This week’s forecast currently shows high temperatures in the low 20s to mid-30s, lows ranging from 8 to 20 degrees, and Wednesday with the only chance for precipitation. The remainder of the month is similar, but slightly warmer.
“The good news for the Quiet Lakes’ area,” says Greg at Happy Hooker, “is that the temperatures in the near future, with low- to mid-30s during the day, and lows into the teens at night, look favorable for keeping ice. We did not lose too much ice and reports indicate 6-9 inches, depending on where you are fishing.
“Anglers should be very cautious around creek and river inlets, and channels and neck-downs on main lakes where current could create thin ice.
“Fishing is good overall, and anglers are catching most predator fish in shallower water. Look for walleye and northern pike, in 8-12 feet or wherever shallow water transitions to the basin. Some anglers are doing well jigging spoons, Jigging Raps, and slab style jigging baits, but suckers and shiners under tip-ups is the most productive method.
“Panfish are relating to the basins and in 15-25 feet. Most anglers are doing well with waxies and spikes on small tungsten jigs and minnow heads and tails on small spoons to get down to the crappie, bluegill, and perch.”
Jarrett at Hayward Bait says the ice has stiffened a bit with cold weather back in the mix.
“Most waterbodies in the area have 5-11 inches of ice. However, we are few days into cold temperatures and the nighttime lows have only reached the mid-20s. Some teens and a few single-digit nights are on the way, but practice safety in the meantime.
“Walleyes are still in the mid-winter blues, but most anglers are having success fishing at dusk and dawn. Both jigging and tip-ups work equally well, with many fish coming from 10-25 feet. Jigging spoons tipped with minnow heads or tip-ups set a foot or so off bottom near structure are the key.
“Northern pike action remains solid, with live bait and dead bait working equally well. Tip-ups are the go-to for pike all winter, but an oddball always turns up on a crappie jig when you least expect it. Fish are in 10-25 feet, depending on the available food. Finding panfish or a nearby food source always leads to good pike numbers.
“Crappies are in main lake basins in 15-35 feet. Most fish are suspending in that range, so electronics are necessary to eliminate water. Small jigs, spoons, and rattlebaits work well, with anglers seeing multiple big fish.
“Bluegills are in 8-20 feet, depending on the lake, and many fish in small pods roam the bottom looking for food. Anglers are catching fish with waxies on jigs and small spoons.
“Perch are beginning to move unto mudflats to prepare for spawning. Dead-sticks with minnows combined with baits pounded into the mud to attract fish work well for anglers.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses bowfishing and mortality rates for releases.
“Bowfishing is a popular practice for harvesting fish, with at least some legal opportunities in all 50 states.
“Unlike hook and line angling, bowfishing does not lend itself to the release of targeted fish. The practice of attempting to release a fish shot by bow is not legal in most states, including Wisconsin, and recent research illustrates the futility of trying to release bow-shot fish.
“Researchers in Texas worked with experienced bowfishers to shoot 240 various ‘non-game’ species fish, which they then held in tanks. The researchers also captured a control group of fish using electrofishing equipment, similar to what we do in a fisheries survey.
“The fish shot by bow experienced 87 percent mortality, and even fish shot in non-critical areas such as fins experienced 52 percent mortality. Meanwhile, none of the control fish died. These stark results provide numerical data on what many might already assume as a truth: Bows, as intended, are a lethal method for targeting fish and other game.
“These results put into focus the importance of bow anglers being able to confidently and accurately identify their target before releasing the string. Release of a fish they did not intend to shoot will likely result in that fish dying.
“Those interested in bow fishing need to consult the Spearing, Netting, and Bait Harvest Restrictions Guide released annually by Wisconsin DNR to understand where bowfishing opportunities exist and the rules one must follow. Please note that harvesting fish by bow is not legal in some parts of Wisconsin.
“Then, even when operating legally, bowfishers should give careful consideration to what they are shooting.”
The DNR is now accepting entries through April 1 for the 16th annual Great Waters Photo Contest and Writing Project. The Office of Great Waters will feature the top photographs and writing submissions in its next calendar. The photo contest and writing project highlight how people connect with and value the Great Lakes and Mississippi River.
Eligible entries include photos of Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, or the Mississippi River in Wisconsin, and short essays, stories, or poems of approximately 200 words inspired by the Great Waters. The contest will also accept written descriptions of stewardship projects or partnerships to help protect or restore Wisconsin’s Great Waters.
The Office of Great Waters needs pictures of all seasons in the following categories: People enjoying Wisconsin’s Great Waters; Cultural and historical features; Natural features; Wildlife.
Criteria include visual and technical merit, creativity, and composition.
A panel of DNR staff members will complete the judging. All authors and photographers will receive credit.
For more information on the photo contest, writing project, rules, instructions, and submission requirements, visit https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/GreatLakes/Contest.html.
The 24th Annual Drummond Bar Stool Races will go on as scheduled in Drummond this Saturday, February 17, from 11 a.m. through 3 p.m. This event is a fundraiser for the Drummond Dirt & Sno-Jacks Snowmobile and ATV/UTV Club and offers food, drinks, and raffle prizes with up to $7,500 in cash payout. The race is limited to 64 races ($30 entry fee) and offers trophies and cash prizes. The races start at 11 a.m.
For more information, visit www.drummondwi.com/drummond-annual-barstool-races.
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 ATV/UTV trails remain open in Sawyer County. If you venture out on an ATV/UTV, make sure you follow the ATV/UTV map, know the map legend, and visit the DNR ATV website to review rules and regulations.
For information on ATV/UTV trail conditions and seasonal closures, visit https://haywardlakes.com/trails/atv-utv/trail-conditions.
Fishing is good to very good for most species and ice conditions are improving with the continuing subfreezing nighttime temperatures and lack of snow cover. Most reports indicate ice thickness at 5-9 inches, but it is inconsistent. As such, it is important to use extreme caution on the ice and to check as you go.
Anglers should note that Wisconsin’s general inland gamefish season closes March 3.
Remember the ice shack removal dates in March as follows:
• Wisconsin-Minnesota boundary waters by March 1.
• Wisconsin-Michigan boundary waters by March 15.
• Lake Superior and inland waters north of Highway 64 by March 16.
Anglers can use portable shelters after these dates, but must remove them daily when not occupied or in use.
Walleye fishing is fair to good, with early morning and sunset into dark offering the best odds for success. Anglers are catching fish in 6-28 feet nears weeds and weedlines, rock, and transitions from shallow to deep basins. Productive baits include walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups suspending baits a foot off bottom near structure, and jigs, jigging baits, Jigging Raps, and jigging spoons.
Northern pike action is good to very good in 8-25 feet. Look for deep weeds and weed edges, shallow to deep basin transitions, and concentrations of panfish and baitfish. Northern suckers, walleye suckers, and shiners on tip-ups and jigs, and jigging spoons, Jigging Raps, jigging style slab baits, and rattlebaits are all catching pike.
Crappie fishing is good to very good and anglers are catching some very nice slabs. Look for fish in basins, and on cribs, drop-offs, and breaklines, in 12-30 feet ‑ and make sure to check the entire water column. Baits of choice include crappie minnows, fatheads, rosy reds, waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks fished under tip-ups, tip-downs, and dead-sticks, with small spoons and rattlebaits also effective.
Bluegill fishing is good to very good in basins and near the bottom in/near weeds, weedlines, cribs, and other cover in 8-25 feet. Traditional baits such as waxies, spikes, small minnows, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs, teardrops, and spoons, as well as fished under dead-sticks, all work well.
Perch fishing is good and getting better as fish are on weedlines and moving to mudflats for pre-spawn staging. Crappie minnows, minnow heads, waxies, and plastics on small jigs, spoons, and fished under dead-sticks work well. Stir up the mud bottom to draw fish to your baits.
Feb. 15: Seasons close: Coyote trapping; Fox hunting/trapping; Raccoon hunting/trapping.
Feb. 17: Canceled – Let’s Go Ice Fishing! Event (715-483-3300).
Feb. 17: 24th Annual Drummond Bar Stool Races, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Feb. 21-25: 50th Annual Slumberland American Birkebeiner (715-634-5025).
Feb. 24: Full Snow Moon.
Feb. 29: Leap Year!
Feb. 29: Seasons close: Cottontail rabbit; Squirrel (gray and fox).
March 2: Lakewoods Resort – World’s Longest Weenie Roast (715-794-2561).
March 3: General inland gamefish season closes.
March 9: Fat Bike Birkie (715-634-5025).
March 10: Daylight Saving Time begins at 2 a.m. (set clocks ahead one hour).
March 20: Crow season closes.
March 25: Full Worm Moon.
March 31: Annual hunting and fishing licenses expire.
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.