The forecast for this week indicates a few chances for snow, with some subzero night temperatures good for ice building and trail grooming, and moderate daytime highs. This is about as comfortable as it gets for winter activities, though some people might find it too warm! Get out and enjoy all of the outdoor activities available!
“Areas receiving the most angler pressure are on the slow side, while areas seeing light traffic are putting up some fish. You can improve success by distancing yourself from group or community fishing holes. Sometimes, though not always, it is better to find untapped areas.
“Walleye action is hit or miss. Bite windows revolve around sun-up and sundown, and anglers are fishing over vegetation in 7-12 feet. Those same areas can produce northern pike and bass.
“Panfish provide the best bite with these consistent, mild temperatures. Best fishing is over vegetation in 7-12 feet with small jigs tipped with grubs and waxies. Use a slip bobber to suspend bait 1-3 feet off bottom.”
John, Trent, and Ken at Hayward Bait say ice conditions are slowly improving, but they still recommend walking out and using a spud bar rather than driving ATVs or snowmobiles.
“Walleyes are in about 30 feet during the day, but fish move shallow in early morning and afternoon hours. More anglers are starting to use Jigging Raps and jigging spoons.
“Northern pike are around vegetation and hard cover in 5-10 feet. Use large shiners and northern suckers on tip-ups.
“Panfish are hitting, but very lightly, so use lead jigs for finesse and spring bobbers on your ice rods to detect those light bites. Crappies are in 15-20 feet, though anglers are finding most of them in about 30 feet.
“Bluegills are also in about 15-20 feet, holding 2-3 feet off the bottom.”
Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says ice conditions remain favorable on the Ashland side of Chequamegon Bay, with about 6-9 inches of ice and very little slush.
“Anglers report nice catches of perch and other species off Second landing, which offers good access for ATVs and snowmobiles.
“A few cracks and heaves have developed off the Washburn side. Most anglers are walking, though some are using machines, and we still have reports of nice catches of brown trout, splake, and an occasional whitefish.
“With these ever changing conditions, remember to take your safety gear and to use a spud bar.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses Sawyer County snapping turtles.
“For a little fun this week, we are going to talk about snapping turtles, a tough and adaptable species. In the Hayward area, snapping turtles are likely present in every waterbody, from ponds to big lakes, from rivers to trout streams.
“You might ask what qualifies me to talk about snapping turtles. Well, we see many of them in our fisheries surveys. Fyke netting is an especially effective way to catch snappers, particularly once the water temperature rises above 60F in spring. Our record for most snappers in one net is seven on Grindstone Lake in 2015.
“It is no surprise we often see lower fish catches when snappers are in a net, perhaps the result of a combination of turtles scaring off fish and turtles plugging the passageways through which fish enter the net.
“While all lakes we survey have snappers, some lakes are prolific producers. Lake Hayward probably sits atop that list. It is shallow and mucky, which snappers love. For those same reasons, Big Chetac is another legendary snapper lake. During a fish survey on Chetac in 1996, crewmembers caught a snapper so large that in their report they estimated it weighed more than 100 pounds!
“Snappers certainly do well in another turtle hotspot, the Chippewa Flowage, with its diverse mix of boggy, complicated habitat. We also see big snappers in some of the dark water lakes such as Moose, Ghost, and Blaisdell.
“Snapping turtles are edible, and by some reports, good to eat if prepared properly. Harvest season in Wisconsin runs from July 15 to Nov. 30 and you must have a fishing license or small game license to harvest a turtle.
“There are various legal methods for taking turtles, including hook-and-line, dip nets, and certain trap nets. There is a harvest size limit for snappers – the shell length must be 12-16 inches – and a possession limit of 3 for inland waters.”
Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies, Inc. has rescheduled its January meeting to January 14, at 7 p.m., at Flat Creek Eatery. This is a business meeting to discuss plans, projects, activities, and the budget. Admission is free and anyone interested in joining Muskies Inc. can purchase a half-price membership 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 6 HLVCB trail report says staked lake trails now include Nelson, Callahan, Tiger Cat, Spider, Lost Land, Moose, Lac Courte Oreilles, Grindstone, Whitefish, Big and Little Round, Osprey, and both sides of the Chippewa Flowage. Trails from the Flowage north are great. Lakes have considerable good ice and patches of snow. Ride the lakes with caution, especially if you do not have studs. Tuscobia Trail between Ojibwa and Winter has serious issues and travel is not advisable. The trail from Winter east and Ojibwa west is rideable, but has some rough areas.
The January 6 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Ashland County says trails are open, groomed, and in fair condition, with a base of 6-8 inches. There is possible standing water in some areas and ride at your own risk. The Tri-county corridor is open.
The January 6 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Rusk County says trails are partially open, partially groomed, in fair condition and vary greatly, with a base of 8-16 inches. Ride with extra caution. Slush, water, or glare ice are possible, as are low hanging brush and downed trees. Do not travel on the lakes, still considered unsafe unless there are stakes, signs, or barrels.
The January 6 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Washburn County says all trails are open, groomed, and in fair condition, with a base of 6-12 inches. Use caution, as lake ice is still not safe at this time, including Long Lake and the Spider Lake Chain. Swamps and wet areas are likely to have standing water and/or rough ice crossings in some places, not groomed, and crews rerouted some trail segments to avoid the wet areas.
The January 4 Travel Wisconsin trail report for the Clam Lake area says trails are partially open, partially groomed, and in poor condition, with a base of 10-15 inches. Clam Lake area trails are open, but most Ashland County trails closed. Trails in the woods are fair, but most advice is against riding lakes. Use caution around swamps and standing water. Take your time – enjoy the trails!
Ice fishing interest is increasing as conditions improve. Colder nighttime lows dropping to subzero a few mornings this week should help improve ice and trail conditions. Still, it is a good idea to use an ice spud to check your way and wait a bit to use ATVs and snowmobiles.
Walleye fishing is inconsistent, with the best success coming in early morning and late afternoon into dark. During the low light hours, fish shallower water, but as deep as 30 feet and deeper during daytime. Anglers are using walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups, but many are now using Jigging Raps and jigging spoons.
Northern pike action is good to very good and can be a trip saver for anglers. Northern suckers and large shiners under tip-ups are the go-to presentations. Look for fish around weeds and solid cover in depths to 15 feet. For trophy pike, fish bigger baits in deeper water.
Crappie action is fair to good, with fish around weeds and other cover in depths from 6-30 feet. Electronics are of great help and be sure to check the entire water column. Baits of choice include crappie minnows, waxies, plastics, and Gulp! baits fished on small jigs under slip bobbers.
Bluegill fishing is good, but the light bite means you must pay close attention (a spring bobber helps!) Use your flasher to look for fish in depths from 6-25 feet and again, check the entire water column. Small, light jigs tipped with waxies and grubs, fished under slip bobbers suspending the baits from 1-4 feet off the bottom, will serve you well.
Jan. 4: Seasons closed: Goose in Southern and Mississippi River zones.
Jan. 5: Seasons close: Archery deer; Pheasant; Fall turkey zones 1-5; Hungarian partridge; Fisher trapping.
Jan. 18-19: Free fishing weekend – no fishing license required.
Jan. 18: NABA 10th Annual Ice Fishing Event on Nelson Lake (715-296-7881).
Jan. 18: Seeley Hills Classic Ski Event (715-634-5025).
Jan. 31: Seasons close: Squirrel; Bobcat Period 2 hunting/trapping.