Beautiful weather for mid-February in the North Woods, with 40-degree highs and single-digit to 20s lows. A couple more days to enjoy it, and then it is back to true winter weather. Wonderful break, however, so enjoy it while you can!
“Quiet Lakes’ angler interest picked up last week,” says Greg at Happy Hooker, “and ice conditions were good before the midweek warm-up. Much of the snow is packing nicely, making for good ice travel on the lakes.
“Walleye reports are scarce. Anglers should try deeper areas where the bottom transitions from hard to soft. Pounding jigging minnow baits or spoons on the bottom and working them up a few feet will call in walleye from good distances. Keep a dead-stick in a hole, as fish sometimes prefer subtle to flash. If nothing happens with flashy stuff, tone it down to smaller spoons and movements.
“Northern pike fishing is good with suckers and shiners under tip-ups set on deeper weed edges, points, weeds, and structure out into main lake areas. Most prey fish are moving there and pike follow the food. Big flashy jigs also work and will call in aggressive pike.
“Crappie fishing is good, with some fish in deep basins and others in and around deep weed edges, depending on the lake and type of structure. Small presentations with subtle movements can be the ticket. Tungsten jigs work well both shallow and deep. Size up to get jigs deeper faster; go smaller when shallow. Tip jigs with waxies, spikes, and plastics.
“Bluegill and perch relate to weeds, feeding on bugs and various things coming off the bottom or the weeds. Bluegills are in the shallow, thicker stuff and hitting waxies, spikes, and plastics on jigs. Perch might be deeper and closer to the soft to hard bottom transitions, and minnow heads on small spoons are really tough to beat.”
Jarrett at Hayward Bait says walleyes are deep, waiting for warmth and a move to adjacent spawning areas.
“For now, fish deep areas adjacent to shallow areas where fish feed in low light periods. During daylight hours, live bait and slow presentations work best. In the evening, work spoons, rattlebaits, and lipless crankbaits aggressively.
“Northern pike could start moving shallow for pre/post ice-out spawning activity and to feed on winterkill fish on the bottom. Use big dead baits or lively shiners in the shallows near spawning bays. This is the perfect opportunity to get good underwater video of pike coming in to nose baits and see how they react.
“Crappies are in main lake basins and bay areas where fish move for warmer water after ice-out. For now, check holes in 20-30 feet for suspending fish. Punch many holes and move back and forth to find moving targets. Drill all holes early, as drilling over schools can displace them quickly.
“Bluegills are roaming flats in areas with weeds, cribs, rocks, and timber where they can hide from pike. Roaming fish take larger jigs tipped with waxies. Catch big bulls with crappie minnows. For fish tight to cover, and during negative bite windows, downsize tungsten jigs tipped with one or two spikes.
“Perch are feeding on small invertebrates on mud flats in 8-15 feet. Crappie minnows and fatheads work well. To keep their attention, minimize prep and unhooking time. To bring back dispersed fish, pound the bottom several times with your depth finder to stir sediment. This entices perch to check what is happening and grab a bite while doing so!”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses lake classifications.
“The DNR Fisheries Program has been working on integrating a new lake classification system into our management. We assign each lake in the state a lake class based on its physical and fisheries characteristics, and anglers might want to familiarize themselves with a number of these classes.
“About half of our lake classes have the designation of ‘simple’ fisheries. This means they have fewer than four different gamefish species present. For example, a fishery that has largemouth bass, northern pike, and panfish is a simple fishery. A lake with four or more gamefish species present, such as musky, walleye, and two bass species, is a ‘complex’ fishery.
“Within the Simple and Complex groupings there are more specific categories that have to do with the temperature and clarity of the lake. For example, in the ‘Complex-Cool-Dark’ lake class, you find lakes with four or more gamefish species (complex), cooler than average temperatures, and darker than average water. Moose Lake is a local example of a ‘Complex-Cool-Dark’ lake. An example of a ‘Simple-Cool-Clear’ lake is Silverthorne Lake near Seeley.
“There are a handful of other lake classes for special circumstances. The ‘Two-story’ lakes that can support cisco are in their own class. ‘Trout Ponds’ are classed separately as well, and lakes that frequently winterkill or have other issues fall in a ‘Harsh’ class. Lakes with a strong riverine influence are in a “Riverine” class.
“Understanding what makes lakes different and what makes some lakes similar is very useful for management. Anglers might also benefit from understanding these differences. Fisheries and possibly fishing methods and timing will differ among lake classes, but more on that in a future edition.”
Hayward area DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter says the DNR is hiring for spring and summer employment positions. If you or someone you know might be interested, please let them know. For details and application instructions, visit https://wj.wi.gov/9161. For any questions, contact Max directly at Max Wolter or call (715) 634-7429.
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 February 10 HLVCB snowmobile trail report says Sawyer County trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 8-12 inches. The area has experienced warm daytime temperatures, but there is still a great base, as the trails started with an abundance of snow. Groomers backed off from grooming during the day, but most are out as much as possible during cold late evenings and early mornings. You can track the most up to date grooming on the GTS app. Please stay on the trails. If you have to move off, do so with caution. All lakes remain staked except Lake Hayward.
The February 13 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Washburn County says trails are open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 8-12 inches. Trails are soft after warmer weather over the weekend, and with rainy weather in the Tuesday forecast, clubs and county staff will continue to monitor trail conditions. Check back, as trail conditions fluctuate with the weather. Ride with caution and stay on designated trails.
The February 11 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for the Clam Lake/Ashland County area says trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 12-16 inches. As of February 7, logging will take place for two weeks along Trail 8 from Parker Road to White Bass Road. No logging will take place from noon Friday through noon Monday. A one-mile segment of Trail 8 near Clam Lake shares Forest Road 336 with vehicle traffic. Please ride at the posted speed and in the same direction as traffic.
The February 13 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Rusk County says trails are open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 8-12 inches. Trails are in late season/spring condition. Most groomers hope to be out Thursday, but no guarantee. Rain is in the forecast, but there is a cool-down on the other side. Conditions vary day to day and from trail to trail. Use common sense and ride accordingly.
The February 10 Travel Wisconsin Birkie cross-country ski trail report says trails are groomed and in good condition, with a base of 8-10 inches. American Birkebeiner week is February 22-26. The Fat Bike Birkie race is the weekend of March 11. Skiing any part of the Birkie Trail System December through March requires a Birkie Trail Ski Pass. An All-Access Snow Pass is required to ski on the snowmaking loop. For more information, call (715-634-5025).
Recent mild temperatures melted considerable snow on the ice, producing some slush. Cold temperatures mid-week should turn that around 180 degrees. Check with your favorite bait shop for the most current ice conditions, fish locations, favored baits, and presentation preferences. While it might currently seem as if the winter is long, anglers should note that the general inland fishing season closes March 5!
Walleye fishing is fair to decent. Look for fish on deep hard to soft bottom transitions and areas near shallow, low light feeding locations. Walleye suckers and shiners under tip-ups and dead-sticks, jigging baits and spoons, rattlebaits, and lipless crankbaits all work.
Northern pike action is good to very good. Find them on weeds, weed edges, points, other structure, and wherever you find baitfish and panfish concentrations ‑ and they might start moving shallow. Northern suckers and shiners under tip-ups, jigs, and bottom fishing dead minnow baits are all effective.
Crappie fishing is good to very good, but go prepared to drill many holes and move with the schools! Look for fish suspending, on deep weeds and weed edges, and in deep holes and lake basins in 18-30 feet. Use crappie minnows, waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on tungsten jigs.
Bluegill fishing is good to very good, with fish on/in flats, weeds, wood, rock, cribs, and other structure. Waxies, spikes, and plastics on small jigs, teardrops, and spoons work well. Try crappie minnows for bigger bluegills. If action is slow, try downsizing baits and presentations.
Perch fishing is fair to good, with some fish on deep transitions and other moving to mud flats in 8-15 feet, both feeding on food on weeds and on the bottom. Once you find the fish, try to keep with them. Disturbing the sediment can keep them interested. The best baits, which include small jigs and spoons tipped with crappie minnows, fatheads, and minnow heads, all work great.
Feb. 22-26: American Birkebeiner Ski Race week (715-634-5025).
Feb. 28: Cottontail rabbit season closes.
March 5: General inland fishing season closes.
March 5: Seasons close: Mink; Muskrat trapping.
March 6: Full Worm Moon.
March 11: Fat Bike Birkie (715-634-5025).
March 20: Crow season closes.
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.