Warming temperatures indicate spring light at the end of the tunnel ‑ but perhaps not visible at times due to blowing snow! Some lows in the teens and highs in the 30s this week, but Saturday and Easter Sunday will push 60 degrees. Spring is coming, but has not yet arrived. Enjoy the good weather days!
“This past weekend we avoided most of the predicted snow,” says Greg at Happy Hooker, “though experienced blizzard conditions with 30+ mph wind gusts. The Quiet Lakes’ area received around 5-7 inches of snow.
“Ice conditions were favorable last week and this should continue for another week or so. There are reports of hard-packed ice up to 2.5 feet thick. This is certainly possible with the sustained cooler daytime temperatures we had and bitter cold nighttime temperatures. It has not warmed enough to take much ice off the lakes, the ground is absorbing most of the melt, and there is little runoff into the lakes.
“The panfish bite is good in relatively shallow bays and backwater areas, and waxies and plastics on jigs still work. Bright colors seem more productive than darker and natural colors.
“Crappies should start staging in spawning areas as days get longer, more light gets through the ice, and weeds start growing. The influx of fresh water will stir up bugs and other stuff from the silt. Use waxies and plastics on jigs, as minnows might be a bit big yet. Focus on deeper bay areas or weed edges, 8-10 feet on most lakes.
“Bluegills will be in the same bays in maybe 3-6 feet, closer to moving water, and eating bugs and any hatches rising up 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 be in bays and backwater areas, feeding on the same stuff. Work small spoons aggressively, pounding the bottom.”
Jarrett at Hayward Bait says that the warmer temperatures and sunshine made the lake ice extremely slushy, limiting most movement to foot travel, and we heard several reports of machines stuck in the snow on the ice.
“A few more warm days should melt off the snow completely. The surface will refreeze at night, which should make for extremely easy walking and pulling conditions. As for ice depth, we have not lost much of it and some lakes still have more than 18 inches of ice. However, with the coming warmth, make sure to take picks and a spud bar just in case!
“Crappies are still primarily basin related. Look for areas where fish have access to spawning grounds after ice-out. The fish will remain in deep basins until then. Do not be afraid to think big baits! Work spoons, rattlebaits, bigger live bait, and other aggressive baits for the most aggressive fish. Once you catch those fish, come back through with waxies and crappie minnows on smaller jigs.
“Perch begin to move onto mudflats in 8-10 feet this time of year, preparing for spawn. They will feed actively in the mud, so small minnows and insect imitations work best. Be ready to move, as these fish will not hold to any particular place on a flat. Tip-ups and tip-downs can be good indicators on where fish move, so create a big spread!”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses local questions of interest for the 2023 Spring Hearings.
“The DNR/Conservation Congress Spring Hearings are here once again. Input on fish and wildlife proposals begins April 10, with acceptance of input continuing online. You can preview the proposals and prepare for voting by visiting https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/about/wcc/springhearing.
“A number of local fisheries rule change proposals are on the docket for this year.
“First, there is a proposal to extend a reduced daily panfish bag limit of 5 per species, no more than 15 total, to year-round on Osprey and Island lakes. Currently, the reduced bag is in effect only in May and June. This request came from the respective lake groups.
“Next, there is a proposal to apply special regulations to panfish on Moose Lake. The proposal would reduce the panfish bag limit to 5 total, only one of which could be greater than 12 inches. This is a novel regulation that would mostly impact crappie and that the local fishing community strongly supports.
“Lastly, a local question asks about increasing the northern pike bag limit to 10 on the Chippewa Flowage, Lac Courte Oreilles, Spider Chain, and Tiger Cat Chain. The intent of this proposal is to make it easier and more appealing for anglers to help control pike abundance in these lakes that saw introduction of the fish.
“Local anglers might also be interested in a regional proposal that asks about moving the start of muskellunge season to the general inland fishing opener the first Saturday in May.
“All proposals and background information are available on the Conservation Congress website. Please consider making your voice heard on these and other fishing and hunting proposals.”
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 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. Two of the five WCC seats will be up for election in each county. 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 responsible natural resources management.
For more information, visit the Wisconsin Conservation Congress website.
The DNR and Wisconsin Conservation Congress invite the public to get involved in the 2023 Fish and Wildlife Spring Hearings April 10-13. The hearings, focused on natural resource-related questions and proposed rule changes, will again be in a virtual format. The online questionnaire will be open for input from noon April 10 through noon April 13 via the Wisconsin Conservation Congress Spring Hearing webpage.
The 2023 statewide spring Youth Turkey Hunt is April 15-16 and the DNR says there is still time to plan for it. This hunt gives hunters younger than 16 years of age the opportunity to gain valuable hunting experience and feel the excitement of turkey season before the regular season begins.
Youth hunters must have a spring turkey license, stamp, and valid harvest authorization for any period. All of these are available through Go Wild online or in person at DNR service centers and license agents. Additionally, youth hunters must have completed hunter education or participated in the mentored hunting program to be eligible for the youth hunt.
To participate in the mentored hunting program, a qualified adult 18 years of age or older must be accompany the youth. The adult may not accompany more than two youth hunters at one time. More information on mentoring is available on the Mentored Hunting webpage.
Youth hunters may use a harvest authorization for any period during Youth Hunt weekend, but must hunt within the zone indicated on their harvest authorization. Harvest authorizations not filled during the youth hunt are valid during the regular hunting season in the zone indicated.
Hunters must register their turkey by 5 p.m. the day after recovery at gamereg.wi.gov or by calling (844) 426-3734. Hunters will need the harvest authorization number.
SNOWMOBILE TRAIL REPORT
This concludes the snowmobile/ski trail report for this season.
The March 31 HLVCB snowmobile trail report says Chequamegon National Forest closed snowmobile trails in the forest March 31. Trails allowing ATV/UTV, mountain bikes, horses, and other pack or saddle animals closed March 15.
The April 3 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Washburn County says trails are open, but in poor condition. Closures could occur by or before this weekend. For more information, call the Hotline 800-367-3306.
Travel conditions on the ice remain the biggest barrier for anglers due to slush, with walking the wisest choice. Ice depths remain generally good, but use caution and check as you go! Conditions improve, only for additional snow to set back the gains. It is difficult to believe the general inland gamefish season opener is one month distant!
Wisconsin’s boat registration period runs for three years. The registration period begins April 1 of the year of the registration issuance or renewal and expires March 31 of the third year after issuance or renewal. Wisconsin requires registration of all motorized vessels and boats used on waters of the state, including electric trolling motors, as well as all sailboats greater than 12 feet in length used on waters of the state.
Crappie action is good when you find them. Check deep basins, bays, backwaters, weed edges, and areas adjacent to post ice-out spawning sites. Baits of choice include crappie minnows, waxies, and plastics on jigs, and larger spoons, rattlebaits, and live bait for aggressive fish.
Bluegill fishing is good in shallow bays and backwaters, with fish feeding on bugs and hatches rising in the water column. Top baits include waxies, spikes, and Gulp! baits on small jigs.
Perch action is good as fish start moving to pre-spawn staging areas near spawning sites. Look for them on the bottom in/on shallower backwaters, bays, and mudflats out to 10 feet. Small minnows, insect imitations, and spoons work well. Spread tip-ups and tip-downs to track the fish movement ‑ and be ready to move with them!
March 31: Fishing/hunting licenses for 2022-23 expired.
April 5: Full Pink Moon.
April 9: Easter Sunday.
May 5: Full Flower Moon.
Through May 31: Applications accepted for 2023 elk season.
Spring turkey season is six seven-day periods, Wednesday through the following Tuesday, in the seven zones open for hunting in 2023. Season dates are as follows:
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.