Light snow flurries fell early Monday evening, but the forecast calls for highs in the 40s from midweek into Friday. Do believe we will take those temperatures, as a slight cooling trend develops for the weekend.
Hunters: Sunday, December 10, is the application deadline for 2024 spring turkey and fall bear harvest permits. Resident and non-resident applications for spring turkey cost $3 and black bear applications cost $4.50.
For successful applicants, harvest tags for residents cost $15 for spring turkey and $49 for black bear. Non-resident harvest tags cost $65 for spring turkey and $251 for black bear.
Hunters can submit applications through license sales vendors, DNR service centers, and the Online Licensing Center. The drawing for spring turkey permits is in early January, with the bear permit drawing in early February.
“The colder weather and lack of snow conditions are great for making ice. There are reports of 3-4 inches of good ice around most shorelines on many lakes, and even some bigger waters such as the Chippewa Flowage and Lake Namakagon have iced-over. Reports say the Spider Chain, Lost Land, Teal, and Moose lakes all have 3-4 inches near shore.
“There is a slight warm-up in the mid to upper 30s all week, then back to just below freezing. This should not affect the ice, as the highs do not last long, and it gets well below freezing at night.
“The best ice fishing right now is with tip-ups on shallow flats or very near shorelines, and around dusk, when fish move shallow. There is no need to risk falling through by trying to fish mid-lake structure or in basins.
“If you go, check the ice early and often (no voting jokes!) Start slow and check ice every 3-5 steps. This might seem like too much, but ice thickness can change quickly. Be aware of lakes with stream, creek, and river inlets and outlets, as any moving water can cause thin spots. Deep lakes might still have open water, with just decent ice around the edges.
“Should really not have to say this, but will put it out there: At this time, there is absolutely no need to attempt to take any machines onto the lakes.
“Now is the time to get ready for a great ice season. Sort through your ice gear, put new line on reels and tip-ups, and stock up on new jigs and plastics.
“This season is off to a much better start than last year, and with the current weather, the trend looks to continue!”
Jarrett at Hayward Bait says that early ice is forming and fish relate to shallow weeds.
“Anglers should be ready to punch many holes for fish that are super selective about paths they take to food.
“During early ice, panfish hide from predators in shallow weeds, and weedlines, corners, and inside turns become gamefish hotspots. Find weeds, start drilling, and use a camera to find the ‘spot on the spot’ to fish. Even 5 feet can make a difference in seeing fish. Use the camera to see how visible you are on the ice. Set your tip-ups and then get far away!
“If you fish during early ice, use all safety precautions. Take a spud bar, rope, floating ice suit, throwable life cushion, and/or a life jacket, and go with a buddy if you can. Tell someone where you are going and when you will return.
“Walleyes are mostly shallow, though somewhat deeper during the day. They move shallow during evening feeding hours, sticking around until just after sunrise. Shallow fishing requires silence, as fish shoot off at any small noise. Set up early and stay far from the weed edges and alleyways fish travel. Walleye suckers, small shiners, or fresh-caught crappie or bluegill fry can be the ticket! Reminder: Chippewa Flowage walleye season ended Nov. 30.
“Northern pike move shallow for early ice, so follow the food chain to find them. Fish weed edges in shallow bays and backwaters in 3-10 feet during the day. Live bait on tip-ups work well.
“Crappies are roaming basins and untouchable during ice making, though some move to shallow weed edges until major ice. Crappie minnows on tip-ups, tip-downs, and dead sticks are all effective.
“Bluegills hold to shallow weeds before moving to main lake structure such as rocks, cribs, or wood. Waxies on small jigs work all winter, but 1/64- and 1/32-oz. spoons get the attention bigger fish and cut down on bait stealing dinks!”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the fastest growing muskies they have observed.
“A passive integrated transponder, or ‘PIT’ tag, is a small tag a musky can carry for its entire life, and in the Hayward area, our PIT tag muskellunge project has yielded lots of interesting information about our favorite local predator.
“In many cases, we place these tags on muskies stocked from our hatchery, allowing us to track them through their entire lives. We call these ‘known-age’ fish since we know when and where they were born, and can assign an age to them at any point down the road.
“We have captured many of these known-age muskies years later in lakes such as the Chippewa Flowage, Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO), Lost Land, and Sand. While we typically look at average growth rates, it is also interesting to look at the fastest growing fish we observe. These growth rates do not represent what we commonly expect, but it is interesting to see what these fish are capable of under the right circumstances.
“In the Chippewa Flowage, we captured a one-year-old musky that was already 17.5 inches long. Compare that to wild one-year-olds that average around 11 inches long. The big one-year-old undoubtedly got a big boost from living in a hatchery for much of its first year. We also captured a 35-inch, four-year-old from LCO, which is about 10 inches larger than the average for that age.
“One of our more impressive fish is a 42-inch, six-year-old musky that was initially stocked into Sand Lake. This is a rapid pace to reach that size, putting on 7 inches of growth per year of life!
“Naturally, growth of all of these fish will slow over time, but their fast head start might put them on an easier path to make it to that coveted 50-inch mark. Most of our PIT tagged fish are younger than eight years old, meaning we still have quite a bit of time to capture them as adults and learn from them.”
The DNR is seeking comment on revisions to the Administrative Code relating to various of DNR property management regulations and will hold a Zoom virtual public hearing December 5 on proposed rules. The DNR encourages the public to learn more about the rule changes and provide comments on the revisions through Dec. 10.
Rule updates include fee structures, vehicle and boat regulations, camping rules and operation, technology regulations, possession of animals, and property use. For more information, visit https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/calendar.
The Sawyer County deer harvest total for this season, as of November 28, is 1,994 deer, including 1,333 antlered and 661 antlerless. These totals include:
- Nine-day gun: 1,356 (925 antlered, 431 antlerless)
- Archery: 179 deer (115 antlered, 64 antlerless)
- Crossbow: 428 deer (281 antlered, 147 antlerless)
- Youth Deer Hunt (Oct. 7-8): 31 deer (12 antlered, 19 antlerless)
Most lakes now have “some” ice cover, but conditions vary between lakes and locations on lakes. Use extreme caution, take recommended safety equipment, and check the ice as you go. Talk with your favorite bait shop personnel for current details. Accessing deeper water is not necessary, as most of the gamefish are near shallow weeds. Ice fishing season is just starting ‑ stick around to enjoy it!
Ice conditions brought nearly all open water fishing to an end for the year, except for a few of the big, deep lakes, but access and usable launches are questionable. Musky season closes December 31 and is open only for open water fishing until then. Anglers cannot use ice as a platform to musky fish.
Walleye fishing is good, with fish pursuing forage moving to shallow weed edges. Shallow walleyes are “Nervous Nellies” that bolt at any disruption. Best fishing is along weed edges in late afternoon into dark. Walleye suckers, small shiners, and crappie or bluegill fry all produce action.
Northern pike fishing is good to very good as the pike follow their food ‑ panfish and baitfish ‑ into shallow weeds and weed edges prior to ice-up. Look for them in bays and backwater areas in depths to 12 feet. It is a daytime bite. Northern suckers, walleye suckers, and fatheads on tip-ups will grab the attention of pike.
Crappie fishing is fair to good. The accessible fish are along shallow weed edges, sensitive to any type of disturbance, and as such, quiet fishing improves success. Crappie minnows, waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on tip-ups, tip-downs, and deadsticking work well, as do small spoons.
Bluegill fishing is good to very good around shallow weeds and brush. Waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks work well. Small minnows and spoons can help avoid the bait robbers.
Nov. 29: Mourning dove season closed.
Dec. 6: Muzzleloader deer season closes.
Dec. 16: Goose season closes in Northern Zone.
Dec. 21: Winter Solstice – first day of winter (day with the fewest hours of sunlight ‑ but then days grow longer!)
Dec. 24-Jan. 1: Antlerless-only holiday hunt in select Farmland (Zone 2) counties.
Dec. 25: Christmas Day.
Dec. 26: Full Cold Moon.
Dec. 31: Musky season closes.
Jan. 1: New Year’s Day 2024.
Jan. 7: Seasons close: Ruffed grouse in Zone A; Pheasant; Hungarian partridge; Fisher trapping; Turkey (Zones 1-5).
Jan. 20-21: Free Fishing Weekend.
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.