The current forecast indicates a break from the extreme cold and wind chills about mid-week, with high temperatures in the 20s – ABOVE zero – by week’s end. Until then, be cautious when outdoors. Though not spring weather, it appears headed in that direction!
“Ice conditions on the Quiet Lakes continue to improve with the subzero weather,” says Pat at Happy Hooker. “While some anglers are driving vehicles on the ice, it is not recommended – and please do not promote it!
“Walleye anglers report an occasional fish, with best success from late afternoon into dark. Early morning is also a good time, but few anglers are eager to get out that early when temperatures are coldest.
“Northern pike and bass are active feeders, especially near schools of roaming panfish. It is best to position tip-ups just outside jigging holes.
“Panfish anglers fishing in heated shelters report some good catches, but it is a time bite, as with most species other than northern pike and bass. Most anglers report success in mid-depths around vegetation. Small tungsten jigs tipped with waxies and plastics will produce, as will live bait on small hooks under floats. The panfish bite will improve the closer we get to spring.”
Trent at Hayward Bait says we survived the Polar Vortex and temperatures are on the rise.
“Trophy fish are a tough bite, but not impossible, and it should improve as we move into March, though gamefish season ends March 7. Panfish fishing will continue, however, and fish will become increasingly aggressive.
“Walleye fishing is almost exclusively a nocturnal bite, with anglers doing best from 7-8 p.m. and again about midnight. Depths approaching 20-30 feet are productive, with most anglers using walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups.
“Northern pike are in 15-20 feet in main basins, hitting northern suckers and large shiners on tip-ups. Dead bait will also work at this time, as will large jigging spoons. Mornings and afternoons are more productive than mid-day.
“Bass are somewhat lethargic, but hitting suckers and shiners on tip-ups in 15-20 feet. Target main basins and ledges with vegetation for largemouth and rock structure for smallmouth.
“Crappies are in 25-30 feet in main basins, but you might have to hole-hop and try slower presentations with lead jigs rather than spoons and tungsten jigs. However, all offer success when tipped with crappie minnows, waxies, and plastics.
“Bluegills are in main basins in 20 feet, biting light on lead jigs tipped with waxies and spikes. Mornings and afternoons are most productive.
“Perch are on sandy bottoms off humps and bars in 30-35 feet, with larger fish becoming more active. Fatheads, rosy reds, waxies, spikes, spoons, and tungsten jigs work well. Bring up fish slowly!”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter offers an update on local fish stocking success.
“In Sawyer County, about two dozen lakes now receive stocking of large fingerlings (‘extended growth’) walleyes. The DNR stocks most of these fish, but tribal and private stocking are also very important.
“Stocking of this size fingerling occurs in the fall, usually September and October. The Hayward Fish Team often returns to a stocked lake the following year for an electrofishing survey to check on the early survival of these stocked fish. By their second fall, the fish are about 1.5 years old (referred to as ‘age-1 fish’), and run 8-11 inches in length, depending on growth rate and their size at stocking.
“We see considerable variation in the catch per mile of these age-1 fish, depending on the lake. For several years now, Barber, Teal, and Big Chetac have been the top three lakes for age-1 walleye catch rate. When electrofishing these lakes, we catch more than 10 age-1 fish per mile of shoreline.
“Next on the list are lakes such as Lower Clam, Ghost, Sissabagama, Smith, and Lost Land, all in the 3-10 per mile range for catch rate. We have observed some of the lowest age-1 catch rates in lakes such as Durphee, Osprey, Island, Spider, and Blueberry.
“Water clarity appears to be an important factor in determining the age-1 catch rate of stocked walleye, with darker lakes generally having higher catch rates than clearer lakes. Walleyes are low-light predators that tend to do well in dark and/or deep water.
“While these age-1 catch rate results are interesting and tell us a bit about early stocking success, it remains to be seen how catch rate at age-1 will translate to the number of adults. Future surveys will tell us more about how stocking has contributed to creating more adults in these lakes.”
This year’s Sawyer County Fisheries Forum, via Zoom, is February 25, starting at 7 p.m. Main topics include walleye stocking and fall surveys; Couderay and Namekagon river smallmouth and sturgeon projects; Conservation Congress proposals; spring survey plans for the Hayward DNR Fish Team; and we might add other topics.
To participate, register at https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAvduutpjMsH9TT29wEUyx6981cc4cVdLfH. You will receive a confirmation email with information about joining the meeting. Participants can suggest their own topics of interest as part of the registration process.
The Hayward DNR Fish Team looks forward to the event, says DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter, and hopes many people will join in to talk fish and plans for 2021.”
The DNR has announced a wolf harvest season running February 22-28. Hunters and trappers interested in applying for a harvest permit or preference point can do so beginning at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16, and closing at 11:59 p.m. February 20. Apply through Go Wild or at license agents. The application fee is $10. For selected applicants, the license costs $49 ($251 non-resident). The DNR will post application results to Go Wild accounts the morning of Monday, Feb. 22. Hunters/trappers may commence harvest season after securing the license and carcass tag. The DNR will post updated rules and regulations no later than Friday, Feb. 19. Printed copies will not be available. For more information, search “wolf hunt” on the DNR website.
SNOWMOBILE TRAIL REPORT
Snowmobiles must have a current registration and display a valid snowmobile trail pass to operate on public snowmobile trails. You can renew registrations and order trail passes online. Members of the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs (AWSC) can purchase trail passes at a discounted rate directly from www.awsc.org. You do not need to be a Wisconsin resident to be an AWSC member.
Snowmobilers riding Sawyer County trails this winter should make sure to stop and “Snap a Selfie” with any AWSC signs (required to win!) they see along the way. Posting photos with #sledsawyer2020 on Facebook and Instagram enters you in a March drawing for cash prizes up to $500 – and enter as often as you want! The contest runs through Feb. 28.
The February 15 HLVCB snowmobile trail report says Sawyer County trails are open, in excellent condition, groomed, and with a base of 8-10 inches. For a list of trails groomed since the weekend, check the HLVCB snowmobile trail report on the HLVCB website www.haywardlakes.com. The surrounding counties of Ashland, Bayfield, Washburn, Rusk, Barron, and Price are all open, according to Travel Wisconsin reports.
The February 15 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for the Cable/Namakagon area says trails are open, in good condition, groomed, and with a base of 2-6 inches.
The February 13 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for the Clam Lake area says trails are open, in good condition, groomed, and with a base of 5-10 inches. Ashland County and Tri-County Corridor trails are in good to excellent condition, with grooming ongoing.
The past week was not a pleasant one for most anglers, with some nighttime lows colder than -30 degrees and strong winds producing brutal wind chills. These temperatures improved ice conditions somewhat, but it is still a good idea to be very, very cautious if you consider driving a vehicle on the ice. Ice thickness remains inconsistent in some areas – and you do not want to find those areas the hard way! Wisconsin’s gamefish season runs through March 7, but panfish fishing remains open all year. Remember that fishing licenses expire at the end of March.
Walleye fishing is fair and primarily a very early morning and very late afternoon into dark bite. Best success is with walleye suckers and shiners under tip-ups. Set tip-ups over weeds and weed edges, bars, humps, drop-offs, rock, and gravel in 18-30 feet.
Northern pike action is good to very good and offers an all day bite, but the best success is in morning and afternoon hours. Look for pike in main basins in depths to 25 feet, as well as around panfish concentrations. Northern suckers and large shiners on tip-ups work best, and large jigging spoons can also produce some good catches.
Largemouth bass continue to be active in most waters this winter. Anglers are catching fish on weedy ledges, in main basins, and near panfish schools in depths to 25 feet. Walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups should do the trick.
Smallmouth bass are not a frequent target for most ice anglers, but fishing is fair to good. Look for them on rock and gravel bottoms in mid-depths to 25 feet and use walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups.
Crappie fishing is good to very good in 22-30 feet around weeds and in main lake basins. Plan to move often to stay on top of the feeding schools. Crappie minnows, waxies, spikes, and plastics on tungsten and lead jigs, spoons, and plain hooks under bobbers will all produce some action.
Bluegill anglers are doing well on weeds and in main lake basins in depths out to 25 feet. Best fishing is in morning and afternoon hours, though fish bite all day. Baits of choice include waxies, spikes, and plastics on jigs and on small hooks under floats.
Perch fishing is good and getting better, especially for bigger fish. Best success is around mid-depth weeds and on the sand bottoms near humps and bars in more than 30 feet. If you plan to release the fish you catch at those depths, bring them up slowly. Best baits include fatheads, rosy reds, waxies, spikes, and plastics on jigs, plain hooks with bobbers, spoons, and tungsten jigs.
Feb. 13: 39th annual Lions Pre-Birkie XC Ski Race (715-558-6251).
Feb. 25: 2021 Sawyer County Fisheries Forum, 7 p.m. (DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter).
Feb. 24-28: American Birkebeiner (715-634-5025).
March 20: Crow season closes.
March 31: 2020-21 hunting/fishing licenses expire.
April 17-18: Youth turkey hunt.
April 21-27: Period A spring turkey season.
April 30: Seasons close: Beaver and otter trapping in North Zone.