Steve Suman

This week’s forecast indicates somewhat mild temperatures for this time of year, but includes some sun, strong winds, snow, wintry mix, and perhaps even rain on some days. Whatever weather you prefer (almost), you might see it this week!

“Winter weather returned to the Quiet Lakes,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “with subzero temperatures and more snow. Anglers report ice depths range from 10-18 inches, depending on the lake. It is still not yet safe to drive out vehicles, however, and lake access is strictly by ATV and snowmobile.

“Walleye action is slow, with anglers occasionally catching a few in 6-10 feet. Walleye suckers and fatheads under tip-ups work best, with early morning and late afternoon into dark the best time. Use light line, and a #6 treble.

“Tip-up anglers are also finding success on northern pike and bass in 5-10 feet. Set tip-ups with shiners and walleye suckers over the drop-off edges of weeds.

“Panfish anglers report good fishing, especially for crappie. The panfish are moving up in the water column as oxygen levels deplete in deeper water and anglers are making good catches in 10-17 feet.

“Sometimes the fish suspend, so adjust the bait depth to find them – and flasher units certainly help find those fish more quickly. Small teardrop jigs tipped with waxies and small minnows are performing well.”

Trent at Hayward Bait says ice conditions remain somewhat questionable, with depths ranging from 10-14 inches.

“Only about half of it is good ice, with the top half compacted slush and snow, and we continue to recommend NOT driving vehicles on the ice. Snowmobile travel is the best option and crews have staked most lake trails.

“Walleye are biting best in late evening and at night, and now seem to prefer smaller baits. Fatheads, crappie minnows, small Jigging Raps, and spoons can pay off on finicky walleyes. Focus on gravel humps and rock piles.

“Northern pike are still very aggressive and hitting large shiners and northern suckers on tip-ups set up over green vegetation.

“Panfish are active, but the bite is very subtle, with mornings and late afternoon key times. Small jigs tipped with spikes and waxies are good choices this time of year. Crappies are in deeper water, typically 30-35 feet, but in shallower waterbodies, try 15-20 feet.”

Mike at Jenk’s says Chippewa Flowage ice depth is about 12 inches.

“Colder nights in the past week or so surely generated a good amount of ice. However, ice formation is less than desired so far this winter, especially with the excess snow. Sleds and 4-wheelers should be safe, but err on the side of caution and do not drive trucks on the ice yet. There still might be areas with weak ice, particularly on the east side, so as always, exercise caution when on the ice, regardless of the time of winter.

“Northern pike are hitting decently on the west side, especially in Squaw and Daggett’s bays. Some anglers are using suckers, but shiners seem to be the pike’s bait of choice for winter. Little Round Lake is a very good destination for both numbers and size.

“Crappie fishing is also decent, judging from the limited reports, with Pine Point and Popple Island local favorite spots. For numbers, head to Nelson Lake, but they will most likely size lack in size. Crappie minnows and waxies on tungsten jigs are the way to go.”

Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says fishing is good on Chequamegon Bay.

“The Ashland side of the Bay is producing everything from big pumpkinseeds to big brown trout! As of Friday, anglers are reporting approximately 12 inches of ice and great ice travel.

“The Washburn side of the Bay has a little less ice and there is no fishing past Houghton Point. That side is producing splake, whitefish, and some monster brown trout. Another angler target is smelt, and there are tons all over the Bay!”

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the credibility of published science.

“What makes science credible? Everyone should have some background on this fundamentally important question.

“One cornerstone of the scientific process in fisheries, and in all other areas of science, is ‘peer review.’ Virtually all major scientific publications use some form of peer review to vet the science before considering it for publication.

“Science not published through a peer reviewed journal does not meet the highest standard of scientific quality. This is because peer review is a very thorough method to prevent the publishing of bad science.

“Effectively, publishers send each submitted study to a number (often three) of other scientific experts in the same field who review the study from every angle. Did the author use appropriate methods? Are the statistics sound? Did they take into account other studies in this area?

“This very rigorous process, which at times can be brutal towards a poorly constructed study, ensures that only the best science makes it through to publication. This is what makes published science credible.

“When you cite a peer reviewed study, you not only tap into that author’s expertise and work, you lean on the expertise and critical review of several other scientists who cleared that study for publication.”


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.

International Snowmobile Safety Week runs Jan. 18-26, with safety, staying sober, and being smart among the top priorities promoted during the week. According to DNR recreational safety leader April Dombrowski, this week spotlights methods all snowmobilers should use for safe riding the entire season. This includes riding within capabilities and operating at safe and appropriate speeds for the terrain, machine, and daytime/nighttime visibility. In 2019, the DNR recorded 16 fatal snowmobile accidents, with 11 of them on public trails and roadways and four on frozen waterways. This winter’s fluctuating temperatures, snowfalls, and snowmelts have made for often-changing and mixed trail conditions. The DNR does not monitor ice conditions and Dombrowski says the best pre-ride action is to contact local fishing clubs, snowmobile clubs, and outfitters and inquire about current ice conditions.

The January 20 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Washburn County says all trails are open, groomed, in excellent condition, and with a compacted base of 9-16 inches. The area received more than 7 inches of snow in the past week.

The January 17 Travel Wisconsin trail report for the Cable area says trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a packed base of 10-18 inches. The majority of Bayfield County trails are also in great condition.

The January 17 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Douglas County says all trails are open, groomed, in excellent condition, and have a base of 14-18 inches. Please note some snowmobilers report they are seeing deer on the trails, so please keep an eye out for deer while traveling.

The January 16 Hayward Lakes Visitors & Convention Bureau Sawyer County snowmobile trail report says trails are excellent, groomed, and with a base of 12-16 inches. Fresh powder in the past week freshened trails and continues to add to the lakes, which still have a lot of bare ice – good ice, but bare in many spots. Stick to the staked trails and you will find good snow and traction.

The January 16 Travel Wisconsin trail report for the Clam Lake area says trails are open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 12-15 inches. There are well-posted detours in place for a temporarily closed trail in Marengo and one on Trail 77 in Cayuga. Ride at your own risk.


Another return to colder nighttime temperatures should help build more ice, so maybe we will reach two-foot depths before the end of winter. Ice thickness is “inconsistent,” at best. The advice from a number of people in the know is to not drive vehicles on the ice – and continue to use a great amount of caution with ATVs and snowmobiles.


Walleye action slowed somewhat and fish are fussy. The most productive times continue to be early morning and late afternoon into after dark. Concentrate on rocks and gravel humps out to 15 feet. Top baits include walleye suckers, fatheads, and crappie minnows on tip-ups, small Jigging Raps, and spoons. Downsizing could improve success.

Northern Pike:

Northern pike fishing is very good to excellent. Look for fish in/on/around weeds and other vegetation in depths to 14 feet. It is a simple approach – use northern suckers, walleye suckers, and large shiners on tip-ups.


Crappie action is good, but the bite is light, and early mornings and later afternoons offer the best success. Depending on the lake you are fishing, look for crappies in 8-35 feet, sometimes suspending – and search the entire water column! The most productive baits include crappie minnows, waxies, spikes, and mousies on teardrops and small jigs.


Bluegills are active and fishing is good, though a light bite, with most success in 8-18 feet. Some fish are suspending, so make sure you check the entire water column. Best presentations include waxies, spikes, and plastics on teardrops and small jigs. Try small minnows for bigger ‘gills.

Upcoming Events

Jan. 25: Pattison State ParkWinterfest and Candlelight Hike 4-8 p.m. (715-399-3111).

Jan. 31: Seasons close: Squirrel; Bobcat Period 2 hunting/trapping.

Feb. 1: Flambeau River State Forest28th annual Candlelight Ski and Cookout 6-9 p.m. (715-332-5271).

Feb. 1-2: Deerfoot Lodge8th Annual Freeze Your Buns Off Crappie Ice Fishing Tournament (715-462-3328).

Feb. 7: Crex MeadowsCandlelight Snowshoe Hike (715-463-2739).

Feb. 8: Brule RiverCandlelight Ski and Snowshoe 5-9 p.m. (715-372-5678).

Feb. 8: Copper Falls State ParkCandlelight Ski and Snowshoe (715-274-5123).

Feb. 8: Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing season opens (see regs).

Feb. 15: WFNW 24th Annual Family Ice Fishing Event on LCO, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. (715-462-3559).

Feb. 15: Hayward Chapter-FHNBChili Cook-off Fundraiser at Fish Tales Pub & Grub, 2-6 p.m. (715-634-3185).

Feb. 15: Seasons close: Coyote trapping; Raccoon trapping and hunting; Red and gray fox gun and trapping.

Feb. 28: Cottontail rabbit season closes.

Feb. 28-March 1: WI Women FishCrappie Weekend” – Deerfoot Lodge (715-462-3328).


For more information on area events and activities, visit the Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau website, view the Calendar of Events, or call 800-724-2992.