Moderate temperatures are in the forecast for this week, though we could see snow and other forms precipitation. Wednesday should bring sunshine and temperatures to nearly 40 degrees. Ice and snow conditions are good for most winter recreation, so get out and enjoy the milder temperatures!
“Some Quiet Lakes’ anglers say the cold helped a bit,” says Greg at Happy Hooker, “but the fish do not care and the crappie bite is hot!
“Walleyes are on deep, hard to soft bottom transitions. Pounding jigging minnow baits or flashy spoons into the bottom and working them up a few feet will call in walleyes from good distances. Work baits up the water column until fish commit or turn negative. Keep dead-stick rods in nearby holes, as sometimes fish prefer subtle to flash. If nothing happens on the big stuff, downsize to smaller spoons and movements.
“Northern pike anglers are using suckers and shiners on tip-ups, though locations might change slightly. The fish might push to deeper weed edges and roam points, weeds, and structure into main lake areas. Most prey fish are moving into that water and pike follow the food. A big, flashy jig darting and dancing in the water column can call in aggressive pike that usually smash baits unexpectedly.
“Crappie fishing is hot, with some fish in deep basins and some in and around deeper weed edges, and this depends on the lake and type of lake structure. Smaller presentations with more subtle movements can be the ticket to pick out bigger crappie. Tungsten jigs work well both shallow and deep, though jig size might come into play. Size up to get jigs deeper faster; go smaller when shallow. Tip jigs with waxies, spikes, and plastics for both presentations.
“Bluegills and perch are relating to weeds in some capacity. Bluegills will be in the shallow, thicker stuff, while perch might be deeper and closer to the soft to hard bottom transitions. Both will feed on bugs and various things on weeds or coming off the bottom. The smallest spoons and jigs work best. Bluegills generally prefer waxies, spikes, and plastics on jigs. For perch, it is tough to beat a minnow head tipped on a small spoon.”
Jarrett at Hayward Bait says the normal Wisconsin cold last week did not have much of an impact in freezing the slush between the snow and ice.
“Most lakes remain walkable, and marked snowmobile trails are available for those looking to take out machines. Few anglers were fishing during the past week, but that should change with the warmer weather.
“Walleye fishing was slow with the frigid temperatures. Fish are deep during the day, and then slide onto shallower shelves to feed in the evening. Small jigging spoons or dead-sticks tipped with small suckers or fatheads can tempt fussy fish during the daytime. Once the sun starts to set, use tip-ups with walleye suckers and medium shiners for active fish.
“Northern pike are active, even with the cold. As we progress through winter and the effects linger over fish, the weaker fish will die off and sink to the bottom. Pike will look for these easy meals, which is a clue to begin fishing big, dead baits near the bottom. As you continue to catch fish on suckers and shiners, keep those baits after pike hit them a few times and let them soak for the big toothy critters.
“Crappies are primarily in the basins. Look for areas where fish have access to spawning grounds once the ice goes out. Do not be afraid to think big with spoons, rattlebaits, live bait, and aggressive baits. After catching the most aggressive fish, come back with crappie minnows and waxies on smaller jigs.
“Perch this time of year will move onto mud flats in 8-10 feet to prepare for the spawn. Fish will feed actively in the mud and small minnows and insect imitations work best. These fish will not tie to any particular place on a flat, so be ready to move with the fish. Tip-ups and tip-downs can be good indicators of where fish move, so if you have access, create big spreads!”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses PIT tag use in Lost Land Lake.
“We have learned a lot from our extensive musky tagging program in the Hayward area over the last more than 10 years. The tags we use, called PIT tags, allow us to identify an individual fish for its entire life. We often tag fish as we stock them out from the hatchery.
“Until 2022, we had tagged muskies stocked into Lost Land Lake on only one occasion, in 2012. Making up that 2012 years class were 1,304 fingerlings with an average length of almost 13 inches, bigger than the typical stocking size at that time.
“We have learned a lot about the musky population from this single stocking. First, we learned that it was very successful from a survival standpoint. In 2018, 6 years after the 2012 stocking, we estimated there were 530 adult muskies in Lost Land Lake.
“We also estimated that 162 of those muskies were from the 2012 stocking year class. In other words, that one class now made up around 30 percent of the total population. The remaining 70 percent of the population was natural born fish or fish stocked earlier, as we also stocked muskies in 2005, 2007, and 2009.
“The estimate of 162 stocked muskies in the lake also gives us an idea of stocking survival. Based on the number stocked and the estimated number still in the lake in 2018, we can estimate that about 12 percent of the 2012 year class survived to 6 years of age. That might sound low to some, but it is actually a good survival rate for stocked fish.
“These data helped us to better understand the dynamics of one of our area’s true ‘mixed recruitment’ muskellunge fisheries, a lake where new fish come from a combination of stocking and natural reproduction. The information from these tags also helps us design future stocking plans that will meet our objectives for the waterbody.”
Hayward Chapter-Fishing Has No Boundaries will host its Third Annual Chili Cook-Off fundraiser Saturday, February 11, from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., at The Dock Bar and Grill on Hwy B. There is a $10 fee to enter the contest. Judging takes place at 12:30 p.m. Raffle tickets are available for $10/each or 3/$20, the drawing at 3 p.m., and winners need not be present. The event will also include silent auctions. For more information, call (715) 634-3185.
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 3 HLVCB snowmobile trail report says Sawyer County trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 12-16 inches. The lakes can be rough. They froze up, but ruts from early season slush also froze up, so ride with caution. Groomers adjust their schedules to the weather. They might not be able to hit the trails hard on Monday as they typically do, but will groom during the week if possible.
The February 6 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Washburn County says trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 12-16 inches. Stay on designated trails and be aware of current grooming activity. Ride with caution, watch for limbs and branches along the trails, and report major hazards such as large tree branches to Washburn County Forestry (715) 635-4490.
The February 4 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for the Cable area says trails are cleared, open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 12-16 inches. Crews staked the lake trails, but ice depths are variable due to the early snow, so please use extreme caution when riding on the lakes. Watch for Trail 4 reroute, signs through Mason.
American Birkebeiner week is February 22-26. The 41st Annual Hayward Lions Pre-Birkie cross-country ski race is the weekend of Feb. 11. For more information, call (715-634-5025). 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.
Moderate temperatures, walkable conditions, and staked snowmobile trails make lake travel easier. The ice is inconsistent in some areas, so use caution! Check with your favorite bait shop folks for the most recent information on ice conditions, fish locations, and preferred baits and presentations.
Walleye fishing is fair. During the day, fish deep water and hard to soft bottom transitions. In late evening into dark, fish move to shallower flats, shelves, and weed edges to feed. Walleye suckers, shiners, and fatheads on tip-ups and dead-sticks are productive, as are jigs and jigging spoons/baits tipped with live bait.
Northern pike action is good to very good from shallow to mid-depth weed edges, points, and other structure, and always near baitfish and panfish concentrations. Use suckers and shiners on tip-ups, and/or jigging spoons/baits.
Crappie fishing is good to very good in deep basins and weed edges adjacent to spring spawning areas. Use crappie minnows, waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits. Fish larger spoons, rattlebaits, and live bait in deep water for big crappies. Follow up by downsizing to smaller baits.
Bluegill fishing is fair to good, with fish feeding on bugs they find on shallow weeds and on the bottom. Waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs and teardrops are working well.
Perch fishing is fair to good near deep weeds, soft to hard bottom transition, and mud flats in 8-12 feet. Move with the fish. Use small jigs and spoons with minnow heads, small minnows, and insect imitations, with tip-ups and tip-downs.
Jan. 31: Period 2 Bobcat hunting and trapping season closed.
Jan. 31: Squirrel season closed statewide.
Feb. 11: FHNB Third Annual Chili Cook-Off at The Dock Bar and Grill, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. (715-634-3185).
Feb. 11: 41st Annual Hayward Lions Pre-Birkie cross-country ski race (715-634-5025).
Feb. 15: Seasons close: Fox, Raccoon hunting/trapping; Coyote trapping.
Feb. 22-26: American Birkebeiner Ski Race week (715-634-5025).
Feb. 28: Cottontail rabbit season closes.
March 5: Trapping seasons close: Mink; Muskrat.
March 6: Full Worm Moon.
March 11: Fat Bike Birkie (715-634-5025).
March 12: Daylight Saving Time begins at 2 a.m. (turn clocks ahead one hour).
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.