by: Steve Suman
The current weather forecast for Thanksgiving Day looks reasonably good, but the days leading up to and following it not so much, particularly Tuesday night through Wednesday. Snow accumulation estimates are in a state of flux. People traveling for the holiday should keep up-to-the-minute current on conditions and make common sense decisions, which might very well require adjusting travel plans. Safe travels and Happy Thanksgiving!
“This is by far the earliest ice we have experienced in a long while,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “and anglers began testing the Quiet Lakes for safe ice in early November. They managed to find some on smaller lakes and in shallow bays, and since then, additional ice opportunities have arisen.
“My rule of thumb is that 4 inches of ice is safe for walking, though it is better to have 6 inches. Some small, shallower lakes have that already, but by no means do we encourage anglers to go out on the ice. This time of year, it is especially important to go with an avid hard-water angler and someone who understands the lake. Follow standard ice fishing safety guidelines, take safety equipment, and not do ‘iffy’ things. In other words, use common sense.
“Most anglers are reporting some good action in 2-10 feet. To target walleyes, use tip-ups to fish walleye suckers and fatheads on the bottom during low light times. The fish are especially aggressive just before sunset, and the best tactic is jigging small spoons tipped with minnow heads while paying attention to your electronics.
“Catch northern pike during daylight hours by rigging tip-ups with leaders, red trebles, split shot, and large shiners and walleye suckers. Thought pike eat at all depths, start baits just under the ice to about halfway down the water column. Pike have eyes that allow them to look up, so placing bait on the bottom is not good – suspend the bait just under the ice.
“The nine-day gun deer season is open, so be sure to wear some bright orange if you are walking in the woods. Whatever you do, be safe out there!”
Trent at Hayward Bait says it is that time again – regular gun deer season is open and many anglers are enjoying their first ice fishing outings of the season.
“Expect anywhere from 3-5 inches of ice on most small waterbodies, while the bigger lakes might still have areas of open water.
“If you are trying for early ice walleyes, look for them on the outside edges of weed beds in 5-10 feet. Walleye suckers on tip-ups are the favorite bait choice. If you prefer to use a pole, tip a jig with a walleye sucker.
“Northern pike are also staging in about 5-10 feet, but on the inside edges of the weed beds. Rigging northern suckers on tip-ups is the choice of most pike anglers.
“Crappies are staging in about 20 feet, but with the mild temperatures the ice could still be quite thin out that far. Bluegills are typically hanging in about 10 feet and waxies and spikes on tungsten jigs are good options.
“Be sure to check the ice and take appropriate safety precautions before you go out on the hard water.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses 2019 Hayward area fish surveys.
“I can say with confidence that the Hayward DNR Fish Team will perform no additional fish surveys in 2019. We have tabulated everything and here, in fish, is the story of our year.
“During our spring and fall surveys, we surveyed 29 lakes and completed trout surveys on an additional nine streams and rivers. In total, we handled 25,874 fish representing 48 different species, excluding hybrids.
“Breaking down the total by species, bluegills made up the largest chunk of the total with 8,559 sampled, followed by walleye (4,670), black crappie (2,725), and yellow perch (2,153). It is worth noting that crappie and perch are undoubtedly more common in our lakes than walleye, but walleye are the main target of many fisheries surveys.
“For big fish, we handled 350 muskellunge and 54 lake sturgeon. The longest fish of the year was a 63.3-inch female sturgeon from the Chippewa River. The smallest fish measured was a 1-inch Nelson Lake bluegill.
“The rarest fish we handled were two troutperch; two channel catfish (one from the Chippewa Flowage and one from Teal Lake!); two burbot; three greater redhorse; and three cisco.
“Hybrid species encountered included five tiger muskellunge (northern pike x muskellunge) and 46 pumpkinseed x bluegill hybrids.”
Wisconsin’s nine-day gun deer season is in session, and the DNR says as of Nov. 17 license sales for gun, bow, crossbow, sports, and patron licenses reached 538,643, an increase of 494 licenses compared to 2018. Two areas already exceeded last year’s sales totals for the entire season. Individual crossbow license sales to date are up 10 percent over last year’s season total. The number of licenses for young children also remains strong, with 3,648 children under the age of nine already holding a license this year, compared to 2,257 in 2018.
The DNR reminds hunters to know the deer transportation regulations and their deer carcass disposal options. Movement of deer carcasses infected with chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a pathway for the disease to spread and carcass movement restrictions are in place to limit the spread of the disease. It is vital that deer carcasses, including all bones and other deer carcass waste from butchering, are disposed of in a way to reduce this infection risk. Proper disposal is a factor in containing the spread of CWD and the DNR is committed to providing safe, convenient disposal options to hunters, especially in areas where options are limited or unavailable. Hunters from other states/provinces should be aware of their state’s carcass movement restrictions of Wisconsin harvested deer before heading home.
People interested in cutting a Christmas tree for personal use can obtain a permit to cut a tree at a northern state forest, including the Brule River and Flambeau River state forests in this area, as well as Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Permits are available from property headquarters for a nominal fee. People may also harvest fresh evergreen boughs with the non-commercial forest products permit. The DNR encourages visitors to learn a few basics before heading to the woods. For example, the maximum height is 30 feet and regulations prohibit harvest within 100 feet of visual distance of roads, trails, water, campgrounds, and day-use areas. Harvesters must cut trees at ground level, and cannot sell trees taken from state forests. For more information, search “Christmas tree cutting permits” on the DNR website.
Hayward’s free A “Lure” of Lights for 2019 begins Friday Nov. 29 and runs through Dec. 21. Participating merchants and community members put on the annual season celebration, joyful gatherings, and events. Each year, they strive to create family-centered events, parades, light shows, and contests – run entirely by volunteers and funded through donations – that draw visitors to the area to experience the true beauty of Hayward. For more information, visit www.alureoflights.com.
The DNR seeks the public’s help in the case of an adult male shot Sunday, November 24, during opening weekend of gun deer season. The victim was deer hunting in Minong Township in Washburn County. The DNR Law Enforcement Bureau is looking for information regarding individuals or groups who were hunting about 11 a.m. in the Minong Township block of Washburn County land bordered by East Sleepy Eye Road, south of Sleepy Eye Fire Land, north of Nancy Lake Road, and west of CCC Road. Anyone with information, no matter how insignificant, should relay it to the DNR Violation Tip Line online, by text, or phone (800) 847-9367.
Warm temperatures and rain affected local ice conditions and anglers should use extreme caution. Go with a friend, wear a PFD, take safety equipment, and check the ice as you go.
Walleyes are on weed edges in 2-10 feet. Fish on the bottom with walleye suckers and fatheads on jigs and tip-ups, and with spoons tipped with minnow heads. Action is decent during low light periods, but fishing is best during the last hour of sunlight.
Northern pike anglers are doing well in the same areas as walleye, but with northern suckers and large shiners on tip-ups, keeping bait in the upper third of the water column.
Crappies are in depths to 20 feet, hitting crappie minnows, plastics, and Gulp! baits.
For bluegills, fish small jigs tipped with waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits around weeds in depths to 10 feet.
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 season; 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.