Approximately 5-8 inches of wet, heavy snow fell on the Hayward area Sunday night and Monday morning, but mid-30s temperatures and sporadic sunshine removed some of it. However, the forecast predicts more snow Thursday and Friday. This might change (it happens!), so for now, enjoy the mild temperatures!
Reminder: This Sunday, March 12, Daylight Saving Time begins (officially) at 2 a.m., so turn clocks ahead one hour.
“Late ice panfish season is upon us, and when ice conditions are good, this time of year is great for catching fish. In warmer conditions, fun fishing with light tackle can keep kids or others who are not into fishing on the lake longer. Crappie, bluegill, and perch make for good table fare as well.
“Crappie fishing is good and should continue for a while, with anglers catching crappies in basins with waxies, spikes, and plastics on small tungsten jigs. Higher sun and longer days will start fish moving to some shallow bays and areas they use during spring spawning. Look for necked-down areas where basins transition into shallow bays. Small jigging spoons are great for aggressive fish this time of year.
“Bluegills are around shallow weeds, structure, and creek inlets where things are mixing up and oxygen is entering the lake. Look for fish as shallow as 4-5 feet and work through weeds from shallow to deep. Small jigs with plastics are deadly for the biggest bluegills. Spoons without rattles or extra noise will not call in predators, as do rattle spoons. Underwater cameras help see how fish react to your offering so you can change it to get more fish.
“Perch are in weeds and structure chasing minnows and small invertebrates. Perch are the predators of the panfish world, and fast and aggressive is the way to go. Small bright and glow color spoons tipped with waxies or minnow heads work well for bigger perch. Dead-sticking with fatheads, and crappie minnows on jigs, are great for icing more perch.”
Jarrett at Hayward Bait says crappies are still basin related and will remain so through ice-out.
“Target areas in 15-35 feet, depending on the lake’s average depth. At this stage of winter, many fish will suspend between the bottom and top. The most active fish will be towards the top of the schools. Big baits such as Jigging Raps, Rippin’ Raps, and others work well for big, active fish. When fish quiet down, switching to jigs with waxies or plastics ‑ purple is the hot color this year ‑ are ideal.
“Bluegill fishing is good. Many fish have left structure such as shallow cribs and are roaming shallower portions of main lake basins, intermixed with crappies. Anglers are catching most of their fish with waxies and spikes on small jigs. Small spoons are a good way to target big bluegills, while keeping your bait away from the little bluegills in the school.
“Perch fishing is picking up in 12-15 feet. Use small baits such as crappie minnows and waxies up to offerings as big as small walleye suckers. Once you find the fish, focus on keeping the school around you. Spread tip-ups or tip-downs around big mudflats to find schools of feeding perch, make hay until they move, and begin the search again.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the ages of smallmouth bass.
“During the last several years, the Hayward DNR Fish Team has worked on a Couderay River smallmouth bass tagging project, partially funded by the Wisconsin Smallmouth Bass Alliance. Based on its size, the Couderay provided an excellent opportunity to study a river smallmouth population.
“We will unpack different aspects of this study over time, but this week, the focus is on the ages of smallmouth in the Couderay.
“We took dorsal spines ‑ the pokey ones on the back of the fish ‑ from a representative number of smallmouth across the entire spectrum of sizes that we handled, which ranged from 8-20.7 inches. If you have the right equipment and training, you can age those spines just like the rings on a tree.
“We found that it takes about five years for a Couderay River smallmouth to reach 14 inches of length. Smallmouth 3-5 years old were the most common fish in the river. Indeed, older smallmouth bass were much less common, as would be expected. Smallmouth older than 8 years were rare, and the oldest smallmouth we aged in the project was 10 years of age.
“In summer of 2022, we captured a 20.7-inch smallmouth. It was almost a full inch longer than any smallmouth previously caught in the study, and I was confident this fish would also be the oldest fish we would see in the river. When we aged the fish this winter, however, we found that it, too, was just 10 years old.
“This illustrates an important concept within fish management.
“Fish, as with most organisms, have considerable variation among individuals. Even smallmouth born in the same year and experiencing mostly the same conditions can wind up being fairly different in size. For example, another 10-year-old smallmouth we handled was more than 2 inches smaller than our 20.7-inch fish.
“Understanding the ages of fish is useful for managers, but might also help anglers appreciate that a true trophy fish is a special organism and often a decade or more in the making.”
The Department of Natural Resources is conducting a public survey on a developing management plan for the Lake Namekagon fishery. This is an opportunity for the public to provide input on future fish management activities. Please share your thoughts on the plan by completing the survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/NamekagonSurvey2023.
Hayward Bass Club is holding its spring planning and membership meeting this Wednesday, March 8, at Hayward Rod & Gun Club, on County Road B, just east of Hayward. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. This meeting is to select lakes to fish this summer and begin organizing teams and divisions. The club welcomes new members and invites interested anglers to attend this meeting. For information, contact Wayne at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (405) 227-1789.
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.
Current grooming activities are available on the Groomer Tracking Systems app.
The March 3 HLVCB snowmobile trail report says Sawyer County trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 8-12 inches. All lakes have staked trails, with the exception of Lake Hayward. Technically, Sawyer County trails never close, so there is no projected end date. Weather allowing, groomers will continue to run as much as is possible and safe to run on lakes and wetlands. Many county businesses are open year-round, however some have seasonal hours, and some close this month. Others may adjust hours as the season slows. As you plan rides, consider the places you want to stop and check their hours. As always, ride safe!
The March 6 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Washburn County says trails are open, groomed, with a base of 4-8 inches, and are now in good to great condition after the area received this recent snowfall. Clubs and county staff report that the trail crews have groomed and tracked all trails.
The March 3 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Rusk County says trails are open, groomed, and in good late season and spring condition, with a base of 8-12 inches. Groomers are out daily. Daytime temperatures are in the 30s lately and some spring hazards are starting to appear, such as icy corners, gravel, blacktop, rough logging spots, dirt, sticks, etc. Overall, trails are holding up quite well.
The March 3 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for southeast Douglas County says the area recently received an additional 6-12 inches of snow and trails are open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 20-30 inches.
Monday’s 5-8 inches of snowfall could affect ice travel, though mid-30s temperatures and in/out sunshine might have melted/removed a large percentage of it. Either way, rubber boots are probably necessary. Check with your favorite bait shop personnel for the most current ice conditions, as well as fish locations and favored baits and presentations.
All anglers should note that Wisconsin’s general inland fishing season closed Sunday, March 5. In addition, current licenses expire March 31, but licenses for the 2023-24 season are now available and effective immediately.
Crappie action is good to very good. Fish are suspending in 12-30 feet, with some moving toward areas adjacent to shallow spring spawning spots. Make sure to check the entire water column from bottom to top. The most productive presentations include crappie minnows, fatheads, waxes, spikes, and plastics (particularly purple) on tungsten jigs and spoons, and small jigging baits such as Jigging Raps and Rippin’ Raps.
Bluegill fishing is good in, on, and around shallow weeds, structure, creek inlets, and shallower areas of lake basins. Baits of choice include waxies, spikes, and plastics on small jigs, teardrops, spoons, and plain hooks.
Perch fishing is improving as fish start moving to weeds and structure in 8-20 feet, and feeding on mudflats. Fatheads, crappie minnows, waxies, and plastics fished on small jigs, spoons, tip-ups, and dead-sticks are all working well.
Feb. 28: Cottontail rabbit season closed.
March 5: General inland fishing season closed.
March 5: Seasons closed: Mink; Muskrat trapping.
March 6: Full Worm Moon.
March 8: DNR zoom meeting on migratory game bird hunting seasons (312-626-6799; ID: 822 3871 8595).
March 11: Fat Bike Birkie (715-634-5025).
March 18: Shamrock Shuffle 1K and 5K runs, Hayward Main Street, 11:45 a.m.-2 p.m., free raffle after race.
March 20: Crow season closes.
April 5: Full Pink Moon.
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.