Snowfall hit the Hayward area Saturday night and again Sunday night, leaving assorted depths around Sawyer County and adjacent areas. This week starts a bit colder than average for early December, but moderates as the week progresses ‑ according to the forecast. Daily highs will hit the 30s by the weekend, and push 40 degrees next Monday! For those who find that disappointing, please note this includes numerous chances for snow midweek.
Note: This Friday, December 10, is the application deadline for bear and spring turkey season harvest permits. (See updates farther down the column for more information).
“It is that time of year when we remind everyone to be careful on the fresh ice of the Quiet Lakes,” says Pat at Happy Hooker. “Anglers are traveling to find fishable ice, though not yet stampeding onto the waters, especially with temperatures well above freezing last week.
“Small, shallow lakes ice-over first and currently, with 3-6 inches of ice, offer the only ice fishing opportunities. Every lake is different, and conditions can change in just a few feet on the same lake. Most big, deep lakes are not yet fully ice covered, and it is much too early for vehicle traffic.
“Anglers report success setting tip-ups over shallow flats and catching mostly walleye, northern pike, and perch. Set tip-ups to suspend walleye suckers at 10 feet with a 10-lb. leader, double barrel swivel, small split shot, and a bead for added attraction. The best bite begins about 3 p.m. and runs into after dark.
“Panfish anglers are catching fish on jigging spoons. Color does not matter as much as lure size ‑ use small spoons for this early ice bite.
“Do not forget your personal protective equipment and common sense. Safety items that every angler should have include a life jacket, ice picks, a spud bar for testing ice, rope, a solid game plan ‑ and a buddy to help with any rescue. Check your own ice; never assume ice is good. It is a common saying, but no fish is worth your life.”
Jarrett at Hayward Bait says the walleye bite through the ice is good so far, with ice thickness 2-5 inches, depending on your location.
“That thin ice is limiting travel to shallow bays and shorelines, which is not a problem, because this is where many fish are this time of year. Walleyes are in 2-10 feet, cruising weedlines, looking for and feeding on small crappies, bluegills, and perch. Primetime bites are best, so make sure to allow plenty of time for set-up.
“Northern pike are cruising big, shallow mud and weed flats. They venture onto weedlines like walleye, but more so during daylight hours than during primetime. Big suckers with clipped tails are working well and icing some nice fish.
“Few anglers are targeting bass through the ice right now, though many panfish anglers are catching bass.
“Crappies and bluegills are cruising shallow water, with some crappies in main lake basins, though anglers cannot currently reach them. Green, tall weeds are the key to finding concentrations of fish. These fish cruise weedlines during the day, looking for food, and the weeds offer immediate cover should a walleye or pike appear. Small jigs and live bait are putting some fish onto the ice.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses what a pike does after you release it in winter.
“What does a fish do after you release it? Does it stay nearby and lick its wounds? Does it get out of Dodge?
“Researchers in Canada sought to explore this issue in northern pike caught through the ice. The researchers caught 15 pike on hook and line and implanted them with radio transmitters before release. They were then able to track the movements of the pike over the next week.
“Released pike showed a surprising amount of movement, with some moving almost three miles in a day and more than 10 miles during the course of the week. This could indicate pike abandoning the area where anglers caught them, but other studies of pike movement in winter show large pike movements to be the norm.
“Pike under ice are frequently traveling several miles and visiting different habitats, so perhaps pike released after catching are just going back to business as usual.
“While studies of winter pike movement are not particularly common, most seem to say the same things. Pike do not lock into a tight home range in winter, which means good fishing spots will likely see a continual influx of new fish. This might help the spot stay productive, even if some level of harvest occurs.”
Deer seasons continue and many bonus antlerless harvest authorizations remain available, albeit most are for private land. As of Monday December 6, the DNR website shows authorizations available (for private land unless otherwise noted) in the following local counties:
- Sawyer 7,022
- Washburn 687
- Rusk 201 public, 5,670 private
- Price 6,395
- Bayfield 3,448
No bonus permits are available in Ashland and Douglas counties.
Hunters can fill bonus authorizations with any weapon type in the zone, county, and land type designated on the authorization.
Bonus authorizations are available on a first-come, first-served basis for $12/resident, $20/non-resident, and $5/youth hunter younger than age 12. Hunters can purchase authorizations at more than 1,000 license sales locations, online at Go Wild, or at any open DNR service center.
As of Tuesday November 30, the DNR has released the following preliminary harvest summary for the nine-day gun deer season. The Sawyer County harvest stands at 1,790 deer, including 993 antlered and 797 antlerless.
The total Sawyer County deer harvest totals for the deer seasons thus far is 2,719 deer, including 1,606 antlered and 1,113antlerless. These totals include:
- Archery: 288 deer (195 antlered, 93 antlerless)
- Crossbow: 594 deer (400 antlered, 194 antlerless)
- Youth Deer Hunt Oct. 9-10: 47 deer (18 antlered, 29 antlerless)
- Nine-day gun deer season: 1,790 deer (993 antlered, 797 antlerless)
The DNR Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey will continue to accept submissions through January 9. The DNR is developing a long-term database of deer hunter observation data to understand better the relative abundance and distribution of deer and other mammalian and avian wildlife species in the state. Past efforts have provided the agency with valuable information for managing many wildlife species.
The DNR asks hunters to provide the following deer hunting trip information: date hunted; number of hours hunted; county; zone; land type; weather conditions; and the type and number of animals. Participants can submit their reports by smartphone, desktop, or mail.
One week remains to vote for Hayward in the America’s Main Street Contest and help Hayward get to the Top 10 and win $25,000. Through December 12, you can vote up to 25 times per day (do it!) to move Hayward into the final round. The America’s Main Street goal is to promote Main Streets’ importance and strong economic benefits and the small businesses that help them thrive.
Note: This Friday, December 10, is the application deadline for 2022 bear and spring turkey season permits! The applications cost $3 for spring turkey and $4.50 for bear.
The DNR regulates black bear and wild turkey harvest through a special permitting system, awarding harvest permits/tags/authorizations through a drawing process. To be eligible to receive a harvest permit/tag/authorization for one of these species, you must submit an application by the annual deadline and be a drawing winner. Hunters can submit applications through license sales locations, open DNR service centers, and the Online Licensing Center.
The drawing for spring turkey permits is in early January and the bear permit drawing is in early February.
Ice fishing season is mostly just beginning and as such, angler fishing reports are somewhat thin (pun intended!) Cold temperatures should greatly improve ice conditions this week, though snow cover will hinder the process a bit. Most reports indicate ice thickness up to six inches ‑ but certainly not consistent ‑ so please be cautious! It is always important to use common sense and be safe, but especially so during early and late ice. If you go, use a spud bar to check ice as you go, and your equipment should include rope, ice picks, PFDs, etc. Good luck and have fun ‑ but be safe!
Walleye fishing is fair to good, with the best success from late afternoon into dark. Walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups fished in depths to 10 feet on shallow flats, bays, and along shorelines will produce some action. Jigging spoons and Jigging Raps are also enticing some fish. Do not lose sight of the fact this is early ice.
Northern pike fishing is good to very good during the day. Fish are on shallow flats and weedlines looking for panfish concentrations (i.e., food). Large northern and walleye sucker minnows, fished under tip-ups set over and along weeds and weed edges will draw the interest of pike. Jigging baits are also producing some action.
Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass:
Anglers are catching some bass through the ice, though not many are targeting them at this time. Most catches are incidental, with fish hitting sucker minnows and shiners under tip-ups set over shallow weed cover.
Crappie fishing is good around shallow weeds and weedlines. Crappie minnows, waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs, plain hooks, and jigging spoons are all making catches. Keep moving (safely!) until you find the fish ‑ or until the moving fish find you!
Bluegill fishing is good on shallow to mid-depth green weeds, but not all areas are currently accessible. Waxies, spikes, and plastics on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks, and small jigging spoons, are all working.
Dec. 8: Quail season closes statewide.
Dec. 16: Goose season closes in Northern Zone.
Dec. 24-Jan 1: Antlerless-only Holiday Deer Hunt in select Farmland/Zone 2 counties (see regs).
Dec. 31: Musky season closes.
Jan. 2: Fisher trapping season closes.
Jan. 9: Seasons close: Archery, crossbow deer; Pheasant; Ruffed grouse (Zone A); Hungarian partridge.
Jan. 15-16: Free Fishing Weekend.
Jan. 31: Seasons close: Squirrel; Bobcat Period 2 hunting/trapping.
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.