Winter left no question about its arrival one week ago, bringing 8 inches of somewhat wet, heavy snow and a few nights of zero to sub-zero temperatures. This is near normal, as Hayward area averages for December are 28-degree highs, 5-degree lows, 1.18 inches of precipitation, and 13 inches of snow. This week’s forecast calls for highs in the mid-20s to low 30s, lows from 0 degrees to low teens, and 30-percent chances for snow Wednesday. Love it, hate it, or take issue with it, that is the forecast! Actually nice early winter weather ‑ get out and enjoy it!
Hunters: This Saturday, December 10, is the application deadline for bear and spring turkey season permits.
The deadline to apply for 2023 spring turkey and fall bear permits or preference points is December 10. Spring turkey applications for both resident and non-resident cost $3; black bear applications cost $4.50. For drawing winners, harvest tags for residents cost $15 for spring turkey and $49 for black bear. Non-resident harvest tags cost $60 for spring turkey and $251 for black bear.
Hunters can submit applications through license sales locations, DNR service centers, and the Online Licensing Center. The spring turkey drawing is in early January; the bear drawing is in early February.
For more information, search “2023 bear, spring turkey permit drawings” on the DNR website.
“Recent snowfall on the Quiet Lakes definitely did not help with ice making,” says Greg at Happy Hooker.
“Many cold nights are on the way and not much snow in the immediate forecast should really help ice-up the lakes. Reports indicate about 5 inches of ice on the lakes and the cold nighttime temperatures should help close any open areas.
“Smaller bays and lakes are decent enough for fishing, but be safe any time you go on ice! A few anglers pushed their luck in the past week and went through the ice, though fortunately they only hurt their pride.
“Keep fishing simple right now. The safest ice is in the bays where you find the weeds ‑ and where you will find the fish. They are shallow, aggressive, offer fun fishing, and you do not need to complicate your set ups!
“Walleye fishing is currently very good. Anglers using walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups should focus on weed beds and weed edges, placing baits just outside the weeds or in weed pockets. If jigging, use spoons, be aggressive, and get the spoons down into those weed pockets. Tipping spoons with live bait might help, though it is not necessary, as calling in fish with flash and rattles should be enough at this time.
“Northern pike action is good with suckers and shiners under tip-ups. Use the same tactics and locations on weed beds and edges as for walleye.
“Crappie, bluegill, and perch are all relating to weeds. Jigging small spoons, or live bait and plastics on jigs, can be very good right now if you focus on weed pockets.”
Jarrett at Hayward Bait says ice conditions vary throughout the area and anglers should be cautious going on the ice.
“The 4-7 inches of snow we received recently dampened ice creation on the lakes, and despite some windy days, much of that snow remains on the lakes. Until we get some bitter-cold nights, it might be awhile before we get thicker ice.
“Be cautious heading onto the ice, as with the snow cover it is difficult to determine where freeze lines are or the thickness of the ice unless you are standing directly on top of it.
“Walleyes are scattered shallow, 5-10 feet, where they will be most accessible and easiest to find during winter. Walleye suckers and medium shiners on small treble hooks fished under tip-ups, left alone on quiet ice, are the ticket. For anglers who are jigging, large fatheads can be deadly. Live bait is the key at this time.
“Northern pike are roaming shallow waters for a daytime bite, with catches coming on northern suckers and large shiners under tip-ups. For larger pike, soak a smelt on a quick-strike rig about a foot or so off bottom.
“Crappie and bluegill are on weedlines and in basins. Since we are unable to fish the basin bite effectively without going swimming, this limits fishing to the shallow weedline bite. Try 6-12 feet with small jigs and plastics.
“For now, it is a simple bite until we have better ice conditions and fish move deeper.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses burbot fishing in the Hayward area.
“Every year, quite a few anglers contact me about where they can catch burbot in northern Wisconsin ‑ with probably more inquiries about burbot than some other popular species such as sturgeon!
“Can you actually catch burbot in the Hayward area? The answer is both yes and no. Yes, there are burbot in many waters in the Hayward area, but anglers rarely catch them.
“We typically see burbot in areas with large boulders, cool water, and a little flow. Most of the burbot we see are in small to medium trout streams. Burbot are also present in some of the larger flowages, including Moose Lake and the Chippewa Flowage.
“Now before anyone gets too excited about their prospects for burbot fishing in this area, please note that the burbot we see in surveys are typically quite small, not much bigger than a mudpuppy. Most burbot we encounter are less than 20 inches long and very slender, and it would be difficult for an angler to make any kind of a meal out of this size burbot. The limited size of the fish is likely a result of the smaller waterbodies where we find them, and often, marginal habitats.
“Anglers looking for bigger burbot will want to target larger water, such as Chequamegon Bay or some of the larger lakes in Minnesota.”
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released its Outdoor Recreation Satellite 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.
Among the various segments of outdoor recreation, boating and fishing contributed $50.4 billion in economic output, making them the largest economic driver among conventional outdoor recreation activities.
In Wisconsin, outdoor recreation generated $8.7 billion in economic output and created 89,000 jobs ‑ 3 percent of all employees in the state. Top industries include the following: Boating/Fishing; Hunting/shooting/trapping; Motorcycling/ATVing; Bicycling; and RVing. For more information, visit https://recreationroundtable.org.
The Sawyer County deer harvest total, as of November 29, is 2,918 deer, including 1,887 antlered and 1,031 antlerless. This total includes:
- Archery: 286 deer (188 antlered, 98 antlerless)
- Crossbow: 648 deer (425 antlered, 223 antlerless)
- Youth Deer Hunt: 54 deer (26 antlered, 28 antlerless)
- Nine-day gun deer season: 1,930 deer (1,248 antlered, 682 antlerless)
The traditional nine-day gun deer season ended November 27, but additional deer seasons include muzzleloader season Nov. 28-Dec. 7; four-day antlerless-only hunt Dec. 8-11; and antlerless-only Holiday Hunt only in select Zone 2 farmland counties.
The DNR says the 2023 state park and forest admission stickers and trail passes are now on sale. The 2023 stickers and passes for admission to parks, forests, recreation areas, and trails are valid from the date of purchase through Dec. 31, 2023. Vehicle admission passes provide access to more than 60 state parks, forests, and recreation areas across Wisconsin. They are required on all motor vehicles visiting state parks and recreation areas. Some state forest and trail parking areas also require the annual sticker or daily admission pass.
Admission stickers cost $28 for Wisconsin residents and $38 for non-residents. For other vehicles registered to the same household, additional state park and forest stickers are available for $15.50 for residents and $20.50 for non-residents. A senior citizen annual sticker for $13 is available for Wisconsin residents 65 years of age and older.
State trail passes, required for all people age 16 or older biking, in-line skating, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, or off-highway motorcycling on specific state trails, cost $25 annually or $5 daily for residents and non-residents. A state trail pass is not required for walking or hiking. For more information, search “vehicle admission sticker” and “state trail pass” on the DNR website.
Ice conditions are slowly improving, but the 6-8 inches of snow received one week ago is inhibiting the ability of current cold temperatures to build more ice. As always, use extreme caution when on the ice and check ice thickness every step of the way. Fortunately, most fish are in accessible shallow, weedy areas that also hold the “best” ice (such as it might be at the time!) Most of the season remains, so do not take unnecessary risks. Check with your favorite bait shop folks for the most current input on ice conditions (first priority!), fish locations, favorite baits, and presentations.
Walleye action is good to very good, with best fishing in very early morning or late afternoon into dark. Target weeds, weedlines, and weed edges in 4-12 feet ‑ and a stealth approach can pay great dividends. Preferred baits and presentations include walleye suckers, medium shiners, and large fatheads under tip-ups and on jigs, and jigging spoons jigged “enthusiastically” are also working well.
Northern pike are providing a very good to excellent daytime bite on most lakes. The pike are in and around shallow weeds and the panfish and baitfish hiding in those weeds. Northern suckers, large shiners, and other minnow all tempt pike at this time. For trophy pike, suspend a smelt about one foot above the bottom.
Crappie fishing is good to very good. Look for fish in weedline pockets in 4-12 feet. Crappie minnows, waxies, and plastics on small jigs and plain hooks, as well as small jigging spoons, are all productive baits.
Bluegill and Perch
Bluegill and perch fishing is good to very good for anglers fishing accessible shallow, weedy areas. Waxies, spikes, minnows, and plastics on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks, and small jigging spoons, are all effective offerings.
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. 10: Application deadline for bear and spring turkey season permits.
Dec. 16: Goose season closes in North Zone.
Dec. 21: Winter Solstice ‑ first day of winter!
Dec. 24-Jan. 1: Antlerless-only Holiday Hunt ‑ open only in select Zone 2 farmland counties (see regs).
Dec. 25: Christmas Day.
Dec. 25: Period 1 Bobcat hunting and trapping season closes.
Dec. 26: Period 2 Bobcat hunting and trapping season opens.
Jan. 7: Early catch-and-release trout season opens (see regs).
Jan. 21-22: 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.