The forecast for this week shows some snow early in the week, which should help deer hunters with tracking. Then we should see some highs in the upper 30s and lower 40s – and even some sunshine. Nice weather… for this time of year!
“That said, there is plenty of open water and anglers can still have good fishing should they elect to go for that last chance to catch a trophy walleye or musky.
“Ice will come soon for the ice anglers, so start preparations now, checking equipment for damage or replacement.
“Here’s wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving!”
Trent at Hayward Bait says anglers waiting for lakes to freeze enough to get on early ice can still get their boat on the water, but should double-check shoreline ice so they do not break trailer lights during launch.
“The few anglers who are getting on the water are mostly after muskies and walleye.
“The musky bite is on large trolled crankbaits and musky suckers for those who have them. On the lakes, most muskies are in 10-15 feet, but rivers can also pay off at this time.
“Walleyes are somewhat deeper during the day, 25-30 feet, but move into the shallows, inside 10 feet, as evening progresses. Jigging walleye suckers works best, along with snap jigs and lipless crankbaits.
“Look for northern pike in 8-15 feet. Most anglers use large shiners, but pike will hit vertically jigged spoons and lipless crankbaits.
“Largemouth bass are on drop-offs, ledges, and main lake basins. Bass activity is slow, requiring slow presentations. Slowly worked jigs, spoons, and jerkbaits are good options at this time.
“Smallmouth bass are on gravel and sand bottoms, main basins, ledges, and humps in 20-25 feet. Slow presentations are again the key. Walleye suckers and bass jigs are good choices for those fishing the icy waters.
“Crappies are staging in main lake basins and cruising bowls in 25 feet. Jigging crappie minnows is a good choice, as are lipless crankbaits and spoons such as Kender K-Rips and Acme Kastmasters.
“Bluegills are in their winter feeding areas and working muck flats and near vegetation 15-20 feet is a good place to start. During the slow days, tipping your favorite jigs with waxies and worms can help.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses new research on dams and musky movement.
“It has been known for some time that muskies have a tendency to go over dams, especially in the spring, and some of my early career was spent working on this exact issue.
“A recent study out of Iowa helps us to better understand musky movement and the types of lakes where ‘dam escapement’ might be more common. Researchers used a database that consisted of more than 5,700 muskellunge captures over 17 years to determine movements of fish in both a complex lake (chain) and a simple one-basin lake.
“One of the less surprising (and pretty intuitive) results was that higher water in spring led to more fish leaving over the dam – more water leaving creates more opportunity for escape. However, the researchers also found the percentage of a population that escaped differed by lake type.
“In simple lakes, researchers estimated that in a single year with high water, as much as 28 percent of the adult population escaped. In the more complex lakes, 16 percent was the highest percentage estimated to escape.
“These results point to how more complex habitat might help ‘hold’ muskies in areas where they would not encounter a dam during the spring. Locally, we see results that anecdotally support these research findings.
“The Chippewa Flowage is large and complex, and though some muskies go over the dam, we would not expect it to be a large percentage of the total population. Compare that to a smaller, simple lake such as Lake Winter, where muskellunge escapement over the dam is probably one of the biggest limiting factors of muskellunge abundance.
“Solutions to dam escapement are challenging to find, despite the wide-spread nature of the problem and the increased research interest.”
This year, the DNR will conclude its three-year sampling study of West Nile virus (WNV) in ruffed grouse and the DNR is asking hunters to use any leftover sampling kits distributed in 2018 and 2019. Ruffed grouse season closes January 3 in the Northern Zone (Zone A). Hunters can use the kits this year or pass them on to friends who will fill them. For instructions, visit the ruffed grouse webpage and look under the “disease sampling” tab.
- Zone 4: 438
- Zone 6: 283
- Zone 7: 150
Fall season in zones 6-7 closed Nov. 20. For hunters who are willing to travel and still interested in hunting turkeys this year, the late fall turkey season in zones 1-5 runs through Jan. 3 and bonus permits remain as follows:
- Zone 1: 4,181
- Zone 2: 15
- Zone 3: 3,944
- Zone 4: 1,212
As of November 17, the Sawyer County deer harvest total for this season (prior to gun deer season) is 1,197 deer, including 736 antlered and 461 antlerless. Current totals include:
- Archery: 388 deer (226 antlered, 162 antlerless)
- Crossbow: 730 deer (477 antlered, 253 antlerless)
- Youth Deer Hunt Oct. 10-11: 79 deer (33 antlered, 46 antlerless)
As of November 23, Sawyer County has no bonus harvest tags available for either private or public land. Ashland, Bayfield, Douglas, and Price counties also have no bonus permits available. Rusk County has 168 public land and 557 private tags available and Washburn County has 872 private land tags available. Sales of bonus antlerless deer tags will continue 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 younger than age 12.
The DNR encourages deer hunters to help families in need through the Deer Donation Program. Hunters can donate a deer at one of the participating meat processors or, when purchasing hunting licenses, make monetary donations to help cover venison processing costs. Make sure to call ahead to the participating processor to make sure it can accept the deer. Since Wisconsin’s Deer Donation Program first began in 2000, hunters have donated more than 92,000 deer –totaling more than 3.7 million pounds of venison! – distributed to food pantries across the state. For more information, visit the DNR website at www.dnr.wisconsin.gov.
The DNR will host a virtual public meeting Thursday, December 3, starting at 6:30 p.m., concerning a proposed musky size limit change from 28 to 40 inches on Butternut Lake in Price and Ashland counties. For more information, contact Jeff Scheirer at (715) 762-1354.
Musky season runs through December 31 so there is still time to catch that big fish during this “trophy” time. Big fish are on their pre-winter feed and weather patterns allow for open water, but launches might be “iffy,” so use caution. If you go, use common sense, and think ahead – the water is not frozen, but it IS very cold!
Musky anglers are still chasing after trophy fish (I’ve seen them… the anglers, not the trophies) and doing well. Sucker fishing is the way to go IF you can find suckers (good luck with that). Most anglers are casting large rubber baits, stickbaits, jerkbaits, and crankbaits, and trolling large stickbaits and crankbaits. Best success in general is coming from 10-15 feet on the lakes, but do not overlook rivers during this part of the season!
Walleye anglers who are enduring the elements are reaping the rewards of pulling large fish into their boats. During the day, look for fish in depths to 30 feet. In late afternoon into evening hours, focus on shallower water inside of 10 feet. Baits of choice include walleye suckers, snap jigs, Jigging Raps, and crankbaits.
Northern pike fishing is fair to very good, depending on the lake and time. Work northern suckers and large shiners, or jigging spoons and lipless crankbaits, targeting weeds and panfish/baitfish concentrations in 8-20 feet.
The few largemouth anglers still chasing these fish are doing surprisingly well, given the conditions! Slowly working jigs, jerkbaits, and spoons in main lake basins and on ledges and drop-offs can move the fish to hit.
Smallmouth bass anglers continue to catch some very nice fish holding on sand and gravel bottoms, humps, ledges, and deep holes in 18-28 feet. Walleye suckers, swim jigs, and plastics – worked slowly – are producing good catches.
Crappie fishing is good when you locate the mobile schools in holes and lake basins in depths to 30 feet. Crappie minnows, waxies, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs and plain hooks work well, but do not overlook jigging small spoons and lipless crankbaits.
Bluegills are heading to, or now residing in, their winter holding areas on muck flats and vegetation in mid-depth and deeper water. Waxies, worms, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs and teardrops are all effective at enticing bluegills.
Nov. 19: Crow season closed.
Nov. 28: A Lure of Lights Open House – Hayward Main St. Horse-drawn sleigh rides 12-3 p.m. (800-724-2992).
Nov. 29: Mourning dove season closes.
Dec. 21: Winter solstice. First day of winter – and shortest day of the year!
Jan. 25: Crow season opens.