By: Steve Suman
The weather forecasts for the first part of this week show rain chances, but the weekend looking very good for the fishing opener, with current predictions showing mid-60 highs. That is about as good as it gets for an opener! Get out and take advantage of the tremendous fishing and other recreational opportunities available in the North Woods!
“Run through a checklist, making sure you have a current license and have reviewed the regulations for any changes. Check your equipment for damage, repairing and/or replacing as necessary. Charge your boat batteries and make sure the boat contains all required safety equipment, such as life jackets/PFDs – that water is cold!
“Walleye are spawning or in post-spawn and you will find them along weedline edges and drop-offs. Live bait such as fathead minnows on slip bobber rigs will be the bait of choice. If casting, use slow retrieves, as fish are a little lethargic after they spawn.
“Look for northern pike and bass cruising in the shallows as they search of food. Large minnows under bobbers will work well, and spinnerbaits cast near shorelines and retrieved toward deeper water will attract attention, too.
“Panfish are still schooled up and in mid-depths, preparing for their spawn. You will find them around weeds in 10-16 feet. Crappie minnows and small plastics on slip bobber rigs are the best presentation.
“Good luck to all opening day anglers. Be well and be safe.”
Trent at Hayward Bait says the fishing season opener is almost here and anglers should expect water temperatures in the high 40s for opening weekend.
“Walleye anglers should do well in about 5 feet during the early morning and evening hours. A flashy #6-8 X-Rap is a personal favorite for these times. During the day, you will likely have to move deeper and deep diving Berkley Flicker Minnows can be productive.
“Bass anglers will find opportunities fishing the secondary points where bass stage before the water warms enough for spawn. Working off points, drop offs, and cribs in 10-15 feet is key. You might also pick off a few bass trying to find warmer temperatures in shallow water, but do not spend much time working shorelines just yet. Lipless crankbaits and jerkbaits are very good options, with spinnerbaits and swimbaits also producing action.
“Panfish fishing is a favorite for the opener and we could see a few crappies and bluegills start working their way closer to shorelines. However, as with bass, do not spend much time there. Expect to find crappies in about 15 feet, while bluegills are more likely to be in about 10 feet. A simple hook, worm, and bobber should do the trick. Otherwise, chicken jigs and other panfish jigs should be effective options.
“Musky anglers will have to wait a little longer, as Northern Zone musky season does not open until May 23.
“Good luck to everyone and stay safe.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter offers some insights on this year’s gamefish opener.
“In any other year, I could provide anglers with fairly detailed information on lake conditions and what is going on with the fish. This spring, however, we did not conduct any fisheries surveys and as a result, there is no up to date information to share. Still, I can provide an educated, professional assessment based on what we do know in hopes it will help anglers with their fishing plans.
“The ice has been gone from most area lakes for a couple weeks, but with the cool days and cold nights, the water temperature has not climbed too quickly.
“One piece of data we do have is tribal harvest numbers for walleye, which are still well short of peak. This tells me that much of walleye spawning is yet to happen, with the peak likely around the (just passed) April 25 weekend. This will put walleye in a post-spawn pattern almost everywhere by the May 2 opener, and not too different from 2019.
“Northern pike will be done spawning, but will still be shallow and looking for any new plant growth they can find.
“Though panfish will not be anywhere close to spawning, calm, sunny days will bring them shallow in large schools. This can be a finicky bite – they are there to warm up, not to eat – but locating them should be relatively simple.
“Trout should be catchable in most creeks and rivers, provided we do not receive big rains. The Namekagon River is currently running a little high, but it is fishable.
“Anglers will have good opportunities to observe spawning musky throughout much of May, but must remember that musky season in the Northern Zone does not open until Saturday, May 23, on Memorial Day weekend.
“That’s the best I can offer for this year’s opener – good luck and be safe!”
The DNR is encouraging people interested in deer management to join in the County Deer Advisory Council (CDAC) meetings as they develop recommendations for the 2020 deer season. Every county has these councils and the meetings are important for shaping the seasons and antlerless harvest quotas. The next Sawyer County CDAC meeting, via phone conference, is May 5, starting at 7 p.m. To participate, call (855)947-8255 and use pass code 311-45 #. Prior to the meeting, people can view a video presentation on the 2020 deer season by DNR wildlife biologist Derek Johnson and contact him at (715) 762-1340. The DNR will review final CDAC recommendations following the May meetings and provide proposals to the Natural Resources Board for approval in June.
The April 6 HLVCB ATV trail report says all Sawyer County Forest ATV trails (# 3, 11, 15, 31, 77) remain closed through May 15 for spring closure. In addition, trails closed to bikes include all single-track mountain bike trails and the American Birkebeiner trail. Contact Flambeau River State Forest (715-332-5271) for its trail status; contact the U.S. Forest Service for national forest trail status (715-634-4821). Open trails include any town roads shown on the map as open to ATV riding, and Tuscobia Trail, which runs the width of southern Sawyer County. Sawyer County has more than 200 miles of funded trails, plus many miles of road routes, including trails throughout Chequamegon National Forest, Flambeau State Forest, Sawyer County Forest, Tuscobia State Trail, and Lac Courte Oreilles trails.
Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest snowmobile, ATV/UTV, horse, and bicycle trails remain closed for spring break-up. Every spring, the Forest prohibits the use of wheeled motorized vehicles, mountain bikes, and horses and other pack or saddle animals on National Forest System trails until May 1. Re-opening of trails May 1 is dependent on trail conditions and guidelines from the Forest Service and the CDC regarding COVID-19. For ATV/UTV routes and other trails not on the National Forest, trail users should check local regulations for trails they plan to use.
Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is delaying the opening of all recreation sites and not allowing camping or campfires until further notice. In addition, the Forest is implementing a group size limitation of 10 people or fewer across the entire Forest. The Forest shut down all restrooms and removed garbage receptacles at recreation sites. The general forest remains open to the public including forest roads for hiking, biking, and scenic driving. If an area is crowded, search for a less occupied location, and consider avoiding the Forest during peak hours.
The DNR has suspended all burning permits in DNR fire protection areas until further notice due to the COVID-19 Safer at Home order. This prohibits all burning of debris in barrels, debris piles on the ground, grass, and wooded areas. Spring has the highest fire risk and debris burning is the #1 cause of wildfires. Be aware of other wildfire causes such as sparks and hot exhaust systems from logging, farming equipment, and off-road recreational vehicles. Stay up-to-date on the fire danger and check for current wildfire activity on the DNR website.
Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies, Inc. has cancelled its scheduled May 5 meeting due to the social distancing guidelines and health issues surrounding the COVID-19 virus. For more information, call Mike Persson (715) 634-4543.
Open water anglers have looked forward to this coming weekend – the Wisconsin gamefish opener – since ice-up nearly six months ago! Check the input (above) offered by Happy Hooker, Hayward Bait, and DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter for where to look for your species of choice and presentations that should work at this time.
The DNR has released its 2020 Fishing Report and Forecast. Anglers should check for new local, statewide, and regional fishing regulations for the waters they fish. Some changes started in April and new regulations regarding catfish took effect in March. Specific to the Hayward area, anglers should note the printed 2020-21 fishing regulations pamphlet contains an incorrect opening date for walleye season on the Chippewa Flowage, which opens May 2, the same as everywhere else. The DNR is working to correct the online version, but the printed version is incorrect.
Anglers who fish the Wisconsin-Michigan border waters should note that Michigan currently prohibits use of motorized watercraft in its waters, including motorboat, PWC, and similar watercraft with gas and electric motors.
Make sure your license and stamps (as necessary) are current, be safe –and get out there and FISH!
May 4: Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies, Inc. meeting cancelled due to virus quarantining (715-634-4543).
May 4: Sawyer County CDAC meeting by phone conference, 7 p.m. (855-947-8255).
Through July 31: Illegal to allow unleashed dogs to run on DNR lands and FWPAs (see regs).
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.