At this time, the forecast for this week currently indicates a mostly moist week that includes drizzle, rain, sleet, snow and a combination of all, but with little to no accumulation (again, at this time). Temperatures remain somewhat milder, with highs primarily in the mid to high 30s. The current prediction for the Saturday deer season opener is cloudy, a low about 20 degrees, a high around 35 degrees, and no tracking snow expected at this time.
“A couple reports from people who have been out say there is 3-4 inches of solid ice along the shorelines and a bit more in shallow bays. One good thing is that there is not a big layer of snow on top as has been the case in some years. It will be interesting to see the effects of the rain and milder weather on the ice conditions.
“Deer are moving and rut is in full bloom. The does are constantly watching for bucks and every time a buck appears the does quickly leave the area. The bucks just slowly follow the does in their direction of travel.
“Deer license sales are very soft, but perhaps people are not yet buying their licenses because Thanksgiving is later this year. At this point in time, we are not hearing any reports of deer harvest.”
Trent at Hayward Bait says ice depth reports indicate 2-5 inches, but vary from lake to lake.
“Warmer weather and rain will worsen conditions – make sure to check the ice before and as you go.
“Most anglers are targeting walleye and northern pike.
“Walleyes are on outside weed edges in 5-10 feet, but depths vary from lake to lake. Walleye suckers and small northern suckers on tip-ups are the top producers, with the best time early mornings and the last hour before sunset.
“Northern pike are on the inside weed edges and northern suckers on tip-ups are a good choice. For something offering a bit more action, try a big shiner.
“While passing time waiting for tip-up flags, some anglers are trying crappie minnows for panfish. If you set up so that you are working from the inside to the outside of the existing weedlines, you should be able to hook into a few different species, including panfish.”
Mike at Jenk’s says the Chippewa Flowage has a little bit of fishable ice.
“However, before all of you ice anglers run out on the ice, please do not throw caution to the wind! The thickest ice reported so far is approximately 3-4 inches, and that is not uniform across all parts of the lake. The most recent reports are that CC South and Squaw Bay ice is decent, but please use exercise caution. It is still early and not all ice is safe!
“At this time, nearly all fishing reports are on northern pike. They are providing a solid bite on sucker minnows through the ice, with most action at CC South and Squaw Bay.
“We expect some rain Wednesday, and with ice not very thick, do be careful out there, as this early in the season, rain can quickly, and negatively, affect ice conditions.”
Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says there is moving, unstable ice on the Ashland side of Chequamegon Bay.
“The Washburn side is open, but the boat landings are questionable.
“Blackhawk Marina in Bayfield is open and a few anglers continue to go out along the islands trolling, casting, and jigging for brown trout. The bite is spotty and the water is dirty there due to all the southwest winds.
“Tributary stream seasons closed, so we now patiently await fishable ice.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses a Couderay River smallmouth bass study.
“Smallmouth bass are one of the most beloved species in northern Wisconsin and the Hayward area boasts many popular lakes for smallmouth fishing, including Round, Grindstone, Lac Courte Oreilles, and Moose. There are many fantastic river fisheries as well, including the Chippewa, Namekagon, and Flambeau.
“In general, we know less about our local river smallmouth populations and a Couderay River project initiated in 2019 aims to shed light on what makes river smallies tick.
“In August, the Hayward DNR Fish Team PIT tagged 106 Couderay River smallmouth bass in the cheek, using tags generously donated by the Wisconsin Smallmouth Bass Alliance. While we commonly use PIT tags for muskellunge and sturgeon, this was the first time we have used PIT tags on Sawyer County smallmouth bass.
“The data the fish team collected from each fish they tagged included length, location (GPS coordinates), and a small fin clip for potential future genetic analysis.
“We will follow up the 2019 portion of this study in 2020 with an attempt to recapture as many tagged fish as possible. By recapturing a sufficient number of fish, we should be able to gather important data such as growth rate, movement, and possibly total population size. We also plan to collect fin ray samples to determine smallmouth age, which will provide additional context to growth rates observed from the PIT tags.
“Watch this space for future updates and study results.”
The DNR reminds ruffed grouse hunters that the Zone A ruffed grouse hunting season ends hours January 5, not on January 31 as in past seasons. This is due to emergency rule WM-18-19 (E) that the Natural Resources Board (NRB) approved at its September 25 meeting. The early closure applies only to the 2019-20 season and does not affect the Dec. 8 closing date for Zone B. However, the DNR’s ruffed grouse management plan recommends a permanent change to close Zone A ruffed grouse season on the Sunday nearest Jan. 6. The DNR will present this change at the December NRB meeting. For more information, search “ruffed grouse management” on the DNR website.
Hayward Rod and Gun Club on County Road B will continue its sight-in days through Friday Nov. 22, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily, to help hunters prepare for the start of gun deer season this Saturday, Nov. 23. The club welcomes public participation and experienced club members on-hand will assist with the sight-in process. The cost is $6 per rifle. During sight-in days, the club is selling fundraiser raffle tickets for a Ruger American Predator bolt-action rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor. The rifle has a stainless barrel and synthetic stock. Raffle tickets cost $10/each or 3/$20. You do NOT have to sight-in a rifle or be present to win – just stop during open hours and buy tickets! For more information, visit www.haywardrodandgun.club.
Ice conditions are inconsistent at best and current weather patterns are not conducive to improving those conditions. Reports of ice thickness range from 2-5 inches and vary greatly by the lake and locations on each lake. Some shorelines and shallow bays appear to have the best ice thickness. Still, it is very early in the season, with nearly all of the fishing ahead of us, and the recommendation is to wait a bit for better, safer ice. For those who insist on going out under these questionable conditions… kiss your spouse, hug your kids, and pet your dog as you go out the door.
Angler interest is mainly on walleye and northern pike. Look for walleye on outside weed edges in depths to 12 feet. Small to medium sucker minnows on tip-ups are the presentations of choice, with best fishing in low early morning hours and about one hour prior to sunset. Target northern pike on inside weedline edges with northern suckers and large shiners on tip-ups. Some anglers are fishing for panfish, often while tending walleye and pike tip-ups. Crappie minnows set in strategic placements could produce crappies and other panfish.
If you must go, use extreme caution, let someone know where you are going and when you will return, wear a PFD, and be sure to take the traditional safety equipment such as rope and ice picks.
Nov. 16-22: Sight-in days at Hayward Rod and Gun Club; $6/rifle. Public welcome (715-634-4912).
Nov. 23: Regular gun deer season opens.
Nov. 26: Duck season closes in North Zone.
Nov. 29: Mourning dove season closes.
Dec. 1: Seasons close: Regular gun deer; Duck and goose in Southern Zone.
Dec. 2: Muzzleloader deer season opens.
Dec. 11: Seasons close: Muzzleloader deer; Bobwhite quail.
Dec. 12-15: Statewide antlerless-only deer hunt.
Dec. 16: Goose season closes in Northern Zone.
Dec. 24-Jan. 1: Antlerless-only Holiday Hunt in farmland units (see regs).
Dec. 25: Christmas Day.