Happy New Year! (Too late? Heard it too much?) Some milder days in the past week settled some snow and ice cover, which made for somewhat better travel everywhere. This week starts mild as well ‑ though with new snow accumulations up to five inches though Wednesday. Highs remain in the 20s, but nighttime lows return to single digits. Conditions are actually conductive to your choice of most outdoor activities, so get out there and enjoy them!
“The Sawyer County Snowmobile and ATV Alliance has some good Facebook posts on lake conditions and staked trails. As always, use caution and common sense when riding unknown conditions on any lake.
“Walleye action is good with tip-ups, dead-sticks, and jig fishing. 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. Start fishing bigger baits aggressively; downsize and slow presentation if fish do not commit.
“Northern pike action is good on tip-ups around weeds and shallow structure, weed edges, and above timber and rock in 6-12 feet. Shiners on tip-ups are the most popular.
“Crappies will start schooling and pushing deeper. Look in 15-20 feet off points adjacent to basins. Use minnow heads and plastics on tungsten jigs for the finesse bite, or waxies and spikes on smaller jigs.
“Bluegill anglers should focus on weed beds and shallow bays. Use waxies and soft plastics on small tungsten jigs, with slow movement, as fish are looking for an easy meal.
“Perch are schooling in deeper water, indicated by some anglers fishing deeper lakes. The most popular bait is a minnow head on a small jigging spoon. Perch are super aggressive and chase baits bigger than anglers might think.”
Jarrett at Hayward Bait says ice conditions vary throughout the area, but reports say 3-8 inches on most waterbodies, with just as much, if not more, snow and slush on top of the ice.
“Foot travel is the safest travel method, but some anglers are taking out snowmobiles and ATVs. Just be wary of springs, soft spots, and heavy slush areas.
“Walleyes moved deeper due to snow and slush covering the ice, with fish sitting on deep weed and structured flats, though moving shallower to feed around dusk. Anglers are catching them primarily on medium shiners and walleye suckers under tip-ups.
“Northern pike are as shallow as 3 feet, in more than 20 feet roaming with walleyes, or moving between the two areas. Big northern suckers and large shiners, under tip-ups and suspended a foot or two off bottom, work well.
“Crappies moved to main lake basins. If getting out for this bite, be very careful of ice conditions. Fish are stacked vertically and easy to find if you have the electronics and energy to look. Crappies move constantly, so drill many holes and move between them to stay on fish. Minnows, waxies, and plastics on small jigs work well.
“Bluegills in some instances hang with crappies in deep water; others roam the last weedlines or cling to structure such as wood, timber, and cribs. Waxies and spikes on small jigs should coax finicky panfish from cover.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses LCO PIT tags.
“Over the past 10 years and more, we have learned a great deal from our extensive musky tagging program in the Hayward area. The tags we use, called PIT tags, allow us to identify individual fish for the remainder of its life.
“We often tag fish as we stock them from the hatchery, which is the case with Lac Courte Oreilles, where from 2014 through 2021 we tagged more than 9,500 stocked fingerlings. We are able to gather data on these fish for many years after their stocking.
“Our first major finding from LCO musky tagging is that not all stocked year classes are the same. We have caught far fewer fish from the 2014 year-class compared to the 2017 year-class, though potentially we have had more years to find the 2014 fish. In fact, the 2014 class initially looked like a total bust, with almost no fish turning up for the first several years.
“Then, in 2021, fish from the 2014 stocking finally started showing up in our nets in decent numbers. The hatchery crew from Spooner captured 12 fish from the 2014 class in the spring of 2021 when the fish were 7 years old. That is not an overwhelming number of fish, but we were happy to see some contribution from that year class.
“The size of those fish was very encouraging, too. The largest of the class, females, of course, were already greater than 42 inches at 7 years of age. At that rate, those fish have an excellent chance of making it to 50 inches.
“The 2017 year class musky stocking is a very different story, with survival of the class looking much better, and as a result of that stocking, the overall population abundance appears to be increasing. The 2017 fish were 5 years old in 2022, and ranged from 29-35 inches. Another stocking of tagged fish took place in 2021. Time will tell if the survival and growth of that year class matches those of either of the two classes ahead of it.
“However, all these findings point to the quality of LCO musky fishing increasing over the next few years, with more fish, and large fish, back in the picture.”
The DNR has not updated the Sawyer County deer harvest total since December 20. New information will appear here when available. Archery and crossbow season runs through January 8. 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 December 31 HLVCB snowmobile trail report says that trails are open, but you ride at your own risk. Please do so with caution. Crews have not completely cleared or groomed all trails, and some remain closed while work continues. Please throw any branches or debris off the trails, rather than running over it to freeze into the base and become a hazard for riders and groomers.
Not all lakes are safe for staking, so please stay off lakes not staked; stay on marked lake trails. Trails are rough, so ride slowly, with caution, and be courteous to anglers. This is not ideal riding, but it is a start!
Thank you for patience!
Be sure to check the Sawyer County Snowmobile and ATV Alliance Facebook Page for additional updates, and visit the Sawyer County Snowmobile and ATV Alliance website to check both snowmobile and ATV maps
The December 31 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Washburn County says trails are partially open, not groomed, and in poor condition, with a base of 12-16 inches. Snowmobile clubs and county staff continue to work clearing trails. Do not ride on unopened trail sections, as this presents a hazard to workers clearing the trails. For updates, call the Snow Conditions Hotline 800-367-3306.
The December 31 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for the Clam Lake/Ashland County area says Ashland County trails are open, groomed, and in good condition. Crews continue to brush and groom trails. Please ride with caution. Crews cleared and groomed Clam Lake area trails, with a detour on Dead Horse. A one-mile segment of Trail 8 near Clam Lake shares Forest Road 336 with vehicle traffic ‑ please ride in the same direction as traffic, at posted speed.
The January 2 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for the Cable area says trails are cleared, open, rolled, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 4-8 inches. Snow is soft due to recent warmer temperatures. Crews staked Garden Lake, but not Namakagon, due to snow cover and variable ice thickness. If riding on the lake, use extreme caution. Please avoid Trail 31 into Sawyer County for a few days due to large equipment use.
Ice conditions are slowly improving, with thickness reports from 2-10 inches. Quality and thickness varies considerably from lake to lake and from spot to spot on each lake. Use extreme caution; foot travel remains the best choice. Check with your favorite bait shop personnel for reports before you are on your way. Plenty of season remains!
Walleye fishing is good and improving. The fish moved to deep weeds and flats with structure and the best bite is just before sunset into dark when fish move shallow to feed. Walleye suckers and medium shiners on tip-ups and dead-sticks, and jigging spoons, are working well.
Northern pike fishing is good to very good, with fish in 3-22 feet ‑ and moving between those depths. Concentrate on shallow to mid-depth weeds, weed edges, wood, rock, and structure. Large northern suckers and shiners on tip-ups, with bait just a couple feet off bottom, will do the job.
Crappie fishing is good to very good when you find them ‑ use electronics. Look in lake basins (check the ice thickness closely and carefully!) and on points in 12-22 feet. Go prepared to drill many holes and be mobile. Crappie minnows, minnow heads, waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small tungsten jigs are all working well.
Bluegill and Perch:
Bluegill fishing is very good to excellent; perch fishing is good. Bluegills are around shallow weeds, weed beds, wood, and cribs, OR in deep water with crappies. Look for perch around deeper weeds and flats. Waxies, spikes, plastics, and small minnows on small jigs and teardrops worked slowly produce for both species. Perch are also hitting small jigging spoons with minnow heads.
Jan. 6: Full Wolf Moon.
Jan. 7: Pat’s Landing Tipper Tourney, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., entry fee $20 (715-945-2511).
Jan. 18: Crow season opens.
Jan. 21-22: Free Fishing Weekend.
Jan. 21: Northland Area Builders Association Ice Fishing Contest (715-296-7881).
Feb. 22-26: American Birkebeiner Ski Race (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.