The week started with a cloudy Monday and a high of 15 degrees. However, snow is in the forecast for Tuesday evening through Wednesday, with total accumulation of 2-5 inches possible (and we know how THAT goes sometimes.) There is also a chance of snow Friday night through Sunday. Snowmobilers and skiers are happy, and it appears the snow is not deterring the ice anglers. Happy New Year!
Jarrett at Hayward Bait says fishing remains steady, despite the snow and onset of midwinter-like temperatures.
“Walleyes have started their transition to deep water areas. Tip-ups are still producing fish, but as we run further into winter, smaller jigging rods and downsizing presentations for finicky fish will bring more fish through the holes.
“Northern pike are all over the board. In dark lakes with shallow structure such as stumps and timber, fish will cruise the stump-field lines. On deep, clear lakes, fish will be cruising flats adjacent to drop-offs, looking for food.
“Crappies are relating to basins, and in most lakes, these basins are typically 25-35 feet deep and have a soft mud bottom. It might take some time to find the fish, but stay mobile until you find them. They are schooling, so as soon as you find one, you will be on the others.
“Bluegills have dropped into deep water as well. Check areas in 10-15 feet with structure or any remaining weeds. After the weeds die off in winter, fish tend to roam the basins or go in search of manmade structure such as cribs.”
As of late December, Happy Hooker is under the new ownership of Greg and Kari Kalscheur, with daughter Layla, and son Bryce. Family members are long-time Hayward visitors and well acquainted with the area. Former owners Pat and Lori Jones continue to reside here and you will see them in local dining establishments and on the golf course.
“Quiet Lakes’ walleye anglers are catching fish on tip-ups set along deep weed edges adjacent to basins, with best action from dusk through dark,” Greg says.
“Northern pike action is good with walleye suckers and shiners under tip-ups set over and around weed edges that lead to main lake basins.
“Crappies are starting to push into deep lake basins and anglers report success by jigging.
“Panfish anglers are having success on bluegills and perch by jigging with waxies in and around good weed beds.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses winterkill on Two Ax Lake.
“Two Ax Lake lies within the Chequamegon National Forest, just south of Hwy B and east of the Chippewa Flowage.
“This lake is a true ‘wilderness lake,’ with no development on the shorelines, a rough boat landing that services only canoes, kayaks or small craft, and an adventuresome approach down a two-track forest road. Some anglers seek out these kinds of lakes as fishing opportunities, correctly assuming that fish off the beaten path may be more numerous or aggressive.
“Two Ax Lake had a reputation as a destination for big largemouth bass and northern pike. Anglers who put in the work to get to the lake might catch their best bass or pike of the summer as a reward. However, several years ago we heard reliable reports from anglers that catch rates had dropped to close to zero.
“The immediate suspicion was that a winterkill had occurred.
“A fish survey conducted in fall 2021 ended up being a joint effort between the U.S. Forest Service fish biologist out of Park Falls and the DNR Hayward Fish Team. We selected gill nets for the survey because they are relatively easy to transport and set in remote areas. Gill nets also catch many different species of fish, particularly when using nets with differing mesh sizes. The results of that effort told us quite a bit about what was going on in Two Ax Lake.
“We captured five northern pike, all of which were chunky fish measuring 20-25 inches. They were in great shape and we released all alive. The only other catch was a single black bullhead.
“Based on these results, we could reasonably conclude that there is no need to restock pike. Even if their abundance is somewhat lower than in the past, they should be able to repopulate.
“The lack of bass and panfish warrants more exploration. If subsequent efforts determine that those species are absent, a restock might be necessary, which is common in lakes with occasional winterkill.
“In the meantime, anglers might want to look at Two Ax Lake as a limited opportunity fishery.”
Wisconsin’s Free Ice Fishing Weekend is Saturday and Sunday January 15-16. All waters of the state are open to fishing without a license, though all usual regulations remain in force. If you are new to fishing or have not purchased a fishing license in 10 years, purchase a “First-time buyer – Welcome back” resident license for only $5!
The January 3 Birkie Trail conditions report says the area is looking for 3-5 inches of snow and crews will then be out touching up trails. If you see a groomer, please move to the opposite side of the trail ‑ groomers cannot stop easily! Skiing any part of the Birkie Trail System December through March requires a Birkie Trail Ski Pass. Upcoming events include the Birkie Tour January 15, the Seeley Hill Classic January 29, and American Birkebeiner events February 23-27.
Pat’s Landing on the Chippewa Flowage is hosting its 10th Annual Tipper Tourney fishing tournament Saturday, January 8, from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. This northern pike and largemouth bass “fun” fishing tournament limits fishing to the west side of the Chippewa Flowage, excluding Crane Creek and Crane Lake. The contest offers door prizes and awards prizes for the longest northern pike, longest largemouth bass, and the longest stringer. The registration fee is $15 per angler. For more information, visit www.treelandresorts.com, or call (715) 945-2511.
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 3 HLVCB snowmobile trail report says Sawyer County trails are open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 6-8 inches. Crews started staking Chetac Lake trails Monday. Please note: Someone plowed a trail across the lake, crossing the marked trail and leaving a berm ‑ ride with caution!
The January 3 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Washburn County says trails are open, groomed, in fair condition, and with a base of 3-9 inches. Several swamp areas have not frozen enough to support grooming equipment. Riders can assist with the freeze-down process by widening the traveled portions of the trails.
The December 30 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for the Cable area says trails are open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 2-4 inches. The area is expecting more snow and colder temperatures.
The December 30 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for the Clam Lake area says trails are open, groomed, and in fair condition, with a base of 3-5 inches, but thin in spots. Use caution riding on swamps and lakes. This year, Trail 8 shares a stretch of Forest Rd 336 with vehicle traffic ‑ take care on roadways!
The December 30 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for southeast Douglas County says trails are open, some groomed, and most in early season conditions. Respect the landowners who allow the use of their property!
Fishing continues to be good to very good for most species, with most now starting to move to, or have already transitioned to, deep water and/or lake basins. Stop at your favorite bait and tackle shop for the current fish locations, favored baits, and presentations, as they are changing. Recent reports concerning ice conditions say up to 8 inches and more, but as you travel on any and all ice, check as you go using an abundance of caution. Snowmobile trail crews continue to stake the lake trails. Cold temperatures this week should help improve ice thickness, but there is also another layer of snow (up to five inches) on the way. If you find fussy fish, try downsizing.
Walleye action is good and consistent, with the best bite from late afternoon near sunset until after dark. The fish are present prior to that time, of course, but “might” present more of a challenge! Most anglers work weed edges and other structure in depths to 25 feet, targeting shallower locations in prime time. Walleye suckers and shiners under tip-ups are producing, with jigging spoons also catching fish.
Northern pike fishing is very good to excellent, with fish well dispersed around the lakes. Find small pike in and on the edges of shallow weedy areas and brush holding baitfish and panfish. Trophy pike are in similar areas or on deep breaklines and flats. Baits of choice include northern suckers, walleye suckers, and shiners on tip-ups, and jigging baits.
Crappie fishing is good to very good when you find the fish. The fish are in schools and moving, and you need to keep in travel mode, too. Look for fish in 25-35 feet in deep basins with soft mud bottoms. Crappie minnows, waxies, plastics, Gulp! baits, and small jigging spoons are all producing catches.
Bluegill fishing is good, with fish on weeds, flats, cribs, and other structure in 8-25 feet ‑ and make sure to check the entire water column. Waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs and teardrops, and small spoons, work well. Small minnows catch bigger fish and avoid the bait robbers.
Dec. 31: Musky season closed.
Jan. 1: Early inland catch and release trout season opened (see regs).
Jan. 2: Fisher trapping season closed.
Jan. 8: 10th Annual Tipper Tourney on the Chippewa Flowage, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (715-945-2511).
Jan. 15-16: Free Fishing Weekend – no fishing license requirement!
Jan. 15: Elk Country ATV Club annual ice fishing contest (715-794-2298).
Jan. 15-23: International Snowmobile Safety Week.
Jan. 28: Crow season opens.
Jan. 29: 2022 Seeley Hills Classic (715-634-5025).
Jan. 31: Seasons close: Squirrel; Bobcat Period 2 hunting/trapping.
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.