The Hayward area received approximately 9 inches of snow Sunday, Monday’s high nearly 30 degrees, the forecast for Monday night -7 degrees, with highs in the 40s for Wednesday and Thursday. What a roller coaster ride! It is looking even better, as March 20 is the first day of spring! Get out and enjoy late winter activities while they are available!
“As the saying goes, March comes in like a lion,” says Greg at Happy Hooker, “and that seems to hold true so far.
“Quiet Lakes’ ice travel is doable, but not easy, unless by snowmobile or ATV/UTV. Be aware that many creeks and rivers are open and flowing into the lakes, and there might be thin spots. Most lakes still have good ice cover, maybe 12-15 inches, but far less near moving water.
“Largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing is not common this time of year, though you can target, but not harvest, bass. Fatheads and shiners on tip-ups set along weed beds are best for largemouth. Smallmouth hold on deep rock and hard bottom points. Big jigs, plastics, and lures such as Rapala Jigging Raps are good choices.
“Crappies should start transitioning from deep water to spring spawning areas. Look for deep weed edges in basins or bays. Fish might hold there, but be scattered rather than schooling. On lakes with shallow or structure related bites, look for deep weed beds, especially with creek inlets or moving water stirring up things under the ice. In both systems, the approach is much the same, with waxies and plastics on small tungsten jigs.
“Bluegills are also shallow as panfish transition to spring spawning locations, but fishing for big bluegills can be quite different and more subtle. Use small jigs with plastics that match-the-hatch, or with one waxie or spike. Just twitching baits often gets them to eat. Ultra-light rods can help detect the very light bites.
“Perch are likely in shallow areas where the flow stirs up things. Tip spoons with minnow heads or waxies and pound them into the silt. Bigger offerings can help catch the biggest fish and deters small fish. In most situations, live bait produces better than plastics.”
Jarrett at Hayward Bait says ice conditions remain good, with snowmobiles and side-by-sides the preferred methods of travel, where appropriate.
“Crappies are still heavily basin related. Many crappies that were shallower and weed or structure related during the winter have likely moved to deeper water. Farther into ice season, the longer the ice remains on the lake, the more oxygen depleted the lakes become until ice-out. This means species such as crappie will head deeper where there is still oxygen. In other waterbodies, moving current also circulates oxygen, but moving current and ice forming do not go hand in hand, so be very cautious in those areas. Basin-roaming crappies will suspend higher and higher in the water column, depending on oxygen levels and available food. Inspect the water column from top to bottom when searching for these fish! Jigs, plastics, and live bait such as fatheads and crappie minnows will do the trick.
“Bluegills, much like crappies, have migrated to shallow lake basins with plentiful forage to sift through the mud. Most weed beds that supported life in early winter are now dead and decaying, which burns through oxygen faster and hurries fish to deeper water. Waxies and spikes on small jigs are working well.
“Perch move onto mud flats this time of year, gearing up to spawn, and a time when fish concentrate in areas and become far easier to catch. One favorite method for local anglers is tip-downs. Several devices come into play with tip-downs, including old-school Schooley rods, innovative tip-downs, danglers, automatic fisherman, and even tip-ups with small minnows. These are all ways of setting lines and spreading out your gear to find fish fast. Once you find them, move in with a Vexilar and a jigging rod, and make hay while the school is under foot!”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses spring plans for the DNR Hayward Fish Team.
“Spring is the busiest and most important time for DNR fisheries crews. Most of our fish species spawn in the spring, which creates the best window for us to survey populations.
“Surveys typically start immediately after ice-out and continue for about two months. We try to survey 5-10 lakes each year, leading to a complicated schedule, as we move from one lake to another trying to time our efforts as best as possible with the varying ice-off dates and spawning times.
“In 2023, our team plans to start our surveys on Barker Lake where the ice goes out very early due to the influence of the East Fork of the Chippewa River. From there we expect to head to Nelson Lake to survey northern pike and walleye.
“Our largest survey efforts will be on Lost Land and Teal lakes, where we will survey multiple species and attempt to estimate the total number of adult walleye. We will then survey Tiger Cat Flowage for musky and northern pike, and Round Lake for musky and crappie.
“Later in spring, we will conduct bass surveys on most of the lakes mentioned previously, in addition to Partridge Crop Lake on the West Fork of the Chippewa River.
“Spooner DNR crews will survey Sand Lake for walleye, as well as collect musky eggs on the Chippewa Flowage, which provides considerable supplemental data.
“Reports from these surveys are typically available in mid-summer. Reports from past years are available on the DNR website.”
The DNR and Wisconsin Conservation Congress invite the public to attend an open house the week of April 3-6 to learn about resource management in their areas. Visit the WCC/DNR Open Houses webpage for location details. Delegates from WCC and DNR staff will be available to discuss local issues, answer questions, and have conversations about areas of interest and concern. Later, the WCC will hold delegate elections.
These open houses precede the Fish and Wildlife Spring Hearings April 10-13. The Spring Hearings will again be in a virtual format, with the online questionnaire open for input from noon April 10 through noon April 13 via the Wisconsin Conservation Congress Spring Hearing webpage.
Sale of bonus spring turkey harvest authorizations begins Monday March 20, starting with Zone 1. No bonus permits are available for zones 6 and 7. All remaining authorizations go on sale Saturday, March 25. Hunters can use the Online Licensing Center or visit a license sales location. Sales are on a first-come, first-served basis, one purchase per day. Cost is $10/residents and $15/nonresidents. For more information, search “turkey hunting” 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 March 10 HLVCB snowmobile trail report says Sawyer County trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 12-16 inches. All lake trails have staking, with Lake Hayward the exception. Check the Groomer Tracking Systems app for current grooming operations. Get out and enjoy these amazing conditions!
The March 13 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Washburn County says trails are open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 4-8 inches. A section of Trail 25, from County Highway D north to Nice Lake Road remains closed for the remainder of the season. Be cautious of grooming equipment on the trails. Watch for any trees or branches coming down following the recent snowstorm. If there are trees or other debris on the trail, please contact Washburn County Forestry (715) 635-4490. The March 13 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Rusk County says trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 12-16 inches. The area received 10 inches of snow through the weekend. Even with the fresh snow, there are the usual spring hazards such as icy corners, gravel, blacktop, rough logging spots, dirt, sticks, etc.
New snow on Sunday ‑ up to 9 inches ‑ will affect ice travel for a while, though much of it is melting. There is most likely more winter ahead, but conditions are becoming more spring-like (March 20!) each week, so check as you go!
March 19 is the deadline for anglers to remove their ice shanties from inland waters north of Hwy 64, Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Green Bay.
Bass anglers can legally target ‑ but not harvest ‑ both largemouth and smallmouth at this time. For largemouth, work mid-depth to deeper weeds and weed edges with fatheads and shiners on tip-ups. For smallmouth, focus on deeper weeds, rock, and hard bottom points with live bait, plastics, Jigging Raps, and similar lures.
Crappie fishing is good to very good. Fish are scattered, with some slowly moving toward spring spawning areas, some holding on deep weed beds and edges, and some suspending across the water column (check the entire column). Top baits include crappie minnows, fatheads, waxies, plastics, and Gulp! baits on tungsten jigs are very productive.
Bluegill fishing is good to very good, but expect a light bite and downsize tackle and offerings for best success. Fish are starting to move nearer to shallower spring spawning sites. Baits of choice include waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks fished with “delicate” presentations.
Perch fishing is good when you find them. Look to shallow, weedy areas and mud flats. Small spoons and jigs with waxies, plastics, small minnows, and minnow heads work well, with live bait usually working best. Tip-ups and tip-downs with live bait are also catching fish.
March 5: General inland fishing season closed.
March 5: Seasons closed: Mink; Muskrat trapping.
March 12: Daylight Saving Time began at 2 a.m. (Feel as if you are running behind schedule?)
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.
March 20: Spring equinox ‑ first day of spring!
April 3-6: DNR and WCC hosting open houses at locations in all 72 counties (608-266-0580).
April 5: Full Pink Moon.
April 9: Easter Sunday.
April 10-13: Fish and Wildlife Spring Hearings (virtual and online input).
April 30: Season closes: Otter hunting and trapping in North Zone.
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.