The North Woods welcomed and enjoyed spring-like sunshine and 40-degree temperatures this past weekend. However, this week will bring lesser “spring-like” weather, with highs ranging from upper 20s to upper 30s and lows from single digits to upper 20s. Rain and snow are possible, with weekend highs around 40 degrees. Winter is winding down, but its recreational opportunities continue, though somewhat limited. Get out and get in the last licks of the season!
“It feels more like early spring than winter in the Quiet Lakes’ area,” says Greg at Happy Hooker, “though with no big warm-up anytime soon. The snow is melting, but with the forecasted temperatures, it will be around for a while. People wanting to get to their cabins or stored boats should bring a shovel!
“Ice conditions are still safe, though there is a lot of moving water, so check as you go. Snowmobile trails are open, but crews will pull the stakes from lake trails very soon.
“Crappie anglers should start in relatively shallow bays and backwater areas that still have safe ice. As the days get longer and more light penetrates the ice, most crappies will start to stage in spawning areas. Weeds will start to grow and the influx of fresh water coming into the lakes will stir bugs and other stuff from the silt. Waxies and plastics on jigs should still catch crappies, but minnows might still be a little big. Focus on deeper sections of bays or deep weed edges, maybe 8-10 feet in most lakes.
“Bluegills should be in the same bays as crappies, but slightly shallower, maybe 3-6 feet and closer to moving water. The fish will be eating bugs and any hatches coming up through the water column. Waxies and plastics on small jigs are the norm for all panfish. You might be able to sight fish most species through the ice, as they can be that shallow.
“Perch should also be in these backwater areas or bays and feeding on the same stuff. Go with small spoons and really pound the bottom and fish those spoons aggressively.”
Jarrett at Hayward Bait says that although the recent warm weather has not done much to remove the ice, it did soften a lot of the snow cover, so expect slushy conditions on most of the lakes.
“Cooler temperatures still make their way through at night, and the top layer should crust over. Just make sure to check for slush in all areas before taking any type of wheeler, side by side, or even snowmobile onto the ice. Get stuck in that mess and you are sure to get wet!
“Crappies are still primarily basin related. Look for areas where the fish have access to spawning grounds once ice-out occurs. Fish will remain in these deep basins until ice-out and they school. For baits, do not be afraid to think big! Use rattlebaits, spoons, bigger live bait, and other aggressive baits for the most aggressive fish. Once you catch those fish, come back through with waxies or crappie minnows on smaller jigs.
“Perch this time of year begin to move onto mudflats in 8-10 feet to prepare for the spawn. They will actively feed in the mud, so small minnows and insect imitations work best. These fish will not tie down to any particular place on a flat, so be ready to move with the fish. Tip-ups and tip-downs can be good to indicate where the fish have moved, so if you have access to creating a big spread, do so!
“The Brule River opened for fishing this past weekend and anglers are grabbing spawn sacs and netting! If you can get to the river through the snow, local brown and brook trout should be active while the water is still cool.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses bullheads keeping ice open in Two Deer Lake.
“Winter is a challenging time for fish, especially in small, shallow lakes where oxygen can become limited. Nick Berndt, a U.S. Forest Service fisheries biologist who works in the Chequamegon-Nicollet National Forest, recently shared a fascinating winter fish observation about 14-acre Two Deer Lake that sits in the Sawyer County portion of the forest.”
This from Nick:
“The Forest Service has a long history of monitoring winter dissolved oxygen levels on smaller lakes within the boundaries of the Chequamegon-Nicolet. As winter progresses on our more vulnerable lakes, the highest oxygen levels are in a thin layer of the coldest water right under the ice.
“In early March, while monitoring Two Deer Lake in Sawyer County, we observed ice-free holes 3 feet wide in the middle of the lake where most of the lake ice was 20 inches thick. Upon approaching these holes, we saw hundreds of small bullheads huddled at the surface where the most oxygen is located. The motion of all those hundreds of tails was enough to keep the ice from forming, ensuring enough oxygen was available for those fish to make it through the rest of the winter.
“Bullheads, like our dace, golden shiners, and mudminnows, are part of a group of fish that can survive just fine in our small, shallow, acidic lakes and ponds where conditions are too extreme for panfish and gamefish to reside.”
Reminder to anglers: Fishing/hunting licenses for 2022-23 expire Friday, March 31. New licenses are now available and effective immediately.
The DNR and Wisconsin Conservation Congress invite the public to attend DNR open houses the week of April 3-6 to learn about resource management in their area. Visit the WCC/DNR Open Houses webpage for location details. Delegates from WCC and DNR staff will be available for discussions, and 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.
In addition to the opportunity to engage with DNR staff and WCC delegates at these open houses, the annual spring hearings the following week focus on natural resource-related advisory questions and proposed rule changes.
The Wisconsin Conservation Congress is the only statutory body in the state where the public elects delegates to advise the Natural Resources Board and the DNR on responsibly managing Wisconsin’s natural resources for present and future generations. The WCC accomplishes this through open, impartial, broad-ranged actions. Learn more about the WCC by visiting Wisconsin Conservation Congress.
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.
Sunshine and warming temperatures are taking its toll on trails. Please note report dates in these summaries and check directly for current information on trail conditions.
The March 23 HLVCB snowmobile trail report says Sawyer County trails are open, groomed and in good condition, with a base of 4-8 inches. Trail 31 from Flat Creek Hotel to Grindstone Landing Road closed due to contract agreements and logging. Many groomers are ending their efforts after a season of hard work, and many crews will start pulling lake trail stakes this week while safe to do so. It was a great season and thanks to all who chose to ride Sawyer County trails!
The March 24 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Washburn County says trails are open, groomed, and in fair condition, with a base of 4-8 inches. Trail 25 from County Hwy D north to Nice Lake Road closed for the season. The base will get softer with warm temperatures. Groomers will continue to the best of their abilities.
The March 23 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 and trails have occasional exposed dirt and slush spots. The thaw/freeze cycle is creating some icy conditions. Trail 12A between Bruce and Weyerhaeuser is closed.
Anglers should note that the current fishing/hunting licenses for 2022-23 expire this Friday, March 31. If you plan to go fishing after that date, be sure to purchase your new license beforehand! New licenses are effective upon purchase.
Ice conditions are decent overall, but sloppy, slushy, and changing. Go with caution and check as you go. Your favorite bait shop can offer guidance on ice conditions as well as fish locations, best baits, and preferred presentations.
Crappie fishing is good for anglers who locate the scattered fish. Some are moving toward shallower staging areas near spawning sites, while others hold in deep basins and weed edges. Crappie minnows, waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs catch fish, but bigger spoons, rattlebaits, and minnows attract larger fish.
Bluegill fishing is fair to good in the same locations as crappies, though at different depths. They have started moving toward areas adjacent to spring spawning spots, but also check deep weed edges and bays. Waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs do the trick ‑ and be sure to check the entire water column!
Perch fishing is good and continues to improve. Look for fish in 6-12 feet on mudflats, backwaters, and bays. Be prepared to move as the fish move to keep on the bite. Small spoons with minnows, minnow heads, and plastic bounced hard on the bottom work well, and a spread of tip-ups and/or tip-downs can help track the fish.
March 20: Crow season closed.
April 5: Full Pink Moon.
April 9: Easter Sunday.
Through May 31: Apply for 2023 elk season.
Spring turkey season is six, seven-day periods running Wednesday through the following Tuesday, in seven zones.
Youth Hunt: April 15-16
Period A: April 19-25
Period B: April 26-May 2
Period C: May 3-9
Period D: May 10-16
Period E: May 17-23
Period F: May 24-30
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.