Mild temperatures early this week will make for ‘comfortable’ winter sports activities, though Monday’s rain will negatively affect ice and trail conditions. Daily high and low temperatures drop about 10 degrees later in the week, with some snow in the forecast. Check conditions, dress accordingly, and use caution!
“Warm temperatures for mid-January should help settle the Quiet Lakes’ snow a bit,” says Greg at Happy Hooker. “Still, considerable slush between the snow and ice has most anglers struggling to get to good spots.
“Walleye anglers are using tip-ups with shiners, or jigging spoons and baits. Use larger Acme Kastmasters, Northland Buckshot, Clam Flutter spoons, Jigging Raps, Tikka Minos, and Acme Hyper-Glide, Rattle, or Hammer series. With the low fishing pressure so far, bigger, aggressive baits work better. Unless fish tell you otherwise, no need to finesse.
“Northern pike are near shallow structure such as weeds, rocks, mid-lake humps, points, and anything that will hold fish. Walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups remains the best presentation.
“Crappies in shallow lakes relate to weeds, brush, and timber. In deep lakes, they might be schooling in basins. Deep or shallow, fishing is much the same. No matter where crappies roam, waxies and plastics on tungsten jigs is the most efficient way.
“Bluegills are relating to weeds and shallow water, feeding on bugs, and matching small jigs to mimic these bugs will produce big bluegills. Jigs with waxies and small plastics that move in the water put more fish on the ice.
“Perch can be anywhere, but likely in shallow weeds or on weed edges that transition into basins. Small jigging spoons ice more perch than standard jigs. Tip them with minnow heads or bodies and get loud. Perch tend to eat bigger baits and not care about finesse, so move around and stay on active fish.”
Jarrett at Hayward Bait says recent warmer weather knocked down much of the snow on the ice and cooler temperatures should stiffen it.
“Many lakes have 5-12 inches of ice, but snow and slush linger. Much of the ice remains unsafe, or the snow too thick, for ATVs/UTVs. Many anglers go on foot, though snowmobiles get around easier with the staked lake trails.
“Walleye anglers report success with tip-ups and spoons during sunrise and sundown. Most fish get more finicky in midwinter, so think smaller baits such as fatheads rather than suckers, 1/8-oz. spoons rather than 1/4-oz., etc. Fish are still aggressive during the daytime, but smaller presentations will tempt more fish.
“Northern pike anglers are catching fish in many areas, with some shallow and some on deep shelves and ledges. Tip-ups with big shiners and/or dead bait on quick-strike rigs are pulling fish. Take home a few to eat. Most folks say the tender, white meat is better than walleye, and removing y-bones is easy once you do it a few times!
“Crappies are in main lake basins in 15-40 feet. Check deep holes adjacent to weedy bays where fish move during spring months. Fish should be within a few feet of the bottom, and small jigs, spoons, live bait, and lipless rattle baits are working well.
“Bluegills are in shallower lake basins, holding to remaining weed growth, or on cribs. Predators feed all winter and many bluegills will not venture far from their home base. Fish tight to cribs, downed trees, or other cover, and underwater cameras will help you make your bait accessible. Small 1/64-oz. jigs tipped with waxies or spikes can be the ticket for finicky fish holding to heavy cover.”
This week, in Part One of a three part series, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses Chippewa Flowage creel survey comparisons.
“In 2022, the DNR conducted an angler creel survey on the Chippewa Flowage. These surveys generate estimates of the angling effort, catch, and harvest for important species of fish, with the data used for managing the fishery. There is a lot of information to break down in the creel results, hence the three-part series.
“The 2022 creel gave us a good indication of what species anglers are targeting on the Chippewa Flowage. Note that this creel survey included only open water angling.
“The top species targeted was bluegill, with 100,378 hours of directed angling effort, accounting for 20.7 percent of what anglers targeted.
“The next most targeted species was black crappie, followed by walleye, musky, and largemouth bass. Northern pike, smallmouth bass, and yellow perch rounded out the bottom of the list.
“We can make some comparisons to past creel surveys, too.
“In 2011, the top species were black crappie, bluegill, musky, and walleye. These were the same top four species as in 2022, but in a different order.
“Total angler effort on the Chippewa Flowage in 2022 was estimated at 364,795 hours, which comes out to 23.8 hours of effort for every acre of water, a relatively high mark for our area ‑ most lakes see 8-20 hours/acre. However, the 2022 effort is actually down in comparison to 2011 when the estimate was 476,137 hours (30.1 hours per acre).
“Angler effort for bass and panfish appears to have decreased the most from 2011 to 2022, while effort for most other species was relatively similar.
“Parts two and three of this series will look at catch rates and harvest statistics from this survey.”
The Sawyer County deer harvest total, as of January 10, is 3,140 deer, including 1,988 antlered and 1,152 antlerless. These totals include:
- Archery: 303 deer (195 antlered, 108 antlerless)
- Crossbow: 698 deer (449 antlered, 249 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
This is the final update for the 2022-23 deer seasons for Sawyer County.
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.
Free Fishing Weekend is this Saturday and Sunday, January 21-22, when the DNR waives all fishing license and trout and salmon stamp requirements. All other fishing regulations remain in effect. Regulations exclude some waters ‑ see the fishing regulations for details. If you are new to fishing or have not purchased a fishing license in 10 years, check out the first-time buyer – welcome back resident license for only $5.
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.
Due to recent mild temperatures, rain, and quickly changing conditions, reports listed are only those from January 16.
The January 16 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Washburn County says trails are open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 12-16 inches. Ride with caution and watch for limbs and branches along the trails, be aware of grooming activity, and stay on designated trails. Report hazards such as large branches on trails to Washburn County Forestry at (715) 635-4490.
The January 16 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Rusk County says trails are partially open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 8-12 inches. All trails are open except Trail 27 north of Cedar Lodge and Trail 99 north of Flambeau River Lodge. However, it is raining/sprinkling, grooming is suspended, and the recommendation is to ride later this week when cold weather returns. Watch for low hanging branches, sticks embedded in the base, and other riding hazards. (View trail status map.)
The January 16 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for the Cable area says trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 8-12 inches. Use extreme caution if riding on the lake trails.
Ice conditions with the recent mild temperatures and Monday’s rain continue to cause travel issues on the ice and some areas remain questionable. Fishing is generally good to very good for most species. Check with your favorite bait shop folks for the most current fishing details and ice conditions.
Free Fishing Weekend is this Saturday and Sunday, January 21-22, when the DNR waives all fishing license and trout and salmon stamp requirements. Be sure to check above for links and details.
Walleye fishing is fair to good, with best action in early morning and sunset into dark. During the day, focus on deep weeds, humps, and points. In the evening, fish move in to feed on shallow flats. Top baits include sucker minnows, fatheads, and shiners on tip-ups, dead-sticks, jigs, jigging spoons, and assorted jigging baits.
Northern pike fishing is very good, with anglers catching good number of fish in most locations. Look for pike near shallow weeds, rocks, humps, points, and other structure, as well as some fish on deep ledges. Large sucker minnows and shiners on tip-ups and quick-strike rigs are pulling in fish.
Crappie fishing is good to very good. Depending on the lake, fish can be on shallow weeds, wood, and brush, or schooling in deep holes and basins and/or suspending over in/over more than 30 feet. Look for fish near bottom, but check the entire water column. Crappie minnows, waxies, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs and spoons work well.
Bluegill and Perch:
Bluegill and perch fishing is good to very good close to shallow weeds, wood, cribs, basins, and brush. Waxies, spikes, and plastics on small jigs and teardrops work well, especially if you can match the jigs to the current food sources. Electronics, including locators and cameras, help you get on the fish. Perch are holding on shallow weed edges leading to basins, and small jigging spoons with minnow heads or bodies work well. Keep moving with them!
Jan. 7 through May 5: Early catch-and-release trout season open (see regs).
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. 21: Elk Country ATV Club ‑ ice fishing contest on Upper Clam Lake, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. (715-681-0866).
Jan. 31: Period 2 Bobcat hunting and trapping season closes.
Jan. 31: Squirrel season ends statewide.
Feb. 3: Full Snow Moon.
Feb. 4: Flambeau River State Forest ‑ Candlelight Ski and Hike, no fees (715-332-5271).
Feb. 4-5: Deerfoot Lodge ‑ 11th annual “Freeze Your Buns Off” Crappie Ice Fishing Tournament (715-462-3328).
Feb. 15: Fox, Coyote, and Raccoon hunting/trapping seasons close.
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.