Monday, the first day of spring… but do not put away the snow shovels quite yet. Warmer temperatures show on the forecast ‑ mid-40s next week ‑ but so does snow for Tuesday and other days this week. North Woods’ springs do not follow the calendar! This milder (i.e., non-brutal) weather is conducive to nearly all outdoor activities, so whatever you choose, get out and take advantage while conditions allow!
“Over the weekend, the Quiet Lakes’ area received 3-4 inches of new snow,” says Greg at Happy Hooker, “though it was blowing around and hard to tell.
“Most creeks and rivers are flowing, with water moving underneath ‘good’ ice. So as always, use caution everywhere this time of year, as ice depth can vary greatly with spring-fed lakes and moving water. Fishing licenses expire March 31. If you plan to do any fishing after that date, get a new license first!
“Crappies should start transitioning from deep water to spring spawning areas. Look just outside deep weed edges relating to basins or to the main lake if in bays. While fish in lakes with a basin bite might hold there, they might be more scattered than schooled. On lakes with shallow or structure related bites, look deeper into weed beds, especially creek inlets or any kind of moving water stirring things up under the ice. Waxies and plastics on small tungsten jigs are the most popular way to ice fish in both systems.
“Bluegills will be in shallow areas as panfish start transitioning to spring spawning locations. Fishing for big bluegills can be quite different from crappie or perch. Use subtle, smaller jigs with plastics that ‘match the hatch’ or with just one waxie or spike on a jig. Less aggressive action and just twitching baits will often get bluegills to eat. The bite is also very light, and ultra-light rods can help detect bites.
“Perch will be in shallow, stirred up areas and will hit spoons with minnow heads or loaded with waxies pounded into the silt. Slightly bigger offering help catch the biggest fish in the group and deter smaller fish from taking baits. In most situations, live bait produces better than plastics.”
Jarrett at Hayward Bait says that with the heavy snow lingering, crappies, will remain in deep basins until oxygen replenishes the shallows.
“Check deep area water columns from low to high and expect most fish to be somewhat suspended towards the top. Jigs and plastics work fine, with waxies as option #2 for fussy fish.
“Most anglers are not currently fishing for bluegills as oxygen deprived water has scattered fish amongst basins, deep flats, etc. As such, there is no one great pattern to provide to bluegill anglers.
“Perch fishing success increased steadily throughout the past week for anglers fishing big flats on different lakes. Many anglers jig for them, with tip-downs spread out to find other pods of fish ‑ and finding them is the key. Once you do, the fish will bite on a variety of live bait, plastics, spoons, and hard baits.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter highlights upcoming ‘fishy’ dates.
“Spring will come, as it does every year, at least, since the last Ice Age ended. When things do start happening this spring, many people will start thinking about fishing. Here are some dates and events to put on your calendar to fire you up for open water fishing.
“Fly Fishing Film Tour at the Park Theater April 1, sponsored by the Hayward Fly Fishing Company and benefiting The Wild Rivers Conservancy. Come check out an incredible collection of short fishing films from around the world. Tickets are available at Hayward Fly Fishing Company or at the door.
“If you love trout and trout fishing, there is no better place to be April 8 than the Wild Rivers Trout Unlimited Expo at Northland College. Hear great speakers, learn from talented fly tiers, and try your luck at their collection of raffle prizes.
“Hayward Fish Expo is April 15 (11 a.m.-4 p.m.) at the Wesleyan Church This event was a smash hit in 2022 with great attendance and loads of fun for families. This is an excellent event for kids who love fishing or who are getting curious about it, and there is food, games, raffles, and lots of fishy fun.
“The Wisconsin gamefish season opener is Saturday, May 6. Walleye, northern pike, largemouth bass, trout harvest season, and smallmouth bass (catch-and-release only) all open on this date.
“Sure, some years it can be a little brisk on opening day, but there really is no better time to target walleye and northern pike. Panfish fishing can also be excellent during opening weekend, particularly if the sun is shining and the water is starting to warm.
“Do not forget to update your fishing license for 2023!”
The DNR seeks volunteers to help with frog and toad calling surveys this spring and summer. Volunteers can participate in three ways: Traditional Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey; Mink Frog Survey; and Phenology Survey. Dates vary for each survey. For more information, visit the amphibians and reptiles webpage.
Through May 31, the DNR is accepting applications for the 2023 elk hunting season. Only Wisconsin residents are eligible. The application fee is $10, and the DNR will contact drawing winners by early June. The cost of an elk hunting license is $49. The 2023 hunting season is in the northern elk management zone Oct. 14-Nov. 12, and Dec. 14-22, and tag holders can hunt during either period. For more information, search “elk hunting” on the DNR website.
The DNR and Wisconsin Conservation Congress invite the public to attend open houses the week of April 3-6. Visit the WCC/DNR Open Houses webpage for location details. Delegates from WCC and DNR staff will be available to discuss issues, interests, and concerns, and the WCC will hold delegate elections.
Sale of bonus spring turkey harvest authorizations began Monday, March 20, starting with Zone 1, and continuing through Friday, March 24. All remaining authorizations go on sale Saturday, March 25. No bonus permits are available for zones 6 and 7. 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 20 HLVCB snowmobile trail report says Sawyer County trails are open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 8-12 inches, and all lake trails staked except Lake Hayward. Grooming continues as weather and equipment allow. Check the Groomer Tracking Systems app for the most up-to-date groomed trails. Plan your ride ahead by checking businesses for seasonal closures ‑ and enjoy the late season riding!
The March 20 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 heading north to Nice Lake Road remains closed. If there are trees or debris on the trail, contact Washburn County Forestry (715-635-4490.
The March 20 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for the Cable area says trails are open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 8-12 inches. Watch for Trail 4 re-route signs through Mason. Lake trails remain staked, but ice depths vary this year ‑ always use extreme caution!
The March 20 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Rusk County says trails are open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 8-12 inches. Road crossings are soft and muddy, but trails remain good to excellent. Trail 12A between Bruce and Weyerhaeuser remains closed, and the alley in Ladysmith on Trail 116 is bare. The March 20 Travel Wisconsin Birkie cross-country ski trail report says the trail is open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 8-10 inches. Crews will no longer groom the entire trail, but will groom sections of the trail around Hatchery, OO, and Telemark. Skiing any part of the Birkie Trail System December through March requires a Birkie Trail Ski Pass. Skiing on the snowmaking loop requires an All-Access Snow Pass.
Ice thickness remains good on most lakes, though anglers have to deal with “layers,” and snowmobiles and ATVs/UTVS are the preferred choice of travel (mostly out of necessity). Watch for open water!
Panfish anglers and trout anglers fishing the early catch and release season should note licenses expire March 31 and licenses for the 2023-24 season are now available and in effect upon purchase.
Crappie fishing is good to very good, with fish beginning to transition from deep areas toward shallower spring spawning sites. Look for them in basins, on deep weeds and weed edges, and other structure ‑ and check the entire water column! Baits of choice include crappie minnows, waxies, and plastics on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks.
Bluegill fishing is good for the few anglers hitting the ice. Fish are scattered from shallow to deep on weeds, basins, and flats, and slowly starting the move toward shallow spring spawning areas. Waxies, spikes, plastics that mimic any hatches, and Gulp! baits on small jigs and teardrops are all productive. Downsizing is often the answer for reluctant fish.
Perch fishing is good and improving on flats and areas disturbed by moving water (use caution!) Locating the fish can be a challenge, but action is good if you do. Fish are taking a wide range of baits at any given time, so take an assortment. Jigs with live bait and plastics, spoons tipped with minnow heads or waxies, and tip-down presentations are all working.
March 19: Remove ice shanties from inland waters north of Hwy 64, Lake Michigan, Green Bay, and Lake Superior.
March 20: Crow season closed.
March 20: Spring equinox ‑ first day of spring!
March 31: Fishing/hunting licenses for 2022-23 expire. New licenses now available and effective immediately.
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 15-16: Youth spring turkey hunt (see regs).
April 30: Season closes: Otter hunting and trapping in North Zone.
Through May 5: Early catch-and-release trout season open (see regs).
Through May 31: Apply for 2023 elk season.
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.