by: Steve Suman

There is no good way to spin the forecast – snow accumulation of 1-5 inches through Tuesday night, with chances for rain and snow showers Wednesday night through the weekend. High temperatures are in the average low range! The first two weeks of November – not far down the road – should bring milder temperatures. This might be a good time to prepare for winter recreational opportunities!

“Anglers on the Quiet Lakes battled wind, rain, cold – and the first snow last week,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “but fishing is good.

“Musky fishing is picking up and anglers are catching some nice fish. Most action is on suckers or on topwaters in mornings and evenings. We have a good sucker supply, but check ahead for availability. As water temperatures drop, fishing for most species should improve.

“Walleyes will hold in the weeds, but the best bite is over hard substrates such as rock and sand into transition areas. Shallower mid-lake humps and windblown shorelines are good target areas. Slow-trolling crankbaits off deeper weeds to find active fish is a good daytime tactic. Once you locate fish, try jigging lures and minnows under bobbers, with the best time late afternoon into dark. Along the way, you might attract northern pike or smallmouth bass.

“Panfish anglers are still taking fish on small plastics, Fuzzy Grubs, and other types of hair jigs fished in deeper vegetation. Tip hooks with crawler chunks and pitch into the weed pockets. Live bait under slip bobbers also works well.”

Trent at Hayward Bait says recent snowfall made for challenging conditions.

“Muskie fishing is tough with lakes still turning. Small and medium size suckers work best, but Bull Dawgs, Lake X Toads, and Depth Charges are raising fish, as are Grandma and Jake crankbaits. Most action is at the bottom of the water column in 10-15 feet, near vegetation.

“Walleyes are scattered in 20-30 feet during the day, and near vegetation in 10 feet in morning and evening. Walleye suckers are producing good fish, with snap jigs for deeper water.

“Northern pike are in the same areas as muskies. Swimbaits, crankbaits, and northern suckers work best.

“Largemouth bass action slowed, with fish in 5-10 feet, tight to wood, vegetation, and cribs near deeper water. Swimbaits and spoons work best.

“Smallmouth bass moved to the rivers and 20-25 feet in lakes. Walleye suckers and crawlers work well.

“Crappies are staging near vegetation in 20-30 feet in main basins. Chicken jigs, jigs/minnows, and black/chartreuse and red/green plastics are producing good bites.

“Bluegills are in 5-12 feet on most waterbodies, hitting waxies, small marabou jigs, and Bimbo Skunks.”

Mike at Jenk’s says the Chippewa Flowage pool is down 3-4 feet, with dropping water temperatures in the high 40s.

“Musky fishing is good all around, with shore fishing producing a good number of fish, especially around Hay Creek Narrows. The sucker bite is very solid. For artificials, trolling and large rubber and glide baits are the way to go.

“Walleye fishing, with the cold setting in, is now deep. Most walleye anglers report action with larger minnows in holes in 26-30 feet. Good spots to hit for now are the holes to the west of Popple Island.

“Crappie fishing is hit or miss, with some anglers catching decent numbers of fish and others having little luck. Crappie minnows are the best choice, and fishing cribs and deeper holes seem to produce the most success.”

Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says the coho bite is spotty on Chequamegon Bay, and coho seem to be the species of choice for fall anglers.

“The water temperatures are just now starting to drop into the 40s, which usually stimulates the salmonids to head for spawning areas.

“Trollers report catching a few fish off the Onion and Sioux rivers, as well as Fish Creek at the head of the Bay, but wind was a serious deterrent during the past week.

“Stream action is spotty, with streams fairly low and clear. The advice to anglers is if you want to know – Go, and enjoy some of the last opportunities for fall fishing!”

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses recent musky developments on Lac Courte Oreilles.

“Lake Lac Courte Oreilles has a long-standing reputation as a world class muskellunge fishery. Muskies are certainly present in the lake today, and we know they grow well, but a combination of factors led to limited stocking success and extremely low natural reproduction.

“One factor believed to be working against musky in LCO is northern pike, which are not native to the lake but appeared during the mid-1900s, and have since increased in abundance. Pike spawn in the same areas as muskies, and compete with them for habitat and food throughout most of their life.

“In 2017, we initiated a program to reduce pike abundance with the hope that would improve musky abundance. Now, a few years after the initial stage of pike removal, we see some exciting signs of life from the musky fishery.

“First, PIT-tagged muskellunge stocked into LCO in 2017 appear to be doing very well. Anglers reported catching quite a few of these over the past two summers, and last winter I caught one on a tip-up. We are also catching them in our surveys. This is a considerable improvement over other recent stocking events, when very few, if any, stocked fish turned up in the following years.

“Even more exciting, this fall we captured a natural-born musky, a healthy and beautifully spotted fish that at just 17 inches long was probably a 1- or 2-year-old. It was too small to be a stocked fish from 2017 and was not carrying a PIT tag like stocked fish. This is the first confirmed natural born musky to appear in a survey for several decades and we hope it is just the first of many we will capture.

“Our plans are to survey LCO in spring of 2021 to check on adult pike and musky.”

The DNR reminds interested spearers that October 31 is the deadline to purchase a license for the 2021 Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing season. The season opens February 13 for Lake Winnebago and the Upriver Lakes of Butte des Morts, Winneconne, and Poygan, and runs 16 days (max) or until spearers reach any pre-determined harvest cap.

Hayward area ruffed grouse and archery deer hunters report seeing good numbers of grouse this year and this is the final year of a three-year sampling study of West Nile virus (WNV) in ruffed grouse by the DNR (and others). As such, this is a great time for hunters to make use of the more than half of the leftover 1,000 self-sampling kits distributed in 2018 and 2019. The DNR asks hunters to use their kits to submit samples from grouse they harvest this year, or to pass them on to friends who will fill them this fall. Detailed kit instructions are available under the “disease sampling” tab on the ruffed grouse webpage.

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. Sawyer County has 766 bonus tags available for private land harvest. So far in the 2020 season, Sawyer County hunters have harvested 334 deer, including 143 antlered and 191 antlerless.

Turkey authorizations cost $10 for residents and $15 for nonresidents. No permits remain for zones 5-7.

The DNR is hosting a Zoom meeting Tuesday, Oct. 20, starting at 6:30 p.m., for Barron, Burnett, Polk, Rusk, Sawyer, and Washburn counties, to gather public input on updating the DNR’s walleye management plan. Individuals interested in participating (requires pre-registration) should contact Max Wolter (715-634-7429). The public can also comment on an online public input form.

FISHING REPORT

Musky:

Musky action is good as fish are plumping and preparing for winter. Best success is in mornings and evenings. Target vegetation, humps, points, and panfish concentrations in depths to 18 feet. Musky suckers work well, but anglers are also catching fish on rubber baits, stickbaits, gliders, and topwaters, and trolling large baits.

Walleye:

Walleye action is fair to good. Find fish on weeds and weed edges, rock, gravel, mid-lake humps, and transition areas in 8-35 feet and deeper. Fishing is best in shallower water during early morning and late afternoon into dark. Best baits include walleye suckers and chubs on jigs or under slip bobbers, jigging spoons, and trolled stickbaits and crankbaits.

Northern Pike:

Northern pike fishing is good to very good around weeds, weed edges, mid-lake humps, and panfish and baitfish concentrations in 8-18 feet. Baits of choice include northern suckers, jigs/minnows, spinners, spinnerbaits, spoons, swimbaits, and crankbaits.

Largemouth Bass:

Largemouth fishing is fair to decent, with fish holding close to weeds, wood, brush, and cribs out to 12 feet, adjacent to deeper water. Live bait, swimbaits, crankbaits, and plastics are all effective offerings.

Smallmouth Bass:

Smallmouth action is good for anglers who pursue them. Work weeds, mid-lake humps, and hard-bottom rock, gravel, and transition areas in depths to 25 feet. Rivers also offer good fishing opportunities. Walleye suckers, crawlers, crankbaits, and plastics all work well.

Crappie:

Crappie fishing is fair to very good once you locate the fish. Look for them in and on the edges of weeds and cribs, as well as in schools moving around lake basins, in 18-30 feet. Top baits include crappie minnows, Fuzzy Grubs, Gulp! baits, Mini-Mites, Tattle-Tails, and various plastics, with black/green and red/green colors the most productive.

Bluegill:

Bluegill fishing is fair to good on most lakes. Fish are in and around weeds, brush, cribs, and other structure in 4-15 feet. Baits working best at this time include waxies, crawler chunks, plastics, and Gulp! baits on various jig styles, fished under slip bobbers.

Upcoming Events

Oct. 15: General inland trout season closed (see regs).

Oct. 17: Seasons opened: Pheasant; Fox (red, gray) hunting/trapping; Bobcat Period 1 hunting/trapping; Fisher trapping; Raccoon hunting/trapping; Coyote trapping.

Oct. 20: DNR walleye management plan virtual meeting for Barron, Burnett, Polk, Rusk, Sawyer, and Washburn counties; 6:30 p.m. Requires pre-registration. Contact Max Wolter (715-634-7429).

Oct. 31: Deadline to purchase a Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing license.

Oct. 31: Raccoon hunting/trapping season opens for non-residents (regs).

Oct. 31: Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame closes for the season; reopens April 15 (715-634-4440).

Nov. 2: Woodcock season closes.

Nov. 1: Daylight Saving Time ends at 2 a.m.; turn back clocks one hour.

Nov. 19: Crow season closes.

Nov. 20: Fall turkey season closes in zones 5, 6 (see regs).

Nov. 21-29: Traditional gun deer season (see regs).

Nov. 29: Mourning dove season closes.

Nov. 30-Dec. 9: Muzzleloader deer season (see regs).

Dec. 10-13: Four-day antlerless deer hunt (see regs).

Dec. 21: Winter solstice – first day of winter.

Dec. 24-Jan. 1: Antlerless-only Holiday Hunt (see regs).

 

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.