March 16, 2020
Hayward Lakes Area Outdoor Report
By: Steve Suman
Spring officially starts March 19 this year, the earliest since 1896, but this week does not look all that “springy,” judging from the current forecast. We should see a varied mix of weather, from rain to snow to sunshine (not much of that), as well as temperatures ranging from the mid-40 highs to single-digit lows. Spring in the North Woods!
“Most lake ice is still 2-3 feet thick and some lakes still have vehicle traffic, though we recommended against it. The boat launches are deteriorating, snowmobile travel is going by the wayside as the snow on the ice is melting fast, and it is best to travel light on foot.
“Panfish fishing is excellent now, with fresh bug hatches showing up in some areas. Fish tungsten jig tipped with soft plastics and minnows over vegetation and soft substrate bottoms in 8-18 feet. Fish are schooling, so when you find them, try to stay on them.
“Anglers report the best bite is in late afternoon – and do not be surprised if you tangle with a northern pike or bass, as they are also chasing the panfish schools. Panfish can be vulnerable at this time– please make wise harvest decisions.
“We are almost to spring, so get out now and enjoy these last ice fishing opportunities.
“Be sure to update your fishing license – the old licenses expire March 31. In addition, this is a good time to review the regulations, as there are a number of changes this year.”
Trent at Hayward Bait says recent rainfall caused some snow to melt and ice to turn cloudy.
“Shorelines will open up any day now and we recommend anglers no longer drive out on the ice. Even thick ice can be hazardous this time of year, so bring a spud bar and check your way.
“This can be one of the best times to capitalize on panfish, as they become more active prior to spawn and the waters receive a fresh surge of oxygen.
“Crappie action is strong. You might notice fish are staging in depths around 20 feet, but it is still important to work the deeper lake basins around 30 feet. If fish are not present in the basins, they might be holding on bay edges and off points. Working spoons such as Kastmasters can be great when crappies are aggressive and foraging on minnows. On the tough days, when fish are picky, returning to the basics is essential. Good colors for crappie are chartreuse, pink, and black, with a personal favorite a chicken jig with a white head and purple tail.
“Bluegills, too, are moving toward shallower water, and lately anglers are picking off fish in 10-15 feet. Some good jig options to entice the bigger dominant fish include silver Demons, pink Flirty Girtys, and Kender K-Rips. These choices also work well for perch and crappie.
“Perch are full of eggs and ready to spawn as soon as the ice starts going out. Try VMC Rocker Spoons and Hali Jigging Spoons starting at about 10 feet, bouncing the lures off the bottom to disturb sediment and entice the perch.”
Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says anglers are still fishing on Chequamegon Bay, despite strong winds.
“We currently have 12-18 inches of ice on the Bay, inside Houghton Point, and so far, the landings are holding up to snowmobile and ATV traffic.
“High winds over the weekend could have opened some pressure cracks, as well as some areas off the Sioux and Onion rivers. Prior to the rain, wind, and warm-up, anglers reported good action off the river mouths.
“Look for trout and whitefish to move in just off Bono Creek and the coal dock on the Washburn side.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses finding one fish in a trout stream survey.
“Sometimes, the results of a fisheries survey deliver a pretty clear message. If we capture loads of young walleye in the fall, we can safely conclude that spawning success was strong that year and the future of the fishery looks bright. If we find no young walleye after many miles of shocking, that forces us to make the opposite conclusion.
“What about results that are very much in-between and how do we interpret and act on those kinds of data?
“This is the situation we found ourselves in when surveying Log Creek in eastern Sawyer County. Log Creek classifies as a trout water, with one stretch Class 2 and another stretch Class 3. However, in 2007, during the last Log Creek survey, we found no trout across four different sites. This appeared to be the same old story: beavers heavily dam a low-gradient trout stream, trout habitat degrades, and trout disappear. As such, when we set out to shock the same Log Creek sites again in 2019 as a part of our baseline monitoring rotation, the results seemed like a foregone conclusion.
“Through the first two sites, we saw nothing surprising. Dace, chubs, shiners, and some darters – these are all species common in a warmed, former trout stream.
“Then, at site three, among a pile of shiners, we scooped up one 5.5-inch brook trout.
“What do we make of this one trout? It is unquestionably a native fish, as there is no brook trout stocking anywhere near this creek. It must mean there are more somewhere in the stream, although we shocked that area and several other sites extensively and did not discover any others. What does it mean about the habitat? Are there stretches somewhere deep in this tag alder mess of stream that are still suitable for trout?
“The last question that really sticks with me is this: What if we had missed this one fish? It could have easily scooted past our net, as many fish do, and we would be left with a different perception of the Log Creek fishery – that of just another former trout stream.”
The printed version of the new 2020-21 fishing regulations pamphlet is available, but contains an incorrect opening date for walleye season on the Chippewa Flowage. Walleye season on the Flowage opens May 2, the same as everywhere else. The DNR is working to correct the online version, but the printed version is incorrect.
Due to school closings amid current public health concerns, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter has cancelled the annual in-person Sawyer County Fisheries Forum, this year scheduled for March 24 at Hayward High School. However, he is working on an alternative method to present forum topics from the meeting agenda.
“We plan to record the forum presentation and get it online, at about the same time, so folks can check view all of the information that way, and hope to also incorporate the question and answer component.”
Please watch for updates regarding the online presentation.
Bonus turkey harvest authorizations are now on sale for Wisconsin’s spring turkey hunting season. Sales began Monday, March 16, for bonus authorizations in Zone 1, but sales for Zone 6 – which includes Sawyer County – begin at 10 a.m. Friday, March 20. Bonus authorizations cost $10 for residents and $15 for non-residents. Sales are one per day per person, on a first-come, first-served basis. All remaining authorizations for all zones go on sale Saturday, March 21, until the zones and periods sell out or the season closes. For more information, search “turkey” on the DNR website.
Panfish fishing is good and ice thickness remains viable, but the general recommendation now is against driving vehicles on the ice. Anglers continue to take snowmobiles and ATVs, but walking is the safer method – and even so, use a spud to check your way as you go. Game fish season ended March 1 and current fishing licenses expire March 31.
Crappie action is good to very good, but you have to stay with the fish once you find them. Best places to search include deep lake basins, bay edges, weeds, soft bottoms, and just off points in depths from 8-30 feet. Baits of choice include various color jigs tipped with crappie minnows and plastics, and jigging spoons. Downsize to lighter tackle to increase success.
Bluegill fishing is good around weeds and weed edges out to about 18 feet. Best baits include various jig configurations in assorted colors tipped with waxies, spikes, and plastics.
Perch fishing is good as fish are making their pre-spawn move to shallower water, but look in depths from 8-25 feet. Top baits include jigging and/or rattling spoons, Jigging Raps, and jigs tipped with crappie minnows, fatheads, minnow heads, waxies, spikes, and plastics. Disturbing bottom sediment by bouncing baits can encourage bites.
March 16-20: Remaining spring turkey permits now on sale beginning at 10 a.m.
March 19: First day of spring!
March 20: Winter crow season closes.
March 28: Trout season opens on designated sections Lake Superior tributaries (see regs).
March 31: Fishing/Hunting Licenses expire.
April 11-12: Youth Turkey Hunt.
April 15 through July 31: Illegal to allow unleashed dogs to run on DNR lands and FWPAs (see regs).
May 2: Seasons open: General inland gamefish (see regs); Musky south of Hwy 10; Frog.
April 11-12: Youth Turkey Hunt.
April 15-21: Period A.
April 22-28: Period B.
April 29-May 5: Period C.
May 6-12: Period D.
May 13-29: Period E.
May 20-26: Period F.