This week’s forecast offers a mix of precipitation and cloudy skies, with temperatures running slightly warmer than January averages, and Friday showing sunshine. Check the events calendar below and start making plans ‑ no shortage of activities and events around Hayward during the winter months!
“Winter has not been kind to Quiet Lakes’ ice anglers,” says Greg at Happy Hooker, “and the last round of snow will not help the situation. Few anglers are fishing due to poor lake travel conditions, however, crews staked many snowmobile trails, and that should help anglers get to the fish.
“Walleye fishing is good for anglers jigging and using tip-ups and dead-sticks. Fish will push deeper, as little light is penetrating to keep shallow weeds green. Jigging spoons, and suckers and shiners on tip-ups and dead-sticks, are solid choices. Work bigger baits aggressively, but downsize and slow presentations if fish will not commit.
“Northern pike action is good on tip-ups around weeds and shallow structure. Keep baits around weed edges or above timber and rocks in 6-12 feet. Shiners under tip-ups are the most popular bait choice.
“Crappies are deeper and schooling in 15-20 feet off points adjacent to basins. Tungsten jigs with minnow heads or plastics get the nod. For the finesse bite, use waxies and spikes on small jigs.
“Bluegills generally relate to water shallower than other panfish, even under the ice. Focus on weed beds and shallow bays with waxies and soft plastics on small tungsten jigs. Slow jig movement is the key, as bluegills are just looking for an easy meal.
“Perch are deeper and schooling, and minnow heads on small jigging spoons are by far the most popular choice. Perch are small, but super aggressive and chase bigger baits.”
Jarrett at Hayward Bait says ice conditions were improving before recent snows, but anglers should continue to take ice safety precautions.
“Due to the warmth last week, many lakes cut down on slush, collapsing much of the snow. However, the fresh powder we received recently might develop more slush from additional weight on the ice. Most anglers are walking, but crews staked many lakes and a few snowmobilers are on trails. Be cautious and do not assume ice is safe just because someone is in front of you!
“Walleyes transitioned to deep structure and humps. Fish slide deep during daylight hours, moving to shallow flats near deep water to feed in the evening. Snow accumulation might prolong the morning and evening bite windows, based on how long it takes light to penetrate the snow while the sun is not overhead. Plan to arrive early to set up for the primetime bite.
“Northern pike fishing is solid, both shallow and deep. Focus on areas with plentiful panfish populations. Suspend big shiners and suckers a foot or two off bottom near weedlines and structure such as cribs and timber.
“Crappie fishing is good, with anglers catching fish in basins, usually 20-30 feet, and on relatively shallow structure such as weeds. Minnows and plastics on small ice jigs work well. Color variety is helpful, with many anglers using gold patterns and Wonder Bread jigs.
“Bluegill and perch angler interest slowed with the new snow and reports are scarce.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the age of northern pike in Tiger Cat and Spider lakes.
“Northern pike are not native to either the Spider Lake Chain or the Tiger Cat Chain, two systems that lie in the North Fork of the Chief River drainage. Pike arrived in both lakes in the ‘90s and have become more abundant since then.
“Fish managers and lake leaders have met this development in the fishery with great concern, particularly due to the potential for pike to compete with native muskellunge.
“The Hayward DNR Fish Team has placed additional effort into surveying pike in these two lakes for a better understanding of how the fishery is changing and what strategies we can use to combat negative changes. We have removed pike captured in surveys and aged those fish to increase our understanding of their growth and the age structure of the population.
“In Tiger Cat, we see a predominantly young pike population, with 75 percent of pike captured in our surveys 5 years old or younger. This matches angling catch records provided by the Tiger Cat Lake Association, records dominated by small/young pike less than 20 inches in length. This is characteristic of a ‘new invasion’ for a species. Pike are attempting to take advantage of the new habitat available to them in the system and appear to be reproducing at a high rate.
“Still, pike have been in the lake for more than 20 years and few older fish are appearing in DNR surveys or angler catches. This might indicate that efforts to control their abundance through angling efforts are having some impact. A major challenge with such programs is convincing anglers to harvest pike that are smaller than what they prefer to keep.
“The story is similar, but somewhat better, on the Spider Chain, where pike catch rates are lower, but most fish are still young and small. Muskellunge are faring a little better in the Spider Chain, and we continue to observe muskellunge reproduction almost annually.
“Muskellunge reproduction in the Tiger Cat Chain is now extremely low and we have commenced stocking in response.
“We plan to continue to put effort into understanding and managing the pike/musky interactions in these important musky lakes, along with several others lakes in the area.”
The Sawyer County deer harvest total, as of January 3, is 3,132 deer, including 1,986 antlered and 1,146 antlerless. These totals include:
- Archery: 300 deer (194 antlered, 106 antlerless)
- Crossbow: 693 deer (448 antlered, 245 antlerless)
- Youth Hunt: 54 deer (26 antlered, 28 antlerless)
- Nine-day gun season: 1,937 deer (1,254 antlered, 683 antlerless)
- Muzzleloader: 95 deer (64 antlered, 31 antlerless)
- December antlerless-only: 53 antlerless deer
A special archery and crossbow season continues through January 31 in Metro Sub-units and counties with extended archery seasons. This includes Polk, St. Croix, and Pierce counties to the southeast of Sawyer (see map). Check regulations for details.
SNOWMOBILE/SKI TRAIL REPORT
Snowmobiles must have a current registration and display a valid snowmobile trail pass to operate on public snowmobile trails. You can renew registrations and order trail passes online or purchase trail passes from sales agents. Members of the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs (AWSC) can purchase trail passes at a discounted rate directly from www.awsc.org. You do not need to be a Wisconsin resident to be an AWSC member.
The January 8 HLVCB snowmobile trail report says most Sawyer County trails are open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 12-16 inches. Crews are making great progress in clearing and grooming. Visit the HLVCB website to view a marked trail map, updates to trail openings and grooming, and advisories, and/or use the Groomer Tracking System (GTS) app.
The January 9 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Washburn County says trails are open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 12-16 inches. Crews cleared a majority of snowmobile trails and groomed at least once. Trail crews expect to groom Trail 8 east of John Waggoner Rd to the Sawyer County line Tuesday, January 10. Ride with caution and stay on designated trails.
The January 9 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for the Cable area says trails are cleared, open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 8-12 inches. Crews have staked Garden Lake, but not Lake Namakagon due to snow cover and continuing variable ice depth issues. Use extreme caution if riding on the lake. Please avoid Trail 31 into Sawyer County for the next couple of days due to large equipment use.
The January 8 Travel Wisconsin Birkie cross-country ski trail report says crews groomed trails for skate and classic skiing, and trail are in excellent condition, with a base of 8-10 inches. American Birkebeiner week is February 22-26, with other events in January and early February. Skiing any part of the Birkie Trail System December through March requires a Birkie Trail Ski Pass. An All-Access Snow Pass is required to ski on the snowmaking loop.
Ice thickness is improving, but anyone going on the ice should continue to use extreme caution when traveling on any ice, especially unknown areas (as are most at this time). Crews staked a number of lake trails, but otherwise on-ice travel conditions are still iffy due to the multiple layers of ice, snow, and slush. Inconsistent ice thickness makes checking your path a safety necessity. Again, talking with your favorite bait shop personnel is the best choice for the most current information on fish locations, favored baits and presentations ‑ and ice conditions.
Walleye action is good to very good. During the day, fish deep weeds, humps, and other structure. In the evening, fish move to shallow to feed on flats with deeper areas nearby. Set up prior to the peak bite window for best success. Baits and presentations of choice include walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups, dead-sticks, jigs, and jigging spoons.
Northern pike fishing is very good to excellent on weeds, weedlines, wood, rock, and cribs in 6-20 feet, and wherever you find panfish and baitfish concentrations. The most productive baits and presentation are northern suckers and large shiners under tip-ups, with baits within two feet of the bottom.
Crappie fishing is good to very good, with fish schooling in 12-22 feet on structure, weeds, basins, and nearby points. Best baits include crappie minnows, waxies, spikes, minnow heads, and plastics on small tungsten jigs in gold and Wonder Bread configurations.
Bluegill and Perch:
Bluegill and perch fishing is fair to very good, depending on the lake. Look for bluegills in and around shallow bays and weed beds. Perch are in deep basins, particularly on the deep, clear lakes. Bluegills are hitting waxies and plastics on small tungsten jigs and teardrops worked slowly. For perch, minnow heads on small jigging spoons work best.
Jan. 18: Crow season opens.
Jan. 21-22: Free Fishing Weekend (DNR waives fishing license, trout and salmon stamp requirement).
Jan. 21: Northland Area Builders Association Ice Fishing Contest on Nelson Lake (715-296-7881).
Jan. 31: Squirrel season ends statewide.
Feb. 3: Full Snow Moon.
Feb. 4-5: Deerfoot Lodge ‑ 11th annual “Freeze Your Buns Off” Crappie Ice Fishing Tournament (715-462-3328).
Feb. 22-26: American Birkebeiner Ski Race week (715-634-5025).
For more information on area events and activities, visit the Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau and Hayward Area Chamber of Commerce websites, view the Calendar of Events, or call (715) 634-8662 or 800-724-2992.