This week’s forecast predicts some sunshine, much cooler temperatures, and a few showers – and includes the use of a meteorological four-letter “s” term! Keep some warm and water repellent outdoor gear handy and an eye on the sky, but keep enjoying your favorite fall activities!
The Travel Wisconsin Fall Color Report says Sawyer County’s fall colors are past peak – but there is still plenty to see! This week’s wind and rain will do them no good, however, so if you plan to see fall colors, the best time to do so is now! To check out six fall color tour drives in Sawyer County, visit Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau.
“The mix of rain, wind, sunshine, and cooler temperatures last week dropped the water temperatures to perfect for catching fish on the Quiet Lakes,” says Pat at Happy Hooker. “There is a beautiful display of colors along the shorelines, though they are at peak or slightly past.
“Those who have followed these reports over the years know why this is the best time of the year. Many tactics are producing fish and action is certainly picking up.
“The lakes are busy with anglers, with many trying for muskies. There was not much success in the past week, but we are on the cusp of heavy action. Live bait is the best bet and anglers are dragging suckers on big bobbers while casting. This can also attract big northern pike or even walleye.
“Walleyes are getting back to their typical springtime haunts. Look to inlets or shallow substrate changes such as sand or rock to mud transitions. Trolling is still a good tactic, but jigging patterns are working best. Though time of day is not as important as in late summer, low light periods are best, especially late afternoon into dark after a warm afternoon.
“Northern pike become more active as water temperatures drop, so this is a good time to target pike. Live bait rigs, spinnerbaits, and crankbaits will all work. You might also catch a surprise largemouth bass.
“Panfish are producing some good action, with anglers finding them deep, on the outside edges of vegetation. Crappie minnows under bobbers, small Beetle Spins, and plastics are good, as well as small hair jigs tipped with crawler pieces. Do not be surprised if a northern pike snaps off your bait occasionally!”
Trent at Hayward Bait says fishing is improving for more species with the cooling weather.
“Musky fishing is most productive on points, drop-offs, and tight to vegetation in 10-15 feet, and with small to medium suckers the ticket. Artificials vary day to day, with swimbaits, jerkbaits, and soft plastics usually producing bites.
“Walleye fishing is still a tough go, though better than in previous weeks, and most anglers are having success jigging sucker minnows. Fish are staging in 30-40 feet, but this makes catch and release fishing risky. When raising them from these depths, their bladders will often burst, causing them to expire.
“Northern pike are in 10-15 feet on weeds, points, and drop-offs, with walleye and northern suckers most productive. Swimbaits, soft plastics, and spoons are also working for pike.
“Largemouth bass are fairly active, though not getting much angler attention. The topwater bite picked up slightly during the stretch of warm weather, but otherwise swimbaits, spoons, and crankbaits are the favorites. Depths vary, as bass hold tight to structure such as vegetation, wood, and drop-offs that offer quick access to deeper water.
“Smallmouth bass are in a variety of depths, depending on the waterbody. Most fish are in 20-25 feet, with some as shallow as 10 feet. Crankbaits, sucker minnows, and crawlers seem to be the angler favorites.
“Crappie and bluegill are staging in deeper water. Crappies are scattered in smaller schools and usually at the bottom of the water column in 20-25 feet. Jigging crappie minnows, soft plastics, and feathered jigs is most effective.
“Bluegill fishing is a bit more consistent, with fish biting on worms, crappie minnows, and small jigs.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the 2020 Hayward area fall fishing surveys.
“The Hayward Fish Team was able to complete a full complement of fall surveys on lakes throughout Sawyer County. Other DNR, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, and U.S. Forest Service crews completed surveys in Sawyer County as well, and all share data among the agencies.
“These surveys primarily target juvenile walleye, typically less than 15 inches, and juvenile musky, but also collect data on other gamefish species.
“It was encouraging to see solid 2020 year classes of walleye in Round, Grindstone, and the Chippewa Flowage. Sand Lake also had a year class, but it was smaller than what we have seen in other years.
“Many lakes, including Lost Land, Teal, Chetac, Lac Courte Oreilles, Blueberry, and Nelson continue to struggle and show very little walleye reproduction. Lakes in this group continue to receive stocked fish from the DNR, but survival varies for the stocked fish and nearly always translates to fewer adult walleye than if the lakes had natural reproduction.
“In the Chippewa Flowage, Blaisdell, Ghost, Lower Clam, and Black Dan lakes, we observed some natural born muskies. In the Chippewa Flowage, we captured stocked muskies carrying PIT tags. Growth rates generally looked positive, with 4-year-old fish now in the 30- to 36-inch range.
“We captured more smallmouth bass than usual on Big Chetac, and on Sand Lake, we caught many nice smallmouth, including our biggest of the fall at 20.5 inches.
“This wraps up our fieldwork for 2020. This winter, we will process collected samples to determine age and growth of bluegill, crappie, bass, and walleye on many of the above mentioned lakes.”
On Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 6:30 p.m., the DNR will host a regional meeting (via Zoom) for Barron, Burnett, Polk, Rusk, Sawyer, and Washburn counties to gather public input on updating the DNR’s walleye management plan for state walleye populations. Individuals interested in participating (pre-registration required) should contact Max Wolter (715-634-7429). The DNR will also collect input on the plan through mail and online surveys of fishing license holders about management options; virtual meetings on management issues and partnership opportunities; and online on a public input form.
The DNR combined hunting regulations into one document printed on larger paper, with color photographs and graphics, and simplified language. The hunting regulations and season dates are available online and at license agents throughout the state. The DNR will continue to produce separate trapping regulations pamphlets.
Sales continue for bonus antlerless deer tags and fall turkey authorizations, sold at one per person, per day, until the unit sells out or seasons end. Deer authorizations cost $12 for residents, $20 for nonresidents, and $5 for youth under age 12. Turkey authorizations cost $10 for residents and $15 for nonresidents.
The DNR reminds deer hunters they must register their deer by 5 p.m. the day after recovering it, doing so online at GameReg.WI.Gov; by phone (844) 426-3734; or electronically at participating in-person registration stations. Registration includes a series of harvest questions such as adult or fawn, buck or doe, the DMU, and weapon method.
So far in the 2020 season, Sawyer County hunters have harvested 212 deer, including 97 antlered and 115 antlerless.
Cooler temperatures are arriving in the North Woods this week, which will expedite the fall transition. As such, anglers heading to the lakes should stop for a brief visit with their favorite bait shop personnel on the most current fish locations, favored baits, and presentations. That brief visit could save hours on the water.
Musky fishing is good and improving as fall progresses and water temperatures cool. Fish are locating on weeds, humps, points, and drop-offs in depths to about 18 feet. Large suckers, stickbaits, swimbaits, glide baits jerkbaits, plastics, bucktails, and Bull Dawgs and other rubber baits are all enticing muskies at this time.
Walleye fishing is fair to good – and even very good for some anglers – with late afternoon into after dark offering the best opportunities. Fish are on sand, rock, mud, and assorted transition areas in deeper water. Jigging walleye suckers is working best at this time, but crawlers, jigging baits, and trolling are also producing catches.
Northern pike action is good to very good with the cooling water temperatures. Look for fish in and around weeds, weed edges, points, and drop-offs in 6-20 feet, and anywhere you find baitfish and panfish concentrations. Northern suckers, walleye suckers, spinners, spinnerbaits, spoons, swimbaits, crankbaits, and plastics are all working well.
Largemouth bass fishing is fair to good, but angler interest wanes this time of year. Look for fish on or very near various types of structure such as weeds, wood, brush, cribs, and drop-offs adjacent to deep water. The most effective baits at this time include minnows, crawlers, crankbaits, swimbaits, plastics, and topwaters.
Smallmouth bass fishing is good to very good on hard bottom areas in 8-28 feet, depending on the lake. The most productive offerings include live bait such as sucker minnows and crawlers, as well as crankbaits, swimbaits, and plastics.
Crappie fishing is good and fish are schooling, staging, and moving in depths out to nearly 30 feet. Be sure to check the entire water column. Top bait choices include crappie minnows, plastics, dressed jigs, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs and plain hooks, fished under slip bobbers. Small Beetle Spins can also be very effective.
Bluegill fishing continues to be good, with fish holding in and on deeper weeds, weed edges, and other structure. Best bluegill baits include waxies, worms, crawler chunks, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks, fished with or without a bobber.
Oct. 31: Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame closes for the season; reopens April 15 (715-634-4440).
Nov. 2: Woodcock season closes.
Nov. 19: Crow season closes.
Nov. 29: Mourning dove season closes.