Spring and winter continue their duel in the North Woods, but we all know which of the two will prevail… eventually. The forecast shows Tuesday and Thursday offering sunshine, though the remainder of the week indicates varying chances for rain and/or snow every day. Temperatures are slowly warming, so we should soon see more spring showers and fewer (i.e., no!) snowstorms.
“There is still solid ice on the main portions of the Quiet Lakes,” says Greg at Happy Hooker, “but getting out on it can be tricky. There could be thin ice on some main lake spots due to the moving water.
“A week ago Monday night, the ice was still 8-10 inches thick on the shoreline at the Lost Land Lake launch, but a lot of water was flowing into the lake from snowmelt and creek inlets. If you head out to fish, check ice every few steps, as it can change in a matter of feet.
“Tactics will not really change from now until ice out, but if you can get out safely, the lack of angler pressure should make for excellent fishing.
“Crappies are in weed beds in 4-12 feet, staying shallower, getting ready for spawn. Use small tungsten and lead jigs tipped with waxies and plastics. Fish get more active at last light, so use that to your advantage.
“Bluegills are mixing in with crappies in those areas, as well as shallow weed beds, sandy shorelines, and flats that warm during the day. Use the same tackle and tactics. Jigs in white, greens, and pinks can be good, as there are many changes in the water column this time of year.
“Perch are in and around those areas, but focus on deeper edges and bottom transitions. Small jigs tipped with waxies and plastics with undulating appendages will attract big perch.”
Levi at Hayward Bait says it is difficult to report ice conditions as each lake will be somewhat different.
“If a stream or river is moving through the lake, ice will be thin. Other lakes might have 12-18 inches of ice, but with rotted shorelines. Use your best judgment and be safe on the ice. Once you get away from shore, most lakes have about 12-18 inches of ice. Walking out is the recommendation.
“Crappie action is decent, though with the weather changes and colder weather fish might have pushed back deeper. Look for them in basins and along weedlines in 15-30 feet during early morning and evening hours. Plastics work very well, even better than live bait, but waxies and crappie minnows also work well.
“Bluegill fishing is good and they, too, might have pushed deeper with the recent cold weather. Look for fish in the weeds and along weedlines in 5-15 feet. Waxies are the best bait, with plastics working well for bigger bluegills.
“Perch fishing is good near spawning sites such as the mouths of creeks and mudflats in 5-15 feet. Live bait is the key, such as crappie minnows, fatheads, and waxies, though small spoons and plastics work, too.
“Trout anglers fishing the rivers and streams during the early catch and release season report very good action on small crankbaits and spinners. Cloudy, overcast days are producing the most catches.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses new fishing regulations for 2022.
“Anglers should be aware of several changes to local fishing regulations that are effective starting on the May 7 inland fishing season opener.
“First, the Sand Lake walleye size limit is changing to a 15-inch minimum length limit, no harvest between 20-24 inches, and only 1 fish greater than 24 inches. The Sand Lake walleye bag limit will remain at 3 fish.
“In recent years, Durphee and Schoolhouse lakes had different fishing regulations, despite being connected. Angling regulations for the two lakes will now be the same, with the two effectively treated as one waterbody. This change came from DNR law enforcement.
“The Tiger Cat Chain bass regulation will change to no minimum size limit, but anglers cannot harvest bass between 14-18 inches and can keep only 1 fish greater than 18 inches. The bass bag limit remains at 5 fish. The intent of this regulation is to improve bass size structure.
“All of these regulation changes take effect May 7, 2022. The DNR is posting new signs with updated regulations at the landings on these lakes and updating the paper regulation booklet as well. We will evaluate these regulations as a part of future surveys to determine if they are having the desired effect.”
The DNR is advising anglers that new fishing regulations go into effect on numerous northern waterbodies starting with the May 7 fishing season opener. The walleye regulation for multiple water bodies in the Flambeau River, South Fork Flambeau River, and Elk River watersheds in Ashland, Iron, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, and Vilas counties will switch to the standard walleye regulation for the Ceded Territory in northern Wisconsin. Anglers may keep a daily limit of three walleye at least 15 inches but less than 20 inches, or keep two walleye 15-20 inches and one greater than 24 inches.
According to DNR fisheries biologist Jeff Scheirer, the regulation aims to protect the young walleye that these populations still produce, but at much lower rates than in the past. It allows anglers to harvest adult walleye, while protecting young walleye until they mature. Scheirer says that if the population rebounds and the new regulation help more walleye mature into adults, biologists can reassess if the regulation remains necessary.
Additional fishing regulations will go into effect for other lakes, rivers, and streams within northern Wisconsin. The complete list of regulation changes for 2022 is available on the DNR’s Fishing Regulations webpage.
Wisconsin’s 2022 spring turkey season opens Wednesday, April 20, and bonus harvest authorizations are still available for purchase. The spring season includes six, seven-day periods running Wednesday through the following Tuesday. All seven turkey management zones will be open for hunting. Hunters should brush up on the spring turkey hunting regulations in the fall 2021-spring 2022 combined hunting regulations.
Turkey registration is mandatory and hunters must register their turkey by 5 p.m. the day after recovery at gamereg.wi.gov or by calling (844) 426-3734, using the number found on the paper or electronic harvest authorization. Registering your turkey harvest remains a critical component of wildlife population management.
The DNR’s free Hunt Wild mobile app provides public lands maps, rules, regulations, and shooting hours. Through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the public has access to nearly 40,000 acres of private land through the Voluntary Public Access-Habitat Incentive Program and the Turkey Hunter Access Program. Select state parks allow spring turkey hunting during the two-day youth hunt and the first two periods of the regular season. For more information, visit the state park hunting webpage.
Hayward Chapter-Muskies Inc. invites the public to attend its club meeting Tuesday, May 3, at Flat Creek Lodge in Hayward. Admission is free. A general business meeting starts at 7 p.m. The featured guest and speaker is well-known local guide and resort owner John Dettloff, who will talk about fishing for muskies on the Chippewa Flowage. His presentation begins at 7:30 p.m. People interested in becoming a new member of Muskies Inc. can purchase a half-price membership at the meeting. For more information, call Mike Persson (715) 634-4543.
The DNR will host a Bear Aware webinar by Zoom and phone Tuesday, April 19, starting at 6 p.m. Participants will learn about living among black bears from DNR and USDA-Wildlife Services bear experts who will discuss bear habitat, history, and offer tips for reducing potential bear conflicts around homes and businesses. The DNR and USDA-Wildlife Services receive more than 700 calls related to nuisance black bears each year. The DNR pamphlet, Living with Black Bears in Wisconsin, is a great resource for learning more about co-existing with bears. The public can participate in a Q&A session following the Bear Aware webinar. Join the webinar online by Zoom or by phone at (877) 853 5257; Webinar ID: 886 3482 8734. For more information, search ‘Bear Aware webinar’ on the DNR website.
Three weeks until the May 7 gamefish opener, but snow continues to fall and anglers continue to ice fish, though with warmer temperatures ahead.
This is the perfect time to check boats, trailers, tackle, and other equipment, as well as renew your fishing license that expired March 31, not to mention your hunting license if you intend to hunt turkey this spring. Most bait and tackle shops are at or near completion of their spring changeover and have new equipment on display and for sale.
Ice conditions are still usable, though access might be difficult, but use extreme caution. Late ice can be even more deceiving than very early ice, so go with a friend and take safety equipment you “might” (hope not!) need.
Reminder: April 1, the panfish bag limit on the Chippewa Flowage changed to 10 fish combined panfish species.
Crappie fishing is good. Find fish on weedlines in 4-15 feet during early morning and late afternoon/early evening hours, and in basins as deep as 30 feet during cold fronts. Baits of choice include crappie minnows, waxies, and plastics on lead and tungsten jigs, with most anglers reporting that plastics are more productive than live bait.
Bluegill fishing is good on weeds, weedlines, flats, and sandy shorelines in 4-18 feet and deeper during cold fronts. Some fish can also be in with the crappies. Waxies, and white, green, and pink plastics on lead and tungsten jigs work well. To target bigger bluegills, try plastics and small minnows.
Perch fishing is fair to good as fish move toward or hold near their spawning sites. Look for them in/on weeds, weedlines, transition areas, deep edges, creek mouths, and mudflats in 4-18 feet. Top baits include crappie minnows, fatheads, waxies, and plastics tipped on small jigs and spoons.
March 31: The 2021-22 fishing/hunting licenses expired.
April 1: Chippewa Flowage panfish bag limit changed to 10 combined panfish species.
April 18: Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame opened for the season (715-634-4440).
April 19: DNR Bear Aware Zoom webinar, 6 pm. (877-853 5257; Webinar ID: 886 3482 8734).
April 30: Trapping seasons close in Northern Zone: Otter; Beaver.
May 3: Hayward Chapter-Muskies Inc. meeting, 7 p.m., at Flat Creek Lodge (715-634-4543).
May 6: Early catch-and-release trout season closes.
May 7: Wisconsin general gamefish opener (see regs for details).
May 12-15: Treeland Challenge Bass and Walleye Catch and Release Tournament (715-462-3874).
May 20-21: 35th Annual Fishing Has No Boundaries Hayward event (715-634-3185).
Bonus harvest authorizations on sale until selling out or season ends.
A: April 20-26
B: April 27-May 3
C: May 4-10
D: May 11-17
E: May 18-24
F: May 25-31
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.