The forecast for this week predicts mostly cloudy, highs from 27-33 degrees and lows from 11-24 degrees – highs about 10 degrees lower than they forecast only a day or two ago! However, in the North Woods, these are mild temperatures for January, so do take advantage of them!
“Most walleye anglers are fishing walleye suckers and shiners under tip-ups along weed edges in 6-10 feet.
“Northern pike action continues to be a sure thing. Anglers are using the same rigging as for walleye, but fishing over weeds and drop-off areas – and some have even hooked a couple muskies.
“Panfish anglers report some good catches of crappies and bluegills. The anglers are tipping small jigs with waxies and/or small plastics and fishing next to weedy drop-offs in 8-15 feet. Sometimes fish are suspending, so it is important to vary bait depth, and using electronics makes fishing and success even better.”
Trent at Hayward Bait says that with more snow last week and warmer temperatures, slush and snow are again accumulating on the ice, but only a few inches.
“The trend seems to be that most fish are pushing toward deeper structure and vegetation, though depths on where these fish locate changes from lake to lake. Anglers also report fish are becoming finicky and it is a light bite.
“Walleye have become less active during the day and are hitting better at night. Downsizing minnows and lures can sometimes trigger those finicky walleyes.
“Northern pike anglers are still catching fish on large shiners and northern suckers under tip-ups. Some anglers are using panfish jig poles and gear to catch smaller pike that are the perfect size for pickling.
“Crappies and bluegills are getting a bit picky, as well. They are foraging on minnow fry, so small Kender K-Rips in natural colors are a good option. Perhaps the best option, however, is fishing an area of a lake that does not get much pressure – or finding a lake receiving low angling pressure. Work baits 2-3 feet off the bottom during the day, but in mornings and evenings, when fish suspend higher in the water column, you might have to raise your bait a bit.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the effects of catch and release on salmonids.
“Catch-and-release fishing has become a widespread practice among anglers targeting a variety of species and these anglers often take great effort to minimize stress when releasing fish. However, questions remain about whether angling can have negative effects on released fish. One such question is if angling hurts an individual fish’s ability to spawn by either tiring or stressing the fish leading up to spawning season.
“Researchers in Idaho caught pre-spawn steelhead on hook and line and then monitored the fish and their ability to reproduce. In addition, as a control, the researchers had a group of steelhead not caught by anglers.
“The average fight lasted two minutes and 44 seconds, with an additional average of 23 seconds of air exposure during hook removal. Of the 1,148 steelhead caught by angling, 97 percent survived, a percentage actually slightly higher than the control group, indicating angling was not a significant source of mortality in this case.
“The researchers found that neither the fight length nor the amount of air exposure hurt the reproductive success of the steelhead. These results concur with several other studies of salmonids that find angling is a short-term stressor that does not significantly impact a fish’s ability to spawn successfully.
“Still, anglers who practice catch and release, and those anglers who expect to catch fish not of legal size, should take care to minimize angling associated stress, such as fight time, handling time, and air exposure, to ensure the well-being of released fish.”
Deerfoot Lodge on the Chippewa Flowage is hosting its 8th Annual Freeze Your Buns Off Crappie Ice Fishing Tournament this weekend, Feb. 1-2. Saturday fishing hours are 7 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday’s hours are 7-11 a.m. This event is open to all anglers who have a valid Wisconsin fishing license. A parent/guardian must accompany any youth angler younger than 18 years. The individual entry fee is $50, the family entry fee $80, and there is a limit of 99 entrants. For more information, visit www.deerfootlodgeresort.com or call (715) 462-3328.
Flambeau River State Forest will host its 28th annual Candlelight Ski and Cookout this Saturday, February 1, from 6-9 p.m. Crews groom and track a 1.8-kilometer loop of Flambeau Hills Trail and illuminate it with more than 600 candles. The Forest waives trail pass fees for this event and allows hiking and snowshoeing on the trail. Forest staff will have picnic tables and a large grill available, provide refreshments and snacks, and maintain large warming fires throughout the night. This event takes place regardless of snow conditions. Flambeau Hills Trailhead is on County Highway W, 21 miles west of Phillips or 15 miles east of Winter. For more information, call (715) 332-5271.
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 27 Hayward Lakes Visitors & Convention Bureau trail report for Sawyer County says trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 8-16 inches. The lakes have good ice and snow and crews staked Lake Hayward all the way across. Trail 6 from Ojibwa to Airborne Road remains closed, with a detour. Great riding conditions bring heavy traffic that can create bumps. If you find a trail rough, it is likely due to heavy trail travel and not groomer neglect – groomers are out all the time! If you do encounter a trail condition needing attention, let us know by visiting www.sawyercountyalliance.com and click “Report a Trail Issue” to enter information. We always appreciate any extra sets of eyes out there!
The January 25 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Washburn County says all trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a compacted base of 9-16 inches. The area received more than 7 inches of new snow in the last week.
The January 24 Travel Wisconsin trail report for the Phillips area says trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 16-20 inches. A reroute on the northern section of Trail 120, which eliminates a very bad part of the swamp, is in effect all season. Ride safe and stay on the marked trails.
The January 24 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Douglas County says all trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 18-20 inches. Snowmobilers are reporting deer on some trails, so keep an eye out while traveling! In addition, do not trespass on private property and respect the landowners who allow use of their property. It just takes one owner to deny use to permanently shut down a trail.
The January 23 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Bayfield County says the area received some fresh snow last week, trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 10-18 inches.
The January 23 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Ashland County says trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 10-14 inches. There are temporary trail closures in Marengo and for Trail 77 in Cayuga, but both have well-posted detours.
Yet another week of moderate winter temperatures and varied forms of precipitation, but they had minimal effects on the ice and trails. Keep in mind that the first day of February, the shortest month (though with 29 days in 2020!) arrives this Saturday – and gamefish season closes at the end of the day March 1. This winter might seem either long or short to you, nevertheless, gamefish season ends in one month. Make the next 30 days count!
Walleye action has slowed somewhat and the best success is now occurring in late afternoon into after dark. Concentrate on weeds and weed edges in 4-12 feet. Walleye suckers and shiners under tip-ups remain the preferred presentations, though downsizing baits and lures might increase the action.
Northern pike fishing is very good to excellent throughout the day. Target weeds and weed edge drop-offs in depths out to about 15 feet. The top bait choices include northern suckers, walleye suckers, and shiners under tip-ups. Anglers looking for smaller fish – perfect pike for pickling purposes – are using panfish tackle and doing well.
Crappie action is good, but inconsistent, and the fish are fussy and light biters. Look for them around weeds and drop-offs in 10-18 feet, but with some fish suspending, be sure to check the entire water column. The most productive baits include crappie minnows, waxies, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks.
Bluegill fishing is good to very good on weeds, weed edges, and drop-offs in 6-18 feet, with some suspending – again, check the entire water column! Best bluegill baits include waxes, spikes, mousies, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks. Try small minnows in deeper water to catch bigger bluegills and avoid small fish.
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).
Feb. 15: Seasons close: Coyote trapping; Raccoon trapping and hunting; Red and gray fox gun and trapping.
Feb. 28: Cottontail rabbit season closes.