By: Steve Suman
The forecast indicates somewhat of a roller coaster ride on the weather front this week, which includes everything from snow to sunshine, and temperatures ranging from 25 degrees to the mid-50s. Thursday and Friday look like good days for outdoor recreation (keep your distance!), and then again Sunday and Monday. Again, as always, subject to change at any time! Be well, stay well!
“Last week, the Quiet Lakes area had snow showers, sleet, freezing rain, and rain,” says Pat at Happy Hooker. “Daytime temperatures were in the 30s and nighttime lows in the teens and 20s. Any melting during the day created a lot of standing water that froze again at night. Walking on ice can be a hazard, so be careful. Avoid those areas if you can, and if not, take small steps over the ice. A pair of cleats on your shoes will help in moving around the lake.
“Ice thickness is still 16-20 inches, but it is not safe for vehicles. There is some movement of ice along shorelines, so be careful when entering the lakes.
“Panfish anglers report some good action, as fish are schooling and moving around the lakes. The best fishing time is in late afternoon, around 4-5:30 p.m., which some anglers call ‘crappy frenzy’ time.
“Anglers are using small tungsten jigs, tipping them with minnows, waxies, and small plastics, catching most of their fish in 12-16 feet. Panfish bite during the day, but anglers must be mobile and willing to move constantly from one spot to another. Electronics can be very effective in helping to locate and track the fish.”
Ken at Hayward Bait says weather patterns are bringing ice-out earlier than last year and anglers need to use caution near any current areas on the lakes.
“Anglers fishing Whitefish Lake can catch whitefish on small jigs tipped with waxies, targeting 45-60 feet in the main lake basin. Most of the fish will be on the bottom, with some active ones within three feet off the bottom.
“Panfish anglers are catching some bigger crappie and perch. Crappie anglers should look for breaks and other structure near lake basins. Use minnows, waxies, and spikes, and experiment with various locations and color.
“Look for the bigger perch on hard-bottom areas as they prepare to fatten up for spawning in the next few weeks. At this time, small spoons and jigs with minnows work well. For those bigger perch, fatheads can be the ticket.
“Pound a bunch of holes and throw the kitchen sink!”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses watersheds and lake divides.
“Spring Lake and Grindstone Lake in Sawyer County offer an interesting look into how watersheds function. The two lakes sit just 1.2 miles apart at their closest point, yet despite their physical proximity, these two lakes lie in separate watersheds. A raindrop falling into Spring Lake will have a completely different journey than one falling into Grindstone.
“Spring Lake is within the Namekagon River/St. Croix River watershed, while Grindstone Lake is in the Chippewa River drainage. This means the raindrop falling into Spring Lake will head out Spring Lake Creek and down the Namekagon River for approximately 50 miles to the confluence with the St. Croix River. From there, the St. Croix River runs about 120 miles until it meets the Mississippi River.
“The raindrop falling into Grindstone Lake takes a totally different path. Heading south out of the Lac Courte Oreilles Chain, the raindrop takes the Couderay River about 15 miles to the Chippewa River. From there it heads downstream, stopping in some of the largest impoundments in northern Wisconsin, on its 120-mile journey to the Mississippi.
“Although the two raindrops fell just one mile apart, their combined journeys to meet again cover 350 miles.
“There are two lessons about the interconnectedness of water and watershed within this story.
“First, actions taken somewhere in the watershed, such as dumping of pollutants, erosion, invasive species, etc., can have impacts hundreds of miles downstream. Second, all water is connected, even if the connection is not immediately apparent. At some point, a single drop of water can be river water, lake water, groundwater, or drinking water.”
The DNR has canceled this year’s in-person Spring Hearings and Wisconsin Conservation Congress meetings, scheduled for Monday, April 13, due to the public health concerns surrounding the COVID-19 virus. The Spring Hearings and Conservation Congress meetings take place annually in each of the state’s 72 counties. Despite cancellation of this year’s in-person meetings, the DNR is offering the public an online opportunity to offer its comments and input on the various natural resources advisory questions. The online link will go live at 7 p.m. April 13, remain open for three days/72 hours, and the DNR will post results as soon as they are available. For more information, visit www.dnr.wi.gov/About/WCC/springhearing.html on the DNR website.
Wisconsin’s state parks and trails remain open to the public as the DNR continues to monitor circumstances daily, adjust operations as conditions change, and determine if park closures become necessary. Parks, property staff, and law enforcement will routinely sweep state park system properties and ensure that groups larger than 10 do not congregate. The DNR has implemented voluntary registration fees and voluntary admission via self-registration or electronic kiosks. It closed all park offices, visitor centers, and non-essential buildings for the duration of this public health emergency, as well as closed to the public park headquarters, nature centers, research stations, ranger stations, shooting ranges, fish hatcheries, shelters, showers, concessions, and indoor group camp buildings on DNR owned properties. Restrooms will remain open given there are enough resources, cleaning supplies, and access to personal protective equipment for staff. All campsites remain closed through April 30 and the DNR is not accepting new reservations until further notice. For more information, visit www.dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks.
The first County Deer Advisory Council (CDAC) meetings for 2020 begin March 30, with the councils holding meetings by conference call due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The DNR invites hunters, farmers, foresters, and anyone interested in deer management to participate in CDAC meetings. All meetings are open to the public and include an opportunity to provide feedback. The meetings are important for shaping deer hunting seasons, antlerless harvest quotas, and recommendations to the DNR for deer management in the county. The Sawyer County CDAC meeting is April 6. For meeting dates, times, and phone numbers to participate, visit www.dnr.wi.gov/topic/hunt/cdac.html. For more information, search “CDAC” on the DNR website.
The annual and very popular Sawyer County Fisheries Forum in-person event scheduled for March 24, but canceled due to current health concerns about COVID-19, lives on. The presentation is now available in an online video, says DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter. John Myhre, producer of Wisconsin Northland Outdoors, helped facilitate the production. The video is available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lc-91pZLQ90&t=328s. If you have questions to ask or comments to make after viewing the video, visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/2B75G7V.
Ice fishing is or can be a somewhat solitary endeavor, an outdoor activity well suited to current social distancing efforts – few anglers appreciate another angler within six feet! Aside from wind and some cold morning temperatures, the past week offered some relatively decent fishing conditions, especially for mid March. Melting/freezing is causing some hard-crust snow and glare ice, and ice cleats can help keep you upright! Ice thickness is good, but use caution and be aware some shoreline ice is starting to pull away from the shorelines. Anglers interested in trying something different might try whitefish fishing on Whitefish Lake. Jig waxies on or near the bottom in 35-60 feet in lake basins. Go fishing!
Crappie action is good to very good. The best bite window is usually between 4-6 p.m.; during the day, go prepared to move with the schools. Look for fish on breaklines, weeds, and soft bottoms in 12-25 feet. Electronics are a huge help and make sure to look at the entire water column for suspending fish. The most productive baits include tungsten jigs and spoons tipped with minnows, waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits. Take a variety of offerings, as fish favorites can vary from day to day.
Bluegill fishing is fair to good – and can be very good once you locate active fish. Looks for fish around weeds and structure on soft bottom flats, in 10-20 feet, and make sure to check the entire water column. Top bait choices include waxies, spikes, mousies, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs, teardrops, spoons, and plain hooks.
Perch fishing is good to very good. Look for fish around weeds on soft bottoms and mud flats in 10-30 feet. Baits of choice include small jigs, rattle spoons, and Jigging Raps tipped with crappie minnows, fatheads, minnow heads, waxies, spikes, and plastics.
March 21: Remaining spring turkey permits now on sale (no remaining permits available in Zone 6).
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 13: Spring fish and wildlife hearings (no in-person hearings).
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.