March 9, 2020
Hayward Lakes Area Outdoor Report
By: Steve Suman
The North Woods enjoyed another mild and sunny weekend, with temperatures even reaching into the 50s! This week looks as if the weather will revert to old habits, however. Temperatures will slowly drop into the 30s for highs and a few single-digit nights for lows. We are moving toward spring, however, and these milder days are quite nice for late season winter activities, so take advantage while you can!
“Gamefish season closed March 1 and now only panfish are legal for harvest,” says Pat at Happy Hooker. “The Quiet Lakes are still solid, with reports stating ice thickness of 26 inches and back bays 16 inches with slush.
“With panfish the target species, we are hearing some very positive success reports.
“Anglers using small tungsten jigs tipped with minnows, one-inch Gulp! Minnows, and small plastics report some nice catches. Look for soft substrate bottoms in 12-18 feet that produce bug hatches.
“Late afternoon is the prime time to fish for panfish, and as warmer temperatures and the sun continue to melt snow and allow more light penetration, the fish will get more aggressive.”
Trent at Hayward Bait says there has been a lot of sunshine, but expect some flurries – and getting out just before or after these fronts can pay dividends for putting fish on the ice.
“Gamefish season closed, but panfish fishing is open and going strong. As we near the early spring transition, you might notice subtle differences in fishing depths and presentations. From now until ice-out, oxygen levels can be quite low and fish suspend higher or move shallower to find oxygen.
“Crappies are in basins and 30-foot holes, but might also be on transition points such as bay edges. Minnows work well, but might not last due to low oxygen. Lead, tungsten, hair, and marabou jigs, and small spoons such as Kastmasters are all good choices. Bigger crappies tend to suspend higher in the water column so you do not need to fish on the bottom.
“Bluegills, on the other hand, still hold close to bottom, though you might find fish in 15-20 feet. If you can find them, work weed edges next to sandy bottoms or muck flats. Silver Demon, Chicken Jigs, and Kender K-Rip jigs tipped with waxies and spikes are good options.
“Perch are full of eggs, waiting for ice-out so they can spawn, and should start moving shallower. Working the bottom to disturb sediment can get some fish on the ice. Lindy Perch Talkers, Northland Buckshot Rattle spoons, and Darter Jigs are all good choices.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses competitively fit northern pike.
“You do not have to be a fish biologist to know that pike and musky share many similarities. They have a close genetic relationship and can hybridize, share similar habitat from spawning through adulthood, and eat similar prey. With so much overlap in all life stages, it is no surprise we often see them as competitors.
“Several studies have documented the negative impacts of pike introduced on native muskellunge populations – and the same might be true of musky introduced on native pike populations, though those are rare cases.
“This issue has been particularly prevalent in the Hayward area and several studies on how the two species interact originate here. I often describe pike as a very ‘tough competitor’ for muskellunge and the 2019 spring surveys provide some vivid illustration of the fact.
“In Mud/Callahan, a native musky lake which saw the introduction of pike about 20 years ago, our crew captured a 10-inch female pike that was mature and producing eggs. It is worth noting that this 10-inch mature female pike was not an anomaly. We also captured a mature 10.9-inch female pike in Mud/Callahan Lake, a 12.3-inch female in Tiger Cat, and a 13.4-inch female in the Chippewa Flowage. For comparison, a female musky might not start producing eggs until it is 28-30 inches long and 4-5 years of age.
“The fact that pike can start reproducing at very small sizes and young ages is one of several competitive edges they have over muskellunge. Although a musky certainly produces more eggs per individual, pike might be 10-50 times more abundant than muskellunge in a given lake, which quickly negates that potential advantage.
“Results such as these demonstrate the complex challenge of managing for muskellunge in waters where pike are also present.” (Mark your calendars for the March 24 Sawyer County Fisheries Forum at Hayward High School.)
The sale of remaining spring turkey harvest authorizations begins March 16, by zone (starting with Zone 1), on a first-come, first-served basis, and will continue through the week. Each zone has a designated sales date, with sales starting at 10 a.m. and running through midnight each day. Sales for zones 5-7 take place Friday, March 20. Any remaining authorizations for all zones will go on sale Saturday, March 21, and continue until authorizations sell out or the season ends. Customers can purchase one harvest authorization per day. Cost is $10 for residents and $15 for the nonresidents. For more information, search “turkey” on the DNR website.
Sunday, March 15, is the deadline to remove permanent ice fishing shanties from waters north of Highway 64. The DNR is urging anglers to remove shelters before the deadline, as warm temperatures and rains could complicate removal. Anglers can continue to use portable shelters as long as they remove them daily and when not in active use. For more information, search “ice fishing shelters” on the DNR website.
Hayward Bass Club is holding its season planning meeting at Hayward Rod & Gun Club Wednesday, March 11, starting at 7 p.m. The club encourages anglers who would like to join to attend this meeting to help finalize this year’s schedule. League fees for the season are $50 per team. Throughout spring and summer, club members in two-person teams catch-and-release bass fish for 3.5 hours every other Wednesday evening. The club targets eight different lakes for these outings. Hayward Bass Club also annually hosts a free youth bass tournament on the Chippewa Flowage and open invitational tournaments on Round Lake and the Flowage. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, stop at Hayward Bait, or call (715) 699-1015.
SNOWMOBILE TRAIL REPORT
The DNR reminds snowmobilers to make sure their snowmobiles have a current registration and display 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 March 9 Hayward Lakes Visitors & Convention Bureau says this is the final snowmobile trail report for the season. Crews pulled most lake stakes and private land is closing as well. There is still quite a bit of snow, but it is not very rideable. If the area receives snow and you want to take a last ride, the wooded Sawyer County trails “technically” never close. Next up is the ATV/UTV season and many trails open May 1-15, depending on the ground and wetness. Check the map to distinguish route vs. trail.
The March 6 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Ashland County/Clam Lake area says trails are open, in fair condition, groomed, and with a base of 2-12 inches. Connecting routes in villages are bare (blacktop) and there is open water on some trail areas. Due to the warm temperatures, it is uncertain how long the trails in Ashland County will remain open.
The March 5 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Bayfield County says trails are open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 8-12 inches. Road routes are getting bare, but trails are still good, especially in the woods.
The March 6 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Douglas County says all trails are open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 6-12 inches. As temperatures start to warm, watch for trail closure updates.
The March 5 Travel Wisconsin trail report says all Rusk and Washburn counties snowmobile trails closed for the season.
Sunshine and mild temperatures make for great fishing conditions and (so far) the ice is holding up well on most lakes. Just use caution and common sense when on the ice, as it is almost mid March and ice conditions will only deteriorate from now until ice-out. All gamefish seasons closed March 1, but panfish fishing is very good.
Crappie action is good to very good, with best success in late afternoon into evening hours. Fish are near soft bottoms, lake basins, deep holes, and the edges of bays. Depths range from 8-30 feet, so it is important to check the entire water column. Jigs in assorted make-ups tipped with crappie minnows, plastics, and one-inch Gulp! Minnows, and small spoons, are all enticing crappies.
Bluegill fishing is very good during late afternoon hours. Look for fish on soft and sandy bottoms, weed edges, and muck flats out to 20 feet. Check the water column closely, as you might find fish holding anywhere from top to bottom. Best offerings include assorted lead and tungsten jigs tipped with waxies, spikes, plastics, and one-inch Gulp! Minnows.
Perch fishing is good to very good on soft bottoms in depths to 20 feet, though fish are moving to shallower water. Top baits include various jigs tipped with minnows, one-inch Gulp! Minnows, and plastics, and rattle spoons.
March 8: Mink trapping season closed.
March 15: DNR requires removal of 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 19: First day of spring!
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).