A two-day blizzard forecast for Wednesday/Thursday did not materialize as feared and American Birkebeiner Ski Race week went off with without a glitch (at least none due to the weather). Monday started this week with freezing rain and snow, and the somewhat mixed predictions for this week include snow, sunshine, and highs in the mid-30s.
“The best guess for Quiet Lakes’ area snowfall totals from last week’s storm is about 10-12-inches,” says Greg at Happy Hooker, “but it is difficult to tell with the blowing and drifting. Snowmobile trails are in excellent shape and the snow should improve ice travel conditions.
“Walleye fishing is good and jigging spoons with rattle, flash, and noise call in fish from a distance. If fishing lakes with a weed related bite, use those same baits on edges, as well as walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups and dead-sticks. Gamefish season closes March 5, so get in your walleye fishing this week.
“Northern pike action is good with suckers and shiners on tip-ups set over weed pockets, edges, and points. Dawn and dusk are usually be the best times to target pike, though tip-ups set during the day will catch fish.
“Crappie fishing is consistently good for fish suspending in the basins. The go-to approach is small jigs tipped with waxies and plastics. Use tungsten jigs that get down fast and work the schools until the fish stop biting. Staying mobile to follow them is even better!
“Bluegill and perch fishing is good with small jigs that match the hatch, especially tipped with waxies or plastics. Most creeks are open and flowing, which indicates you might find panfish where creek inlets feed into bays or shallow shorelines. Panfish feed on larvae and other things washing in, and the flow keeps weeds oxygenated and holding fish.”
Jarrett at Hayward Bait says walleyes remain deep during the day, but move up to feed on shallow shelves and flats.
“During daylight hours, small finesse baits or dead-sticks with lively fatheads will catch some fish, but the highlight continues to be lowlight sunup and sundown. Walleye suckers and medium shiners on tip-ups left alone in quiet areas are still producing.
“Northern pike fishing remains steady, with fish holding in various spots, depending on the waterbody. Some fish are sitting on shallow flats with cover, while some sit on deeper shelves and wander back and forth between weed edges and deep water looking for food. Northern suckers and large shiners on tip-ups remain the go-to for big pike.
“Crappies are in main lake basins adjacent to prime spawning bays. They will move there once the ice departs, but that is some time away yet! Fish are schooling and suspending vertically, so be prepared to punch many holes in search of fish. When you find a school, rattle baits, spoons, jigs, and some live bait are working well!
“Bluegills remain close to structure, weed edges, cribs, submerged trees, etc. Bigger bulls roam smaller lake basins looking for bugs coming out of the mud. Anglers are catching fish with waxies and spikes on small jigs. For aggressive bites, try plastics and see how much nicer it is to use them in cold weather!
“Perch are not yet moving, according to conversations with several Chetek and Grindstone anglers.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses Wisconsin’s pointy and round tail fish species.
“Our different fish species in Wisconsin evolved and adapted to different environments over millions of years. Understanding the differences may help people find and catch fish, or at least, gain more appreciation for the origin of our diverse fish communities.
“The tails of many Wisconsin fish species offer an interesting clue about where the species evolved and its preferred habitats.
“Fish with ‘pointy’ tipped tails are typically those with some preference for flowing habitats. In this category, we have redhorse, many minnow species, white bass and other temperate bass, and many others. Pointier tails are an adaptation to suit a life with more constant swimming, a necessity for holding position in flowing water. An observant angler with a global perspective might note that most fast-swimming ocean fish such as tuna, marlin, etc., also have pointy tails.
“Fish with rounded or flat tails often prefer calm water habitats and might specialize more in making tight movements and positioning themselves in the water column. Species such as bluegill and crappie fit this description.
“The pointy vs. rounded tail comparison can even be made among closely related species.
“Northern pike for example, have a more rounded tail than muskellunge. Pike prefer lake habitats, while muskellunge are in many ways river specialists. Largemouth bass are more at home in a lake and have a more rounded tail than smallmouth bass, which are notorious river-dwellers.
“This is not to suggest that there are ‘rules’ about where fish can or cannot succeed, but in nature animals look for every little advantage they can find to survive and succeed in their environment. Sometimes that comes down to something as small as the shape of a tail fin tip!”
Permanent ice shack removal dates are coming up in March as follows:
- Wisconsin-Iowa boundary waters: Feb. 20.
- Wisconsin-Minnesota boundary waters: March 1.
- Inland waters south of Highway 64: March 5.
- Wisconsin – Michigan boundary waters: March 15.
- Lake Michigan, Green Bay, Lake Superior, and inland waters north of Highway 64: March 19.
Anglers can use portable ice shanties, but must remove them when not actively in use and at the end of each day.
For more information, search “ice shack removal dates” on the DNR website.
Wisconsin’s ATV/UTV trails during spring, summer, and fall are either open or closed. In winter, however, circumstances dictate if a trail is open for ATV/UTV use. In many cases, it is illegal to operate on a snowmobile trail.
Check for special ATV/UTV allowances on county snowmobile trails and local ordinances before heading out to ride. Each trail system has its own requirements for being open in the winter.
For more information, search “ATV/UTV Riding” on the DNR website.
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 23 HLVCB snowmobile trail report says Sawyer County trails are open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 12-16 inches. Last week’s snowstorm brought from 10-12 inches of fresh snow and for the most part lakes have snow cover again. Ride with caution, as it is slick underneath.
The February 24 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Washburn County says trails are open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 8-12 inches. Stay on designated trails and be aware of active grooming equipment.
The February 24 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. A one-mile segment of Trail 8 near Clam Lake shares Forest Road 336 with vehicle traffic. Please ride at posted speed in the same direction as traffic.
The February 26 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Rusk County says trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 8-12 inches. The base and roads are icy and in late season/spring conditions.
The February 24 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for southeast Douglas County says trails are open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 20-30 inches.
The Hayward area received up to 12 inches of snow late last week that should have helped improve travel on the ice. Following a decent weekend, Monday’s freezing rain and snow could somewhat counter those improvements, however.
Fishing action is good for most species, but hitting the bite window is important.
Ice anglers should remember that the general inland fishing season closes Sunday, March 5. In addition, removal dates for permanent ice shacks in the north begin March 1 and go to March 19. See the calendar below for specifics.
Walleye fishing is good to very good. Focus on deep weeds during the day, moving to shallower weedlines, weed edges, breaklines, and flats in the evening when (preferably before) fish move shallower to feed. Walleye suckers, shiners, and fatheads on tip-ups and dead-sticks, finesse baits, and jigging spoons and similar baits are all catching fish.
Northern pike fishing is good to very good, with the best fishing in early morning and late afternoon into sunset. Fish are in, on, and around weeds, weed beds, weed edges, weed pockets, shallow weedy flats, points, breaklines, bars, and any concentrations of baitfish and panfish. Northern suckers and large shiners on tip-ups are the most productive presentation.
Crappie fishing is good and stable, but be prepared to drill many holes and keep on the move to follow the fish. Look for fish schooling and suspending in basins near spawning bays ‑ and be sure to check the entire water column. Baits of choice include crappie minnows, fatheads, waxies, plastics, and Gulp! baits on tungsten jigs or plain hooks, as well as spoons and rattlebaits.
Bluegill fishing is good on weed edges, brush, cribs, and other structure, with some bigger fish in basins feeding on bugs rising from mud bottoms. Use waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs and teardrops that mimic the bug hatch.
Perch fishing is fair to good and fish should soon start pre-staging for spawning. Look for fish on weedlines, mudflats, near (but not too near!) stream and creek mouths, and shallow shorelines. Crappie minnows, minnow heads, waxies, and plastics on small jigs and spoons work well.
Feb. 15: Seasons closed: Fox, Raccoon hunting/trapping; Coyote trapping.
Feb. 28: Cottontail rabbit season closed.
March 1: Remove ice shanties from Wisconsin-Minnesota boundary waters.
March 5: General inland fishing season closes.
March 5: Seasons close: Mink; Muskrat trapping.
March 5: Remove ice shanties from inland waters south of Highway 64.
March 6: Full Worm Moon.
March 10: Women Fish Crappie Weekend at Deerfoot Lodge & Resort 10 a.m.-3 p.m. (715) 462-3328).
March 11: Fat Bike Birkie (715-634-5025).
March 12: Daylight Saving Time begins at 2 a.m. (turn clocks ahead one hour).
March 15: Remove ice shanties from Wisconsin-Michigan boundary waters.
March 18: Shamrock Shuffle 1K and 5K runs, Hayward Main Street, 11:45 a.m.-2 p.m., free raffle after race.
March 19: Remove ice shanties from inland waters north of Hwy 64, Lake Michigan, Green Bay, and Lake Superior.
March 20: Crow season closes.
Through May 5: Early catch-and-release trout season open (see regs).
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.