by: Steve Suman
Monday night’s 10-degree low missed the projected single-digit, 9-degree low forecast by one degree. Whew, that was close! Otherwise, it might have been a bit chilly! Looks like a cooler than average week ahead for November, as the average high is 42 degrees and the average low 22 degrees. The forecast has no mention of precipitation, so conditions should be good for Thanksgiving Day travelers. If we look (and yes, sometimes it takes some effort), we all have “something” in our lives for which we can and should be thankful. Happy Thanksgiving!
“Midway through November and we are finally starting to get hints of ice season,” says Pat at Happy Hooker. “This is a little different from last year when the Quiet Lakes’ ice was ahead of normal at this time, but we can only receive what Mother Nature gives us!
“Some deer hunters, though not all, report good rut activity in the woods and this past weekend was the start of the traditional Wisconsin nine-day gun deer season.
“Many anglers will be in treestands and hunting during the deer season, enjoying the solitary relaxation of being in the woods, but I will be talking with anglers to get an idea of what is happening on our lakes.
“Lake temperatures have dropped to the lower 40s, depending on the waterbody. Some small ponds and rivers have had skim ice, and water temperatures will keep dropping until ice up.
“Anglers who are fishing should concentrate their efforts on the shallows ‑ and it is important to not spook the fish. This time of year, a good tactic is long casting stickbaits and using slow retrieves. The best bite window is in mid-afternoon when the sun and air temperatures are warmest.
“Be safe and good luck to all hunters and anglers out enjoying the great outdoors!”
Jarrett at Hayward Bait says most musky anglers have switched to trolling big baits with the cold temperatures.
“Trolling is easier on hands and equipment and can prolong your time on the water. Anglers are catching many fish in 10-20 feet, but muskies are all over the lakes. Watch for cisco, whitefish, etc., that will spawn in the next few weeks. Muskies will stage over deep water to take advantage of this food source.
“Some walleyes are still deep, but most moved to areas adjacent to bays and areas with structure. They make daily movements into shallow water to feed on small minnows, bluegills, perch, and baitfish hiding in structure and remaining weeds. Moving crankbaits and jerkbaits slowly works well for active anglers, but walleye suckers under slip bobbers will do the trick until we reach ice-up.
“Northern pike fishing is very similar to fish for walleye. Pike are moving in to gorge on panfish that moved to the shelter of the last remaining weeds in the lake. Sometime in late December, the pike will disperse and follow panfish to deep water, but in the meantime, there is plenty of action!
“There are no recent bass reports, but largemouth, as with pike and walleye, should be moving shallow to feed on small baitfish. They will not school heavily in the winter months, but you will find well-built fish from now through the ice season. Do not be afraid to upsize baits. Fish look for big meals during the cold months ‑ one big, easy, slow-moving meal that will keep them set for a few days between snacks.
“Crappies and bluegills have moved shallow. These fish will be in the bays and shallow water for a few weeks until there is a few inches of ice. Crappies will roam, while bluegills will hold tight to some type of structure during the day. Prime time bites are best for crappies, but bluegill anglers on most waters can pick off fish throughout the day. Once ice sets in, the fish will move to lake basins to chase micro invertebrates on the lake bottom.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses a walleye regulation proposal for Sand Lake.
“Sand Lake in Sawyer County has been a popular walleye fishery for many years, despite a drop in production during the late 90s and early 2000s. The recovery of the population is a true success story and a testament to the collaboration between the LCO tribe, anglers, and the DNR. However, recent surveys indicate we might need a new walleye regulation to maintain a desirable abundance of walleye in Sand Lake.
“The current regulation ‑ no minimum length limit, only 1 fish greater than 14 inches, and a 3-fish daily bag limit ‑ allows a considerable amount of angler harvest. Such a regulation could be sustainable if natural reproduction was consistently strong, but in recent years, we have seen weaker year class production and a corresponding drop in the density of adult walleye.
“In situations such as this, the DNR has the ability to revert back to the statewide regulation ‑ 15-inch minimum length limit, no harvest between 20-24 inches, only 1 fish greater than 24 inches, and a 3-fish daily bag limit. The proposed rule change would offer additional protection to adult walleye and we expect it will increase the density of adult walleye while still allowing some harvest.
“The Sand Lake Association has written a letter in support of this change and other measures to improve the walleye fishery. A public notice about this proposed change appeared in the Nov 17, 2021 edition of the Sawyer County Record. Mention of it here is an additional effort to inform the public of this rule proposal.
“Citizens are welcome to submit a request for a public meeting on the proposal, particularly if they have concerns. Send the requests to email@example.com, or to Max Wolter, 10220N State Hwy 27S, Hayward, WI 54843. The deadline for those requests is December 15. If this proposal advances, it will take effect May 7, 2022.”
The DNR continues to encourage hunters to donate Wisconsin-harvested deer to the Deer Donation Program to stock food pantries and support residents in need throughout the state. Deer harvested in CWD-affected counties require testing for CWD before/at the time of donation. Processors hold the venison until learning test results. For more information, search “Deer Donation Program” on the DNR website.
Many bonus antlerless harvest authorizations remain available for hunters hunting private land. Currently (as of Nov. 22) the website shows authorizations available in the following counties: Sawyer 7,106; Washburn 834; Rusk 5,796; Price 6,527; and Bayfield 3,546. No bonus permits are available in Ashland and Douglas counties. Hunters can fill bonus authorizations with any weapon type in the zone, county, and land type designated on the authorization.
Bonus authorizations are available on a first-come, first-served basis for $12/resident, $20/non-resident, and $5/youth hunter younger than age 12. Hunters can purchase authorizations at more than 1,000 license sales agent locations, online at Go Wild, or at any open DNR service center.
As of November 16, Sawyer County’s deer harvest total for this season so far is 835 deer, including 553 antlered and 282 antlerless. These totals include:
- Archery: 262 deer (177 antlered, 85 antlerless)
- Crossbow: 526 deer (358 antlered, 168 antlerless)
- Youth Deer Hunt Oct. 9-10: 47 deer (18 antlered, 29 antlerless)
All hunters must register their deer electronically by 5 p.m. the day after recovering the deer. GameReg is simple, fast, and convenient, requires the tag or harvest authorization number, and prompts hunters to answer a series of questions.
Hunters have four options to register their deer:
- By phone (844) 426-3734
- Online at wi.gov (fastest and easiest option)
- At an in-person registration station
Visit the DNR’s GameReg electronic game registration webpage for more information.
This season’s open water fishing is near the end and this week will surely be the final nail in its coffin. Look for single-digit nightly lows and most daily highs topping out in the mid-30s. Depending on how quickly the open water to ice fishing transition occurs, fishing reports will be thin (at best) until ice is thick (safely walk-on thick). This is a good time to organize ice fishing gear and prepare for the upcoming season. Just do not get in “too big” of a hurry! Be safe!
Musky fishing is good, with many if not most anglers opting to troll large stickbaits and crankbaits over depths to 30 feet. Casting anglers are throwing big baits ‑ Bull Dawgs, jerkbaits, bucktails ‑ as well as dragging suckers on quick-strike rigs. This is “big fish” time and live bait can make the difference!
Walleye action is fair to good. Fish are somewhat dispersed at different depths and on assorted types of structure, including weeds holding panfish and baitfish. Early and late in the day offer the best bite windows. Walleye suckers and fatheads on jigs and/or under slip bobbers, and jerkbaits and crankbaits fished slowly are the favored offerings.
Northern pike fishing is good to very good in and around shallow to mid-depth weeds and structure, and wherever you find baitfish and panfish concentrations. Northern and walleye suckers, minnows, minnowbaits, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and stickbaits will all tempt pike.
Largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing is currently not a top priority for most anglers, but fishing is fair to good for those targeting these fish. Look for fish at various depths, but particularly around schools of panfish. Live bait and artificials fished slowly will attract their attention.
Crappie fishing is good, with early morning and later afternoon into evening offering the best opportunities. Fish are around mid-depth to shallow weeds, brush, and other structure, and moving around in bays. Crappie minnows, fatheads, Mini-Mites, Tattle-Tails, and Gulp! baits are all producing action.
Bluegill fishing is fair to good, with fish holding near shallow structure such as weeds, weed edges, cribs, and brush. Standard baits such as waxies, worm pieces, plastics, and Gulp! baits work well fished on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks under slip bobbers.
Nov. 18: Crow season closed.
Nov. 23: Duck season closes in Northern Zone.
Nov. 29: Mourning dove season closes statewide.
Dec. 16: Goose season closes in Northern Zone.
Dec. 24-Jan 1: Antlerless-only Holiday Deer Hunt in select Farmland/Zone 2 counties (see regs).
Dec. 31: Musky season closes.
For more information on area events and activities, visit the Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau and Hayward Area Chamber of Commerce websites, view the Calendar of Events, or call (715) 634-8662 or 800-724-2992.