The North Woods enjoyed a relatively nice fall this year, but apparently, we are now moving on to “another” season. The current Tuesday forecast is blunt: Snow. Could be heavy at times, with 4-8 inches accumulation possible. High near 31 degrees. North wind 5-10 mph, high as 15 mph.
The remainder of the week appears mostly clear, with some sun, but colder.
“On the Quiet Lakes,” says Greg at Happy Hooker, “we are hearing consistent reports of 3-4 inches of ice on most spots anglers are hitting. Not to sound like a broken record, but be sure to check any ice where you walk. It can change in just a few steps if there is any kind of current, spring, or section that did not freeze the same.
“There is no need to be fancy and search all over the lake. First, it is not safe to do so, as all the lakes vary in ice thickness and quality. Second, the fish, not heavily targeted for a month now, are ready to eat. Find shallow weeds, drop some live bait in their face, and catch fish!
“Walleye action is good with walleye suckers and shiners under tip-ups set up on weed edges, both shallow and deep.
“Northern pike action is good in the exact same spots and with the same set-ups as for walleye. Everything is on shallow weed edges, preying on baitfish hiding there.
“Panfish ‑ crappie, bluegill, and perch ‑ are hiding in the same weed beds and edges where you find walleye and pike. Work small jigs and spoons tipped with waxies and plastics in open weed pockets.”
Jarrett at Hayward Bait says anglers are starting to make their way onto the ice and ice-up varies from lake to lake.
“Shorelines had a slim layer of ice that was then covered with snow, pushing water onto previous cracks, and that is the weakest ice. Ice that formed during the deer season opener formed well and could be 2-4 inches thick.
“Wherever you decide to venture, be sure to wear a life jacket or floatation suit and take a spud bar, the heavier the better. The buddy system is best for early ice if something extreme happens. If you cannot take a buddy, tell someone where you are going. They will know where to find you should something happen in an area few people frequent.
“Musky season closes December 31, most waters have iced-up, and it is not legal to target muskies from the ice.
“Walleye fishing is best early in the day and early evening into dark, but shallow fish are very spooky. Get to your spot and set up early, 1:30-2 p.m., and clear the area of all noise and foot traffic. Noise travels far under the ice and things as small as a bucket aerator can deter fish, let alone footsteps or a group running to a flag. To increase your odds, cut down on all noise. Stay clear and take only two anglers to a hole, one for the fish and one to assist.
“Northern pike are shallow, feeding on roaming panfish. Early in the season, pike are actively hunting baitfish, so keep tip-up lines with lively baits two to three feet off bottom. This time of year, make sure your bait is not sitting on the bottom. Many anglers lay a big dead bait on the bottom in search of large pike. This is a great strategy in late season, when winter has started killing off weak fish and pike are feeding on dead fish on bottom.
“Crappie and bluegill are primary on the shallow weedlines. This is good, as current ice thickness does not yet allow anglers to venture to the basins. At this time of year, most anglers ‘camp’ on weed points, inside turns, and transitions and wait for fish to move through. Limit the noise you make on the ice. An overhead shelter can limit the light making it through the drilled hole and might provide the ability to sight-fish if the waterbody is clear enough.
“Perch are sitting in areas with unsafe ice where ice anglers cannot access them.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses winter trout fishing in the Hayward area.
“Many people enjoy trout fishing and you can do it throughout the entire year ‑ if you know where to go.
“Streams are open for catch and release fishing starting in mid-winter and this continues through spring. The harvest season for stream trout runs from the May fishing opener to mid-October. Trout fishing and harvest opportunities are also available on lakes in late fall and winter.
“Two lakes in Sawyer County are open for winter trout fishing: Camp Smith Lake, and Perch Lake in the National Forest off Forest Road 203. However, I would not describe either of these as exceptional winter trout opportunities, but for different reasons.
“Perch Lake receives stocking of catchable-size brook trout, about 8 inches, in May each year. Those trout are likely available to anglers through early summer, but then become less abundant as the lake warms. Some may survive until winter, but we expect that is somewhat rare.
“Camp Smith Lake has received stockings of many species of trout in the past, most recently brown trout of various sizes. Yellow perch, introduced illegally and now abundant and small, have limited stocking survival of trout in Camp Smith. Anglers have reported catching a few brown trout in recent years, but not as consistently as in the past.
“Anglers seeking winter trout fishing opportunities might want to check out the stocked lakes in the Washburn County Forest. A number of different walk-in lakes receive stocking annually and provide good opportunities in multiple seasons. Check out the Washburn County Forest website for stocking details.
“Remember: Anglers must have an inland trout stamp to target trout in lakes or streams, regardless of whether or not they plan to harvest trout they catch.”
The Sawyer County deer harvest total, as of November 22, is 1,861 deer, including 1,265 antlered and 596 antlerless. These totals include:
- Archery: 281 deer (186 antlered, 95 antlerless)
- Crossbow: 634 deer (417 antlered, 217 antlerless)
- Youth Deer Hunt Oct. 8-9: 54 deer (26 antlered, 28 antlerless)
- Nine-day gun deer season as of Nov. 22: 892 deer (636 antlered, 256 antlerless)
The nine-day gun deer season ended November 27, but additional deer seasons follow, including muzzleloader deer season Nov. 28-Dec. 7; four-day antlerless-only deer hunt Dec. 8-11; and antlerless-only Holiday Hunt open only in select Zone 2 farmland counties
The DNR encourages hunters to donate Wisconsin-harvested deer to its Deer Donation Program that helps stock food pantries and supports residents in need throughout the state. The DNR partners with participating meat processors to distribute the venison. Since the program began in 2000, hunters have donated almost 100,000 deer ‑ more than 3.8 million pounds of venison ‑ distributed to food pantries. People can also support the program through monetary donations when purchasing hunting or fishing licenses or Wisconsin State Park passes. For information on donating a deer, search “Deer Donation Program” on the DNR website.
The DNR encourages hunters to participate in the ongoing effort to monitor for chronic wasting disease (CWD). Testing for CWD is free, easy, and available to every hunter in the state. Check the map to see where CWD testing is available near you and note that the DNR added additional testing locations throughout the season. In addition, disposing of deer carcass waste in deer carcass dumpsters, provided in partnership with individuals and organizations around the state, slows the spread of CWD by removing potentially infected deer waste from the landscape. For more information, search “guide to slowing spread of CWD” on the DNR website.
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released its Outdoor Recreation Account report November 9, 2022, highlighting the outdoor recreation industry’s 2021 economic impact. According to the report, outdoor recreation generated $862 billion in economic output in 2021, leading to the creation of 4.5 million jobs, which equals 3 percent of all workers in the United States. In Wisconsin, outdoor recreation generated $8.7 billion in economic output (2.4 percent of the state economy), and created 89,360 jobs (3 percent of all employees in the state). Top industries include Hunting/shooting/trapping; Boating/Fishing; RVing; Motorcycling/ATVing; and Bicycling. For more information, search “state data” on the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis website.
Ice-up is starting and some lakes have up to four inches. Most fish species are shallow where ice is “thicker,” but that does not mean it is safe ‑ test the ice every step. As is always the case, your favorite bait shop folks can provide the most current updates on ice conditions and fishing specifics.
Do not go alone OR tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return. Wear a PFD and take ice picks, a spud bar, and a cell phone in a waterproof case or container.
Some musky anglers continue to pursue fish on the big lakes that still have open water. Regulation changes from April 2020 changed the closing date for open water musky season to December 31. Open water is considered conditions that do NOT allow using ice as a fishing platform.
Walleye fishing is good, with best action in early morning and from early evening into after dark. Set up on weed edges, shallow or deep, and do so quietly, keeping noise to an absolute minimum. Walleye suckers and shiners on jigs and under tip-ups are the “baits du jour.”
Northern pike action is good to very good around shallow weeds, weed edges, and panfish and baitfish concentrations. Panfish anglers will catch pike by fortune or fate, depending on angler perspective. Walleye suckers, shiners, and even crappie minnows work well, whether fished on jigs or under tip-ups.
Crappie fishing is good on shallow weeds, weedlines/edges, points, and transitions. Crappie minnows, waxies, plastics, and Gulp! bait on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks, and small jigging spoons, can all be effective.
Bluegill and Perch:
Bluegill and perch fishing is fair to good. Fish are primarily on weeds, weed edges, weedlines, points, and transitions. Waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks are working well.
Nov. 28-Dec. 7: Muzzleloader deer season.
Nov. 29: Mourning dove season closed.
Dec. 7: Full Cold Moon.
Dec. 8-11: Four-day antlerless-only deer hunt (see regs).
Dec. 16: Goose season closes in North Zone.
Dec. 21: Winter Solstice ‑ first day of winter!
Dec. 25: Christmas Day.
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.