The forecast this week predicts cold and snow, but not much accumulation. Cold temperatures without heavy snow will help firm lake ice, swamps, and marshes for trail grooming. It is a busy weekend ahead!
This weekend, Jan. 18-19, is Wisconsin’s Free Fishing Weekend when both residents and non-residents do not need a fishing license or trout stamp to fish almost anywhere, including Wisconsin’s side of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River. Visit the DNR’s Free Fishing Weekend web page for exceptions. A number of local fishing contests take place Saturday Jan. 18 (more information below).
“On the Quiet Lakes, the challenging slush and wet ice fishing conditions continue” says Pat at Happy Hooker. “You will find wet areas, especially after drilling holes, and waterproof boots and outerwear are necessary. Some lakes are traps for ATVs/UTVs, so use good judgment. Stick to the packed trails if you use a snowmobile, or you could spend your time getting un-stuck.
“The regular routine has anglers concentrating on shallower vegetative areas in 6-15 feet near shore, using tip-ups with shiners and walleye suckers for walleye, northern pike, and bass. Walleye fishing is best in late afternoon into dark.
“For schooling panfish, the best tactic is small jigs tipped with waxies and soft plastics. If you have to pick afternoon or morning, the afternoon bite around 3 p.m. is the better choice.”
Trent at Hayward Bait says anglers are starting to see better conditions.
“Slush and snow cover settled and firmed up nicely. Crews staked snowmobile lake trails, but it is still not safe to drive out a vehicle. Check ice conditions as you go.
“Walleye anglers are catching fish on minnows, from crappie minnows to walleye suckers.
“Northern pike are very active on large shiners and sucker minnows on tip-ups at varied depths.
“Crappies are hitting small spoons such as Kastmasters. The bite is a little tough and aggressive action can pay off when finesse does not work. Depths vary from lake to lake. Low light mornings and evenings when baitfish and microbial life rise are key times.
“Bluegills are taking various baits, but spikes are hardy, wiggle a long time, and are good choices for tipping jigs.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the Hayward DNR Fish Team’s public outreach.
“Wisconsin DNR fisheries biologists do a lot of public outreach. Where do you run into your local DNR fisheries biologist? It might be at a Conservation Congress Hearings or a lake association meeting, but it might also be at a county fair booth or a demonstration for school kids.
“For the Hayward DNR Fish Team, 2019 was our biggest outreach year since I started this position and the outreach included 45 different events, presentations, newspaper/radio interviews, and public meetings. We reached an estimated 1,400 people in-person, and presumably thousands more through print and radio media.
“Our outreach has many different purposes. Sometimes the goal is to inform the public about upcoming policy or regulation changes, or perhaps to relay results of a fisheries survey. Other times, the goal is to educate or engage youth to get them thinking about their role in conserving our natural resources or to recruit them as future anglers.
“Sometimes the goal is to offer the public a window into the work we do so it has a better understanding of how the DNR manages the natural resources. In addition, I visit campuses such as UW-Stevens Point and Northland College as a guest lecturer, providing fisheries students some perspectives from one who works in the field.
“While outreach can at times require considerable time and effort, it can also be one of the most enjoyable aspects of this job. Here is to another year of getting out there in 2020 and sharing what we do!”
The following Free Fishing Weekend ice fishing events take place Saturday, Jan. 18.
Northland Area Builders Association is hosting its 10th Annual Ice Fishing Event at the Nelson Lake public boat landing from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Entry fees are $10/adults and $5/children (14 and younger). The first 40 kids receive tip-ups courtesy of SCOPE – and one lucky kid gets a fish finder! The event includes cash prizes, raffle prizes, and chances on an ice fishing package. Each non-perishable food item donation earns one free raffle ticket. Proceeds benefit the Nelson Lake fish sticks project and other non-profits. For information, visit www.northlandareabuilders.com or call (715) 296-7881.
Staudemeyer’s Four Seasons Resort is hosting its 10th Annual Ice Fishing Contest from 12:01 a.m.-4 p.m. on Lake Namakagon. The $15 entry fee includes lunch and snacks. Anglers must register prior to fishing. The contest awards prizes for the top three Walleye, Northern Pike, and Panfish (including perch and crappie) categories – and encourages catch, register, and release. For more information, visit www.4seasonsresort.net or call (715) 798-2346.
Elk Country ATV Club will host its 12th Annual Ice Fishing Contest at the Clam Lake boat landing from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. The entry fee is $5, with a 100-percent payback for the adult and kids divisions. The $10 tickets for the ATV raffle and cash drawings are available on the lake and at local businesses. Food and beverages are available for purchase on the lake. For more information, visit www.elkcountryatvclub.com.
On Friday January 17, Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum in Spooner will host “Canoes: A Natural History in North America,” a presentation and book signing by author Mark Neuzil. The free event is open to the public and begins at 7:30 p.m. The Museum invites visitors to attend a reception, happy hour, and museum tour starting at 6:30 p.m. prior to the presentation. For information, visit www.wisconsincanoeheritagemuseum.org or call (715) 635-2479.
Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies, Inc. invites the public to its January 14 business meeting at Flat Creek Eatery. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. to discuss the budget, activities, plans, and future projects. Admission is free and people can purchase their first membership for half price at the meeting. For more information, call Mike Persson (715) 634-4543.
SNOWMOBILE TRAIL REPORT
The DNR reminds snowmobilers to make sure their snowmobile has a current registration and displays 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 January 10 Hayward Lakes Visitors & Convention Bureau Sawyer County snowmobile trail report says trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 8-16 inches. Crews staked the lakes, with the exception of Lake Hayward. Swamps are frozen and safe for snowmobiles, but not for heavy equipment. Lakes have bare ice and it is slick if riding without studs. Trail 17 past Nelson Lake closed due to flooding. Trail 21 along the Flowage has a beaver dam issue. The DNR intervened, but beavers are beavers and rebuild, so there is a barricade around the area between the Flowage and Musky Tale. Crews groomed Flambeau Forest trails and they are in excellent condition.
The January 13 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Ashland County says trails are open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 6-8 inches. There is possible standing water in some areas. Ride at your own risk and stay on the trail. Please report any hazardous trail issues to the Ashland County Sheriff’s Department. Crews marked all known hazard areas on the eastern end that require attention, so use caution when approaching ribbons, barricades, and cones.
The January 11 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Washburn County says all trails are open, groomed, and in fair to good condition, with a base of 6-12 inches. Use caution, as some lake might not be safe at this time. Swamps and wet areas likely have standing water and/or rough ice crossings in places, with re-reroutes on some trail segments to avoid wet areas. There is a large ice heave that cuts across the trail just north of The Pioneer.
Fishing conditions remain somewhat difficult, but cold temperatures this week could help solidify things. Anglers are still dealing the slush and multi-layer conditions that include ice, snow, crust, and water. There are some reports of people driving vehicles on the ice, but current recommendations strongly advise against it.
Walleye action is fair to good, with most activity from late afternoon into after dark. During these times, work around weeds in 15 feet and less. During the day, fish deeper water. Baits of choice include various size minnows, including crappie minnows, large shiners, walleye suckers, and northern suckers on tip-ups.
Northern pike fishing is good to very good and anglers are icing some nice pike. Look for fish around weed cover from shallow to 18 feet. Tip-ups with sucker minnows and large shiners over those weeds are the way to go.
Crappie action is fair to good, with mornings and evenings offering the most success. Reports vary, but anglers are finding fish as deep as 30 feet. Use crappie minnows and plastics on small jigs, and small jigging spoons
Bluegill fishing is fair to good, with best action in later afternoon hours. Work weeds and weedlines in various depths, depending on the lake. Waxies, spikes, and plastics on small jigs and teardrops are doing the trick.
Jan. 18-19: Statewide Free fishing weekend – no fishing license required!
Jan. 18: Elk Country ATV Club 12th Annual Ice Fishing contest 8 a.m.-3 p.m. on Clam Lake.
Jan. 18: Seeley Hills Classic Ski Event (715-634-5025).
Jan. 31: Seasons close: Squirrel; Bobcat Period 2 hunting/trapping.
Feb. 1-2: Deerfoot Lodge – 8th Annual Freeze Your Buns Off Crappie Ice Fishing Tournament (715-462-3328).
Feb. 15: WFNW 24th Annual Family Ice Fishing Event on LCO, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. (715-462-3559).