The North Woods has received more than enough snow so far this winter, but late this week cold temperatures add to the mix, with wind speeds exceeding degrees some days. Dress for the weather and enjoy your winter recreational activities in a safe manner! Keep it fun!
“About 10 inches of new snow fell around the Quiet Lakes during the last storm,” says Greg at Happy Hooker. “If lake travel was not bad enough before, it is bad now! Travel on staked lake trails is good, but there is a lot of fluff off the packed trail.
“Walleye anglers are using shiners on tip-ups and bigger jigging spoons and baits. For jigging, use larger Acme Kastmasters, Northland Buckshot, and Clam Flutter spoons, and Jigging Raps, Tikka Minos, and Acme Hyper-Glide, Rattle, and Hammer series baits. With the lack of fishing pressure this season, bigger aggressive baits work better and no need to finesse unless the fish indicate otherwise.
“Northern pike are around shallow structure such as weeds, rocks, mid-lake humps, and points. Suckers and shiners on tip-ups are working best for pike.
“Crappies can be anywhere, depending on the lake. In shallow lakes, crappies relate to weeds, brush, and timber. In deep lakes, they can be schooling in basins. Whether deep or shallow, fishing is much the same. Waxies and plastics on tungsten jigs is the most efficient presentation, no matter where crappies roam.
“Bluegills relate to shallow water and weeds, they will feed on bugs in those weeds, and matching small jigs to mimic the bugs will produce big bluegills. Waxies and small plastics on jigs put more fish on the ice.
“Perch can be anywhere, but most likely in shallow weeds or on weed edges transitioning into basins. Small jigging spoons seem to ice more perch than standard jigs. Tip jigs with minnow heads or bodies and get loud. Perch eat bigger baits and do not care about finesse, so move to stay on active fish.”
Jarrett at Hayward Bait says the recent 4-6 inches of fresh snow should not make travel any worse than before!
“Most lakes have an ice base of 6-12 inches, with the same amount of snow and slush. We hope cold temperatures freezes the cover and make for easier walking, but also expect that lakes will not be drivable for any travel other than with wheelers, side-by-sides, or snowmobiles this season.
“Walleye fishing is okay, with fish looking for smaller baits during non-primetime hours. The spoon and jig bite is picking up, and jigs tipped with crappie minnows or fathead heads pull in fish. Many anglers run two lines in their shacks, running an active jigging rod and a dead-stick with plain hook and small minnow. Attract fish with spoons or rattle baits, and if a fish does not hit the active bait, the live minnow seals the deal.
“Northern pike fishing is solid, with many big fish photos rolling in. Fish definitely have a winter build and provide a fun fight through the ice! Use large suckers and shiners on tip-ups set adjacent to deep water where fish can easily move in to feed. Jigging big, flashy rattle baits pull fish from all over. Many say pike’s awesome white meat tastes just as good, if not better than, walleye.
“Crappie success continues on weed flats and edges, though most anglers target basins. Basin fish typically suspend this time of year and start moving up from the bottom. Anglers without LiveScope technology who have Vexilars or Marcums can still find fish somewhat easily. Swing the transducer in each direction to check for fish in all directions. The fish images are fleeting, but offer good indication of the direction they are moving.
“Bluegills will relate to structure for the remainder of winter. Check weedlines and cribs as the first option. Waxies, spikes, and plastics on small tungsten jigs are all working well.”
This week, in Part Two of a three part series (Part One here), DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter further discusses 2022 Chippewa Flowage creel survey comparisons.
“These surveys generate estimates of the angling effort, catch, and harvest for important species of fish, with the data used for managing the fishery. Here we look at what anglers caught in 2022, with some comparisons to the 2011 creel.
“The most common fish anglers caught on the Chip in 2022 was bluegill, no big surprise. Anglers caught an estimated 363,994 bluegills during the open water portion of the year, with a catch rate of about three bluegills per angling hour.
“Black crappie was the next most common catch. Anglers caught an estimated 146,557 fish, with a catch rate of almost 1.5 crappies per hour.
“Anglers caught walleye and northern pike in similar numbers, with the estimated catches 31,901 walleye and 34,211 pike. The catch rate for pike was somewhat higher than for walleye, as there was less effort directed at that species. Both were a little less than half a fish per angling hour, or two hours for every walleye or pike caught. The walleye catch was more than double the estimate in the 2011 creel, both in total numbers and catch rate.
“The estimated number of muskellunge caught was 1,787, nearly identical to the 2011 catch of 1,706. In 2022, the average number of hours to catch a muskellunge on the Chippewa Flowage was 56. That is higher than many other ‘action’ lakes in the area, but not an abnormal number for a popular fishery managed more for trophy potential.
“The 2011 creel found that anglers had caught some ‘oddball’ species in the Chip, including catfish and common carp. Neither of those species appeared in the 2022 creel, though they are still present in the waterbody. The ‘oddest’ species appearing the 2022 creel was warmouth, with an estimated catch of 26 fish.”
Flambeau River State Forest will host a free Candlelight Ski and Hike event Saturday, February 4, from 6-9 p.m. Forest crews will groom and track a 1.8-kilometer trail loop, lit with candles. Staff will provide hot food and refreshments, picnic tables, and maintain a warming campfire throughout the night. A sledding hill is near the parking area. There is no admission fee, and the event takes place regardless of snow conditions. The Flambeau Hills trailhead is on Hwy W, 15 miles east of Winter and 20 miles west of Phillips. For more information, call (715-332-5271).
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 20 HLVCB snowmobile trail report says Sawyer County trails are open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 12-16 inches. Grooming continued through this past weekend, though with some equipment issues.
The January 23 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Washburn County says trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 12-16 inches. Ride with caution and watch for limbs or branches along trails. Report major hazards to Washburn County Forestry (715) 635-4490. Stay on designated trails and watch for grooming activity.
The January 23 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for the Cable area says trails are open, cleared, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 12-16 inches. Crews staked lake trails, but ice depths are variable, so use extreme caution when riding on the lakes.
The January 23 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for the Clam Lake/Ashland County area says trails are open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 8-12 inches. Detour Trail 25 and Trail 41 in Sawyer County up Trail 162 to the county line. Clam Lake Forest Riders will hold a meat raffle fundraiser from 3-5 p.m. Feb. 11, and again March 4, at Ransom’s Place in downtown Clam Lake. Come help support our local club!
The January 20 Travel Wisconsin cross-country trail report says crews have groomed the entire Birkie Trail system, with the exception of some small sections off the Birkie Trailhead in Cable. 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.
Anglers are doing well for most species, and there is little competition. Be aware that getting off the packed paths and trails is asking for trouble, with most travel limited to walking, snowmobiles, and ATVs/UTVs. Bait shop personnel can provide the most current reports on ice and travel conditions, fish locations, and favored baits and presentations.
Walleye fishing is fair to good, with best action in early morning and late evening into dark when fish move to shallower areas to feed. Walleye suckers, shiners, and fatheads on tip-ups, crappie minnows on dead-sticks, jigging spoons, and jigging baits are all producing good results.
Northern pike fishing is very good to excellent, with anglers catching good numbers of big fish. Focus on areas of shallow weeds, humps, rocks, points, and other structure, and concentrations of panfish and baitfish. Northern suckers and large shiners on tip-ups, and large jigging baits and jigging spoons are producing great action.
Crappie anglers are doing well when they find the fish, and locations vary from lake to lake. Fish can be in and on mid-depth to deeper weeds, weedlines, flats, wood, brush, in basins, and suspending (check the entire water column!) Crappie minnows, fatheads, waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small tungsten jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks are working well.
Bluegill and Perch:
Bluegill fishing is fair to good for fish in and around shallow to mid-depth weeds, weedlines, weed edges, wood, and basins. Waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks all catch fish. For perch, fish along shallow to mid-depth weed edges with small jigging spoons tipped with minnows or minnow heads.
Jan. 7 through May 5: Early catch-and-release trout season open (see regs).
Jan. 18: Crow season opened.
Jan. 28: Winter Huskies Fish Fest, Trap N’ Fish Lodge, Fish Trap Lake, $10 entry, 6 a.m.-4 p.m. (715-266-2787).
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.