by: Steve Suman

The North Woods receives a brief, but well-deserved break the first part of this week, enjoying a few 30-degree temperatures. What a welcome respite! Take time to get outside and enjoy it while you can!

“Bitter, freezing, cold weather affected all outdoor activities during the holiday season,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “Most people chose to stay in their warm homes and cabins and out of the cold. However, ice conditions are very good, temperatures are rising, and there is plenty of snow for snowmobiling, skiing, and snowshoeing.

“Walleye anglers fishing over weeds and drop-offs in 8-12 feet are finding some limited success in the evening hours. Most are vertically jig artificials and only a few set tip-ups with walleye suckers or fatheads. Some anglers report northern pike catches on tip-ups.

“Vertical jiggers report minor crappie and perch success on crappie minnows, waxies, and artificials.”

Erik at Hayward Bait says ice conditions firmed, but with varying ice thickness, and they still advise ATV/snowmobile traffic.

“Walleye fishing is solid. Most success is with walleye suckers on tip-ups fished off steep breaks. Anglers can also use Jigging Rapalas or spoons.

“Northern pike fishing is strong on tip-ups with large shiners and northern suckers. Most anglers set one tip-up off weed edges in depths to 8 feet and one tip-up deeper.

“Panfish action is okay, with tough bites during high pressure fronts. With the scattered fish, hole hopping is the most productive approach. Most anglers do well with waxies and spikes on jigs, fishing varied depths from 16-24 feet.”

Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says this is the winter Chequamegon Bay anglers waited for – good ice conditions and very little snow!

“There is generally more than 12 inches of ice throughout the Bay, but as always, watch out for pressure cracks.

“Anglers are fishing out to the Bayfield area and the ferry stopped running as of this past Saturday.

“Trout hunters targeting the Washburn and Bayfield side of the Bay offer strong reports for brown trout and splake. Most anglers use lake shiners when jigging and golden shiners when using tip-ups and Automatic Fisherman.

“The Ashland side is producing a mixed bag, including whitefish, northern pike, perch, walleye, and trout.”

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses landing net materials.

“Landing nets are critical tools of the trade for anglers, whether their intent is to harvest or release a fish.

“Researchers in Canada looked at different mesh types in landing nets to determine which material was the easiest on the fish. The researchers caught brook trout and landed them in nets made with large rubber mesh, nylon, rubber coated, and polypropylene, as well as landed trout by hand. The researchers recorded any damage done to the fish as part of the landing process, such as fraying of fins, scale loss, etc., along with total handling time.

“Nylon and rubber coated mesh, as well as handling fish with bare hands, led to some amount of scale loss. Polypropylene nets led to the greatest amount of fin fraying. Landing fish in nets tended to increase total fish handling time, particularly in nets that could catch hooks in the material, and landing fish by hand led to a greater chance of dropping the fish.

“Overall, the researchers concluded that the large rubber mesh net type was easiest on fish – and these types of results have clear implications for catch and release anglers.”

Local ice fishing events are taking advantage of Wisconsin’s Winter Free Fishing Weekend January 20-21!

Elk Country ATV Club will host its 10th Annual Ice Fishing Contest on Upper Clam Lake Saturday, January 20, from 8 a.m.-3 p.m., offering adult and kids divisions. Participants can win an ATV (tickets $10), fish locator, ice auger, ice shack, and more. The entry fee is $5. For more information, call (715) 794-2298.

On Nelson Lake, Northland Area Builders is holding its 8th Annual ice fishing event Saturday, Jan. 20, from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Register at Nelson Lake boat landing on Gerlach Road. The entry fee is $10 for adults and $5 for youth 14 and younger. There are cash and raffle prizes – receive one raffle ticket for each non-perishable food donation. A portion of proceeds goes to the Nelson Lake Association fish sticks program and other local non-profits. The Grand Raffle Prize (tickets $10) is an ice fishing package that includes a shack, flasher, and auger. The first 40 kids receive a tip-up and one young angler will win a fish locator. For more information, call (715) 296-7881.


Remember your trail pass! The DNR reminds snowmobilers to make sure snowmobile registrations are current and snowmobiles display 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 8 Hayward Power Sports trail report says last weekend was great for riding! The trails are still in good condition with a base of 1-5 inches (1 inch in the open/near roads). Crews have staked all lakes with the exception of Lake Hayward. Starting Friday, temperatures will be back in the single digits, with a high of 10 degrees, fantastic for another great riding weekend! Bayfield County trails are in good condition, Price trails fair, Ashland, Douglas, and Washburn counties partially open, and Barron and Rusk counties remain closed.

The January 5 Cable area trail report says there is a detour on Trail 90 between Old Grade and Federal Rd. due to logging. Please follow the signs. Due to trespass issues, there is a trail closure at Trail 70 and Trail 73. Trail 70 east closed at Randysek Road. To get in/out of downtown Cable: Use Randysek Road from south of town to Spruce Street (cross Hwy M and go 1 block north), head west on Spruce to access the alleyway between Rondeau’s and Triple G; Hwy M is open from the alleyway to Rocky’s. This is a new reroute and not on maps.

The January 3 HLVCB trail report says Sawyer County trails are open and in good condition, with about a 6-inch base. Crews have staked most lakes in the county, with the exception (as of Jan. 3) Lake Hayward and a few in the southwestern part of the county such as Long Lake, Chetac, and Sissabagama. There are a couple of trail closure and reroute updates, including Trail 27/5 closed from Tuscobia south to the Price County line; Trail 63 closed from Bodecker Rd (north of Seeley) to a small portion of Trail 70 in Bayfield County just into the town of Cable. The reroute is at Bodecker Rd. so take 111 to Trail 8 to get into Cable.

The January 3 Namakagon Trail Groomers trail report says trails are in fair to good condition. Groomers have groomed all swamps at this point so we are over the hump for freeze-up. There is a closure of Trail 70 and Trail 73 due to trespass issues. Please stay on the marked trails and respect private property.


A welcome break in temperatures this week should motivate anglers to get out and test their luck, either on the ice or during early catch and release trout season open now through May 4. Check the regulations for open waters. Anglers need a valid Wisconsin fishing license and an inland trout stamp, use artificial lures and flies, and the bag limit is zero – anglers must release all fish immediately.


Walleye fishing is good to very good, though somewhat inconsistent and with varied bite windows. Concentrate on deep weeds, breaklines, and drop-offs in 8-15 feet in early morning and evening hours. The most productive baits include walleye suckers and fatheads on tip-ups, or try vertically jigging Jigging Raps, jigging spoons, and other artificials.

Northern Pike:

Northern pike fishing is very good in/on weeds and weed edges, both shallow and deep, for anglers using larger shiners and northern suckers under tip-ups.


Crappie fishing is good in and over deeper water out to about 30 feet – plan to move until you locate the active fish. Best baits include crappie minnows, waxies, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs and plain hooks.


Bluegill fishing is fair to good out to about 25 feet, but expect to keep on the move to find and stay on the active fish. Top baits include waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs and teardrops.

Upcoming Events

Jan. 6: Early catch-and-release trout season opened statewide (see regs for exceptions).

Jan. 7: Late archery deer season closed.

Jan. 18: Northwest Relic Riders “Ride to Lunch”; 10 a.m. at Bar H Implements, Stone Lake (715-865-2486).

Jan. 20-21: Free Fishing Weekend – fish nearly anywhere in WI without a license or trout stamp (see regs).

Jan. 20: Northland Area Builders8th Annual ice fishing event (715-296-7881).

Jan. 20: Elk Country ATV Club’s10th annual ice fishing contest on Upper Clam Lake (715-794-2298).

Jan. 31: Seasons close: Squirrel; Ruffed grouse in Zone A (Northern Zone); Bobcat hunting/trapping season Period 2.

Feb. 3: Flambeau River State Forest’s26th Annual Candlelight Ski event; 6-9 p.m. (715-332-5271).

Feb. 3-4: Deerfoot LodgeFreeze Your Buns Off Crappie Ice Fishing Contest (715-462-3328).

Feb. 10: Brule River State ForestCandlelight Ski and Snowshoe 5-9 p.m. (715-372-5678).

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

Feb. 17: Drummond Sno Jacks Bar Stool Races (715-739-6645).

Feb. 22-24: American Birkebeiner (715-634-5025).

Feb. 26: Seasons close: Cottontail rabbit; Mink trapping.


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