The forecast for this week starting Tuesday night is cold, windy, and snow in undetermined accumulations, if any. Most of the heavy snow predicted is for north of Hayward, says “they” (and always subject to change!) The current high for the coming week is Tuesday’s 31 degrees, with the low -18 degrees Thursday night.
“Walleye anglers are catching good size fish, but action is slow for numbers. The fish are in deep lake basins. Look for hard-to-soft-bottom transitions, usually in 25-30 feet. Start there, aggressively jigging spoons, Jigging Raps, Puppet Minnows, and similar. If that does not work, try more subtle approaches. Tipping spoons with minnow heads will improve your chances. For roamers, walleye suckers and shiners under tip-ups still work at peak times.
“Northern pike are in and around weeds feeding on baitfish and panfish. Set tip-ups with suckers and shiners on the outside green weed edges, and both dead and live bait will work. Pike can be anywhere in the water column this time of year, with any good structure or weed edges best.
“Crappies are suspending in deep basins areas that have changes in bottom composition. Small rock clusters, sandy humps, or any slight changes will hold fish. Start with Jigging Raps and jigging spoons to find the biggest fish in the school. If bigger baits do not work, downsize to smaller jigging spoons and jigs tipped with waxies, spikes, and small plastics. Mix it up a bit, and do not be afraid to fish during midday when there is less angler pressure.
“Panfish anglers should look for bluegill and perch in and around any remaining green weeds, or on soft bottom basins as the fish feed on small bugs coming from the muck. Drill many holes in 7-15 feet, and use small jigs with waxies, spikes, bloodworms, and plastics.”
Jarrett at Hayward Bait says last week was tolerable for anglers to get on the ice and more people were fishing!
“Walleye anglers are catching fish in various areas. Many come from drop-offs and deep flats during daylight hours, and fish moving onto shallow flats to feed during primetime hour. Some anglers catch walleyes on weed flats in 10-15 feet during the day ‑ if you can find remaining weeds. Tip-ups with walleye suckers and shiners work well, and jigging rods are taking a few fish.
“Northern pike are deep to shallow. In shallow lakes and lakes with dark water and structure, look in 5-10 feet. On deep, clear lakes, look in 15-20 feet along drop-offs and weed edges. Tip-ups work well. As we move further into winter, big dead baits will shine for large pike ‑ and even little pike will wolf down a big smelt.
“Crappies still show a strong bite in the basins. Look on lake maps for areas with basins adjacent to crappie spawning habitat. The spawn is a ways off, but fish are congregating in basins near where they will move in spring. Target areas in 20-30 feet. By this time of year, most fish are suspending in the water column. Crappie minnows on slip bobbers catch fish swimming through, but the best way to ice a limit is to stay mobile and hole hop.
“Bluegills in most areas still roam in 10-20 feet, with some in small, shallow weed pockets. Fish are aggressive with the recent warm-up and hitting tungsten jigs and small spoons. If they become lethargic with the cold, downsize to small tungsten jigs with spikes rather than large jigs and waxies.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses northern pike in the Tiger Cat Chain.
“The Tiger Cat Chain is a collection of lakes historically known as ‘action’ musky waters. That status changed somewhat since northern pike entered the system in the late ‘90s and we have seen pike numbers slowly increase in our surveys.
“Recently, it appears pike reproduction has really taken off, resulting in pike greater than 12 inches found throughout the entire chain. This paints a concerning picture of the musky fishery’s future, particularly since it seems musky numbers are already impacted and the chain is loaded with ideal habitat for juvenile pike.
“The Tiger Cat Lake Association (TCLA) has been proactive in its efforts to keep pike in check. First, it used organized fishing days to harvest pike, often resulting in many anglers harvesting a limit. In 2021, the TCLA initiated a summer-long effort to promote and increase pike harvest. They modeled this effort after the ‘Pike Improvement Project’ that took place on the Chippewa Flowage in 2019 and 2021.
“Data from the TCLA pike project is very different from what we saw on the Chippewa Flowage. A vast amount of the Tiger Cat pike harvest was very small fish, often less than 12 inches. This corroborates the strong pike recruitment we had seen in DNR surveys. Very few of the pike harvested were large, which could be explained by the relatively ‘young’ population. Few year classes of pike in the Tiger Cat would have had time to reach these sizes.
“Tiger Cat is in a different place than many other lakes with introduced pike issues. By taking proactive measures, there might still be time to shape the interaction between pike and musky in this lake. Pike harvest is one such measure, and we encourage anglers venturing out on the Tiger Cat Chain to harvest pike. More protective regulations were put in place for muskellunge a few years ago that should minimize their harvest.
“Finally, we have planned musky stocking for 2022, the first time in many decades that we have deemed stocking necessary. Success in maintaining the high-density musky fishery to which anglers are accustomed in the Tiger Cat Chain is far from assured, but partnerships and a strategic approach give us the best possible chance.”
The DNR would like input from anglers who fish the Spider Lake Chain in Sawyer County for a fisheries management plan in the development stages. Access the survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/SpiderChainFMP.
“Everyone can take the survey once,” says DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter, “and we encourage you to share this survey information with anyone who might have an interest.”
The survey will remain open until mid-February.
Town of Hayward Family Fun Day is Sunday, January 23, from 1-4 p.m. Join your neighbors at the Town of Hayward Recreational Forest on County Hill Rd., for a fun afternoon of sledding, horse-drawn sleigh rides, skiing, snowshoeing, cookies, cocoa, and a bonfire! For more information, call (715) 634-3191.
The January 16 Birkie Trail conditions report says trails are in good condition, but need more snow for grooming south of OO. Upcoming events include the Seeley Hill Classic January 29 and American Birkebeiner events February 23-27. Skiing any part of the Birkie Trail System December through March requires a Birkie Trail Ski Pass.
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.
The January 14 HLVCB snowmobile trail report says Sawyer County trails are open, groomed, and in good to very good condition, with a base of 6-8 inches. Some heavily traveled corners have rocky areas and a little snow would freshen-up conditions, but trails are good!
The January 17 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Cable/Bayfield County says trails are open, groomed, and in fair to good condition, with a base of 2-4 inches.
The January 17 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for southeast Douglas County says all trails are open, groomed, and in fair to good condition, with a base of 10-15 inches. Please stay on marked trails.
The January 16 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Clam Lake/Ashland County says trails are open, groomed, and in fair to good condition, with a base of 3-5 inches. Ride with caution, as there are a few thin spots in places. Note: The Trail 8 reroute near Clam Lake shares a stretch of Forest Rd 336 with vehicle traffic.
Fishing remains good for most species, with most in deep water. Hit the early morning and late afternoon into dark bite windows. Visit with your favorite bait shop personnel to learn the most current and productive baits, presentations, and fish locations.
Walleye action is fair to good. During the day, target drop-offs, deep flats, weed flats in 10-15 feet, and basin transition areas in 25-30 feet. Concentrate on shallow flats during low light peak bite windows. Walleye suckers and shiner under tip-ups work well, and Jigging Raps, jigging spoons will catch fish with the “correct presentation” that day.
Northern pike action is good to very good, with fish in varied depths. On shallow and/or dark lakes, look for weeds and structure in 5-10 feet. In deep, clear water, work weed edges and drop-offs in 15-20 feet. Panfish and baitfish concentration also hold fish. Use large sucker minnows and shiners on tip-ups.
Crappie fishing is good to very good, particularly in deep basins in 20-30 feet. Look for rocks, humps, transition areas, and suspending fish. Try crappie minnows on slip bobbers, Jigging Raps, jigging spoons, and jigs tipped with waxies, spikes, and plastics. If fish are fussy, downsize and change presentation methods.
Bluegill fishing is fair to good. Fish are in green weeds in 5-20 feet, shallow weed pockets, or feeding on the bottom of deep basins. Waxies, spikes, bloodworms, and plastics on small jigs and spoons work well. As with crappie, downsize for fuzzy fish.
Perch fishing is fair to good. Look for green weeds in 7-15 feet, or work soft basin bottoms where fish are feeding on small, assorted food offerings. Small jigs with minnow heads, waxies, spikes, bloodworms, and plastics are all working.
Jan. 15-23: International Snowmobile Safety Week.
Jan. 23: Town of Hayward Family Fun Day (715-634-3191).
Jan. 28: Crow season opens.
Jan. 29: 2022 Seeley Hills Classic (715-634-5025).
Jan. 31: Seasons close: Squirrel; Bobcat Period 2 hunting/trapping.
Feb. 5: Crex Meadows Candlelight Snowshoe Hike 6-8 p.m. (715-463-2739).
For more information on area events and activities, visit the Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau and Hayward Area Chamber of Commerce websites, view the Calendar of Events, or call (715) 634-8662 or 800-724-2992.