Hayward Lakes Area Outdoor Report
By: Steve Suman
This week will bring an “interesting” mix of weather that includes snow, wintry mix, freezing drizzle, sunshine, and temperatures ranging from a low of about -15 degrees to a high in the low 40s! Overall, the area should offer very good conditions for the 46th Annual American Birkebeiner Wednesday through Saturday.
“The Quiet Lakes are providing positive fishing opportunities,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “and since this is the last month of the regular fishing season, it is time to make the effort to find the last legal bites!
“As we move closer to spring, mobility is important for finding active fish. Although some people are driving vehicles on some lakes, the recommendation is still stick with snowmobiles and ATVs – be safe out there.
“Walleyes are still elusive, with anglers catching only an occasional fish.
“Northern pike and bass action is good with live bait under tip-ups fished along weed edges and drop-offs.
“Panfish action is good, with anglers making some nice catches on tungsten jigs with waxies and small plastics. The best bite is in late afternoon, and some anglers say the pattern gets later as the amount of daylight increases.”
Trent at Hayward Bait says that although most lakes are finally drivable for ATVs, snowmobiles, cars, and small trucks, it is still very important to check ice conditions before on the ice.
“Walleyes are more active in late afternoon into evening, and walleye suckers, fatheads, and shiners work well.
“Northern pike are receiving more attention since walleyes became more nocturnal. Suckers and large shiners fished on tip-ups and dead sticks are producing fish from pickling size to good eater size, with most anglers working baits in about 10 feet.
“Largemouth bass are actively feeding, offering a fun challenge on jigging poles, though anglers are catching bass on everything from panfish gear to large minnows on tip-ups. Depths vary by lake, but usually 15-25 feet.
“Crappies are in about 25 feet, but scattered throughout the water column, suspending from one foot to 10 feet off bottom. Kender K-Rips tipped with crappie minnow heads are a favorite, but dead-sticking is also producing catches.
“Bluegills are staying close to the bottom in their honey holes. Live bait, small finesse jigs, and finesse plastics are good options, and use spring bobbers, as the panfish bite is very light.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses fish refuges and the possible effects on fish.
“Fish researchers have known for some time that individual fish can have different ‘personality’ traits, with some fish more bold and some fish more timid. The consensus is that in a fished population, bold fish that will quickly attack a bait experience removal faster than timid, harder to catch fish. Over time, this could lead to fewer bold fish in a waterbody.
“One proposed solution to this problem is refuges within lakes, effectively closing parts of lakes to fishing. In theory, these areas would protect the bold fish and keep them in the population. This is the strategy Lake Opinicon, in Ontario, used in a protected area in place since the 1940s, and researchers recently explored if the protected area had more bold fish than the rest of the lake.
“The researchers used bluegills as the study species, based on the harvest popularity of bluegills. The researchers captured bluegills from the protected area, the heavily fished main lake, and from a transition area in between. They then ran the bluegills through a series of tests to determine individual personalities.
“In one test, the bluegills had to explore a maze. Researchers expected that bold bluegills would explore the maze quickly and timid bluegills would likely stay put. Another test dealt with how fish respond to a potential threat. Researchers slowly moved an object toward bluegills in the tank to see how close it could get before the fish darted for safety, expecting timid bluegill to dart for safety sooner than the bold fish.
“While researchers found no difference in the maze trials, they found that bluegills from the protected area were less fearful when presented with the potential threat moving toward them. This indicated there were more bold bluegills in the protected area, supporting the hypothesis that protection from angling preserved those kinds of fish in that area.
“Anglers are certainly aware of the boldness concept in fish, even without scientific findings. When given a choice between fishing heavily pressured lakes or private or remote waters where fish have never seen baits, the choice is simple for most anglers!”
The 46th Annual American Birkebeiner starts this Wed., Feb. 19, and runs through Sunday, Feb. 23. The Birkie events draw an estimated 40,000 skiers and spectators to the Hayward and Cable area, with an estimated 13,500 skiers participating in race events during the week. This year, registrations included participants from 47 states and 25 countries. The Birkie includes events for all ages and abilities. For more information, visit www.birkie.com or call (715) 634-5025.
SNOWMOBILE TRAIL REPORT
The DNR reminds snowmobilers to make sure their snowmobile has a current registration and displays a valid snowmobile trail pass. Wisconsin requires a trail pass to operate on all public snowmobile trails. You can order trail passes online, as well as renew registrations.
The February 14 Hayward Lakes Visitors & Convention Bureau report says trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 8-16 inches. Groomers were running during the cold snap and trails froze down flat. No substantial new snow, but a bit on the lakes helps keep sleds cool. The lakes have some rough and slick spots, so stick to the trails. Traffic on lake trails worked down many rough areas, but ride with caution. The Chippewa Flowage lake level has dropped several feet and there are stumps and sand bars you would not normally see – so again, stick to the marked trail and keep your eyes peeled! The temperatures are great for riding, so grab your gear and get out there!
The February 12 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Ashland County says trails are open, groomed, and in very good condition, with a base of 6-10 inches. Open water exists in some areas so be cautious when you see water! Expected cold weather may help firm up these areas. Groomers are not hitting some areas due to soft snow. Well-posted temporary closures remain on the trail in Marengo and Trail 77 in Cayuga.
The February 14 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Bayfield County says trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 12-18 inches.
The February 13 Travel Wisconsin trail report for the Clam Lake area says trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 12-18 inches. Bottom of Form
The February 15 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Douglas County says all trails are open, groomed, and in great to excellent condition, with a base of 18-20 inches. Reports of deer on trails continue – watch for them while traveling!
The February 12 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Washburn County says all trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a compacted base of 8-15 inches. Some icy conditions exist throughout the trail system, so ride with caution.
Game fish anglers should be aware (and might be surprised) that game fish season closes in less than two weeks! If you planned to ice a few this winter, and have not yet done so, better get with it, as the season closes March 1. Current ice conditions are perhaps the best of the winter so far, but still require using serious caution when traveling on the ice.
Walleye action is fair and inconsistent, with anglers scoring the best success in late afternoon hours into after dark. Depths vary from lake to lake and time, but 25 feet is a good place to start. Use tip-ups with various sizes of walleye suckers, shiners, and fatheads.
Northern pike action is very good to excellent, with anglers working weed edges and drop-offs in 12-18 feet. The most effective baits are sucker minnows and large shiners fished on tip-ups and dead sticks.
While bass are not typically the target of ice anglers, bass fishing is good to very good in the same areas as northern pike – weed edges and drop-offs in 10-15 feet. Use jigging rods and tip-ups with live bait
Crappie fishing is fair to good, depending on the lake. Look for fish in about 25 feet, but suspending in the water column anywhere from just off bottom to 12 feet above it – and check the entire water column! Best baits include crappie minnows, crappie minnow heads, waxies, and plastics on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks. Dead sticks also work.
Bluegill fishing is good to very good, but the fish are not offering an aggressive bite. Look for bluegills holding near bottom in deeper holes, but as with the crappies, make sure to check the entire water column. Baits of choice include waxies, mousies, spikes, and plastics on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks. Use spring bobbers to detect light bites.
Feb. 15: Seasons closed: Coyote trapping; Raccoon trapping and hunting; Red and gray fox gun and trapping.
Feb. 19-23: 46th Annual American Birkebeiner (715-634-5025).
Feb. 23: Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing season closes (unless closed early due to harvest caps).
Feb. 28: Cottontail rabbit season closes.
March 1: Remove ice fishing shelters from WI-MN boundary waters.
March 8: Daylight Saving Time begins at 2 a.m. (turn clocks ahead one hour).
March 8: Remove ice fishing shelters south of Hwy 64.
March 8: Mink trapping season closes.
March 15: Remove ice fishing shelters north of Hwy 64, Lake Superior, and WI-MI boundary waters.
March 16-20: Remaining spring turkey permits on sale beginning at 10 a.m.
March 24: Sawyer County Fisheries Forum at Hayward High School; starts 6 p.m.
March 20: Winter crow season closes.
March 28: Trout season opens on designated sections Lake Superior tributaries (see regs).