A warm, wet weekend and Monday gives way to cooler temperatures Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by highs in the 30s and precipitation ranging from rain to snow. On the positive side, spring snow is short-lived!
“We still have nights cold enough to allow anglers to get on the ice,” says Erik at Hayward Bait, “but with access mostly only by foot traffic. Use extreme caution, especially at boat landings and on shorelines with southern exposures.
“Crappie anglers tipping lead and tungsten jigs with waxies and spikes are catching fish in 12-18 feet. Perch anglers are taking advantage of pre-spawn fish and finding some nice ones. Perch utilize weeds for laying eggs and usually stage nearby for spawning, so look for any weed beds in 6-16 feet.
“Some anglers have put away their ice fishing equipment and are fishing for spring steelhead on Lake Superior tributaries. The rivers are a touch cold and muddy with the spring melt, but higher, darker water is not a terrible thing when targeting steelhead.
“Most steelhead anglers use spinning tackle with spawn, crawlers, and waxies on plain and glow hooks. Fishing egg patterns and trout nymphs with strike indicators work great for fly anglers. Seeking active fish with minnow and sculpin patterns mean covering water and maybe low numbers of hook-ups, but when you do hook, the take is unreal!”
Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says April is here and it is now the ‘in-between’ season.
“There is still ice, but as conditions get more unpredictable, most anglers are calling it quits for this year. Warmer temperatures in the forecast should get the ice moving out and maybe we will soon have some open water.
“Steelhead season is open on the tributaries and though some rivers are high, dirty, and cold, the Brule River is stable and anglers are catching fish.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the 2019 plans for the Hayward fisheries team.
“Following a bruising winter, the DNR’s Hayward Fish Team is excited to get on the water for spring surveys. These surveys have a variety of purposes, depending on the lake and the targeted species.
“The Chippewa Flowage is on our annual survey list and this year will focus on walleye, northern pike, and perch on the west side. Round Lake is the next largest lake on the list, where we will survey all species, with a focus on walleye, crappie, musky, and smallmouth bass.
“We survey Tiger Cat Flowage every four years and this year will pay particular attention to muskellunge and northern pike abundance. The Spring Lake survey for northern pike, panfish, and bass will focus on how the fishery has changed in response to past winterkills and experimental panfish regulations. The survey of Black Lake in Chequamegon National Forest will target bass and panfish.
“The DNR research crews might run net surveys on Lost Land and Sand lakes to determine the abundance of muskellunge. If timing allows, we will visit Mud/Callahan to check on all species and Sissabagama to collect muskellunge tissue samples for genetic analysis.
“Spring surveys start immediately after ice-out and typically run until early June. We sample some species with fyke nets, which essentially function like giant minnow traps, and sample other species by boat electrofishing.”
An additional 48 Kentucky elk have arrived at Flambeau River State Forest in Sawyer County, the final year of the translocation effort, and most of the adult females are carrying a calf. When released into the wild, these elk will join the more than 200 elk in Ashland, Bayfield, Price, Rusk, and Sawyer counties. Wisconsin’s elk population has grown steadily since the release of 25 Michigan elk in 1995 near the town of Clam Lake in Ashland County. The elk released this year and the 31 Kentucky elk released in 2017 provide a boost to herd growth and genetics. The recent arrivals are in a 7-acre holding pen for a quarantine period to satisfy health-testing requirements and allow the elk time to acclimate. To minimize human disturbance, the DNR asks the public to avoid the general area until it releases the elk. According to DNR deer and elk ecologist Kevin Wallenfang, the long-term goal is to have a herd of about 1,400 animals in the north some day. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is providing the majority of funding during the final year of the reintroduction project. For more information, search “elk” on the DNR website.
In March, the County Deer Advisory Councils (CDAC) in each county met to produce preliminary recommendations for the 2019 deer season. Those recommendations are now available on the DNR website for review and comment through April 11. Antlerless quota recommendations and hunter success rates from previous hunts help determine the number of antlerless harvest authorizations available and help DNR staff and councils work to reach deer population objectives within each county. Councils will reconvene April 15-18 to evaluate public feedback and determine final recommendations for the 2019 season, which the Natural Resources Board will review and adopt in May. All CDAC meetings are open to the public and provide attendees an opportunity to address the council. For more information, search “CDAC” on the DNR website.
The DNR weekly wildfire report for April 4 says that so far this year, 75 fires have burned 569 acres, threatening 25 structures and destroying two buildings, with the main causes debris burning and equipment. An estimated 1,100 wildfires burn in DNR protection areas (about half the state with the more forested areas) each year, and an estimated 2,500 wildfires burn in parts of the state where fire departments are the primary responders. Of these fires, two-thirds occur in spring when a great deal of dry vegetation, fallen leaves, and other debris dries out quickly. With warmer weather, drops in humidity, and gusty winds, wildfires can quickly ignite and spread. Debris burning is the leading cause of wildfires, so try alternatives such as composting, leaving brush in the woods for wildlife cover, or wait until surrounding vegetation greens-up in summer. If you wish to burn, get a burning permit and follow the rules of the day. If you burn wood for home heating, move any remaining stacked firewood at least 30 feet away from your home. If you dump ash outdoors, spread it in an area free of vegetation and debris. Drown with water and fully extinguish any hidden embers, or leave ash in a metal bucket with a tight-fitting lid until completely cool. Stay aware of fire danger and permit requirements by searching “fire” on the DNR website (the DNR updates information at 11 a.m. each day) or call 888-WIS-BURN.
Spring bird migration is in progress and many birds are visiting feeders – as are some bears now emerging from their dens. To avoid bear conflicts, remove feeders or hang them high and (with luck) out of reach of the bears. In addition, DNR conservation biologist Ryan Brady says wet, dirty conditions can lead to salmonellosis outbreaks, especially in small finches, and it is important for people who feed birds to clean feeders weekly with a 10-percent bleach solution.
Ice anglers continue to get on the remaining ice, making up for fishing time lost in the past month or so. Late ice changes quickly and as such requires particular attention for safety. On your way to the lake, check with your favorite bait and tackle shop to get a report on the most current ice conditions, as well as fish bait preferences and locations.
Crappie action is good to very good, with best success in the later afternoon hours. Anglers continue to find fish in 10-20 feet around weeds and on soft bottom basins. Baits of choice include crappie minnows, waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on jigs, plain hooks, and small spoons.
Bluegill fishing remains good in afternoon hours. Look for fish near and in weeds in 8-20 feet. Traditional bluegill offerings such as waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits will all do the trick.
Perch are in or moving toward weeds and weed bed spawning areas in 6-25 feet. Best baits include various small jigs, teardrops, and spoons tipped with crappies minnows, waxies, worms, and spikes.
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.