 8, in each county, with all meetings starting at 7 p.m. This year, the Sawyer County meeting is at Hayward High School. The DNR will present 49 proposed fisheries and wildlife rule change questions and urges people to review the questionnaire online prior to April 8. Attendees interested in natural resources management can offer input on proposed changes and advisory questions. This year, there is also a new online option for people who are unable to attend a hearing or who prefer to provide their input at the hearing using their smart phone. Individuals choosing to use the online version must sign in, just as they do in person. County residents can vote for WCC delegates to represent them or run themselves for a Conservation Congress seat. Providing input on resolutions or participating in the WCC election requires in-person participation. The online input form will go live at 7 p.m. April 8 and remain open until 7 p.m. April 11. For more information, search “spring hearings” on the DNR website.
SNOWMOBILE TRAIL REPORT
The final HLVCB trail report for this snowmobiling season says the end of the season is here. While the trail system does not ‘technically’ close completely, the lakes are opening and trails are not rideable. Thank you all for a great season!
Warmer weather is melting the snow cover and anglers can again access the lakes for ice fishing. Conditions are slushy and sloppy, so go prepared to stand in water. Check with your favorite bait and tackle shop personnel for the very latest on ice conditions, fish locations, and bait preferences.
Crappie fishing is fair to good in mid to late afternoon hours after the water warms. Target in and on the edges of weeds and soft bottom basins in depths from 10-25 feet. Use jigs tipped with crappies minnows, waxies, and plastics.
Bluegill action is good, with best fishing during the same afternoon hours as crappies. Work waxies, spikes, and plastics in and around weeds in 10-18 feet.
Perch fishing is good, with the best success in afternoon hours, just as with crappies and bluegills. Look for fish in and around weeds in 8-25 feet. Top offerings include teardrops, tungsten jigs, and spoons tipped with crappie minnows, waxies, and spikes.
March 31: Hunting, fishing, trapping licenses expired.
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).
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.
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.