This week should be somewhat mild ‑ IF the forecast holds at its current prediction ‑ with highs in the mid to upper 30s and lows dancing around in the 20s. It also shows chances for various types of precipitation. Go with the flow and dress appropriately. In the North Woods, adapting is the name of the game, not to mention a necessity!
“Most Quiet Lakes’ anglers have given up on open-water fishing,” says Pat at Happy Hooker. “Ice is forming in shallow bays and along the shorelines and open water season is basically over for this year. Anglers who really want to get out can still conceivably do so, but if you go, wear a life jacket and dress warmly.
“It is time to prepare for ice season. My rule of thumb is that 4 inches of ice is ‘safe’ for walking, though it is better to have 6 inches. By no means do we encourage anglers to get on the ice! This time of year, it is important to go with an avid, hard-water angler who understands the lake. Follow ice fishing safety guidelines, take safety equipment, and not do ‘iffy’ things. In other words, use common sense.
“Early ice can be dangerous, so use a spud or auger to check ice thickness as you work your way out, and then look for deep weed edges, the greener weeds the better. Set tip-ups with walleye suckers, fatheads, and shiners on those edges in afternoon and evening hours to catch walleyes moving shallower to feed. At the start of the season, the best time is early evening through 8 p.m.
“Northern pike anglers can catch fish during daylight hours by rigging tip-ups with leaders, red trebles, split shot, and large walleye suckers and shiners. Pike eat at all depths, but start baits just under the ice to about halfway down the water column. Pike look up, so suspend baits just under the ice.
“Gun deer hunters offered mixed reports, but muzzleloader season runs through December 8 and archery season continues statewide through January 9.
“With the sub-freezing temperatures, it is important to drain all water from boats and motors now. Trim the motor all the way down, wait five minutes, and turn the key for a dry start to blow any remaining water out of the engine.”
“Jarrett at Hayward Bait says most small lakes and ponds have formed some ice and a few anglers are starting to venture onto it, but as we transition from open water to hard water, there are not yet many reports.
“Many walleyes will be shallow at this time. Bays with depths 4-15 feet will hold fish throughout the day. However, we are starting to focus on primetime bites. During daylight hours, most walleyes move to deep water adjacent to shallow bays. In the evening, during low light periods, and starting roughly between 3-4 p.m. in the afternoon, fish move in to feed on small bluegills and perch. The key to success is an early set-up. In such shallow water with thin ice, sound travels far and can easily spook fish. If the bite starts at 3 p.m., set up at 2 p.m. or even earlier on cloudy days. With clouds creating low light periods, anglers could have success during the day.
“For northern pike, now that we have ice, warm water will no longer keep these fish out of the shallows ‑ and that is where they will head. As with walleyes and the rest of the food chain, pike will roam the bays during the day. If you are looking for action, lively shiners and walleye suckers under tip-ups and dead sticks will work. If you are looking for giants, big northern suckers and properly preserved dead baits are the trick. Before using dead baits in any waterbody, make sure to check the regulations.
“Largemouth bass venture shallow in the early winter to seek whatever shelter remains. Stumps, sticks, weeds, and any other type of structure will draw fish – and usually good numbers of fish. They are starting to get more lethargic now with the cold months, but these fish are always willing to eat an easy meal in front of them. If fish seem too lethargic, small crappie minnows and even jigs can tempt the biggest bass.
“Smallmouth bass are heading to deep rock bars for shelter amongst the boulders and to feed on smaller insects and crawfish. They normally school during winter months, but it will be a while before most anglers can reach wintering fish. Use electronics to access the schools when you are able. They are a blast to catch through the ice, but without the aerial acrobatics.
“Crappies and bluegills are pushing into bays and what is left of green weeds and structure to feed on remaining bugs and minnows. Crappies function similar to walleyes, with a movement close to dark. Normally, you will see these schools move through on your electronics before walleyes start to move. Make sure to stay mobile, as ‘mobile’ is a crappie’s middle name. Bluegills roam all day and pick up baits as they encounter them.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter welcomes new supervisor Aaron Cole.
“Members of the DNR Hayward Fish Team are pleased to share the news that the DNR has promoted Aaron Cole as their supervisor.
“Aaron served as a biologist for Barron and Polk counties for nine years before this promotion. In addition to supervising the Hayward Team, Aaron will oversee the Spooner, Brule, and Barron teams in a seven-county area. The biologist positions in Barron and Brule are currently vacant, and one of Aaron’s first big tasks will be filling those chairs.
“We know Aaron very well, having worked with him for many years. He brings a great deal of experience as a biologist and long-standing member of the DNR Musky Management Team, knowledge that will certainly be useful for issues in the Hayward area.
“We look forward to bringing Aaron in as a resource to help move projects forward and improve the fish management program for Hayward area lakes.”
The DNR says early results from show bear hunters harvested 3,802 bears during the 2021 black bear season, a decrease from the 4,306 taken last year, but similar to 2018 and 2019 harvests.
Statewide hunter success of 32 percent was nearly equal to the last several years.
Hunter success was 62 percent in Zone A in the north and 56 percent in Zone B in the northeastern part of the state.
In the northwest, the DNR increased the Zone D quota and license levels to reduce the bear population and agricultural damage issues. Despite hunters taking only 70 percent of the quota, 1,251 bears, it was the area’s highest harvest in at least a decade. Projections indicate the harvest level will likely result in a slight population reduction.
While neither Zone E in the western nor Zone F in the southern part of the state reached harvest quotas, the harvest in those areas was at or above the levels of recent years.
Nearly 130,000 people, a record number, applied for a bear hunting license or preference point for the 2021 season.
“Interest in bear hunting continues to grow in Wisconsin and across the nation,” says DNR large carnivore specialist Randy Johnson. “We encourage the public to review management zone boundaries and license wait times as they make their hunting plans.”
Deer seasons continue and many bonus antlerless harvest authorizations remain available, albeit most are for hunters hunting private land. As of Nov. 29, the DNR website shows authorizations available in the following counties: Sawyer 7,030; Washburn 702; Rusk 215 public, 5,687 private; Price 6,420; and Bayfield 3,463. 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 locations, online at Go Wild, or at any open DNR service center.
As of Monday November 29, the DNR did not have a preliminary harvest summary available for the nine-day gun deer season. The Sawyer County deer harvest total so far this season, as of November 23, is 1,734 deer, including 1,107 antlered and 627 antlerless. These totals include:
- Archery: 284deer (192 antlered, 92 antlerless)
- Crossbow: 583 deer (395 antlered, 188 antlerless)
- Youth Deer Hunt Oct. 9-10: 47 deer (18 antlered, 29 antlerless)
Deer hunters who are enjoying success this season should consider sharing their bounty by donating 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.
Vote for Hayward in the America’s Main Street Contest and help Hayward win $25,000! Hayward made it to the Top 25 and needs your help to get to the Top 10. Through December 12, you can vote up to 25 times per day (do it!) to move Hayward into the final round.
Main Streets are the heartbeat of America’s cities and towns, playing an important part in the long-term success of communities. When Main Streets are strong, so are the communities that surround them. The America’s Main Street goal is to promote Main Streets’ importance and strong economic benefits and the small businesses that help them thrive.
The transition from open water to ice fishing is happening, but mild temperatures this week will probably not allow much headway in lake ice production.
Walleye anglers should note that walleye season on the Chippewa Flowage closes Tuesday, November 30.
Musky fishing season closes December 31 on open water in the Northern Zone north of US Highway 10. The DNR considers open water to include any conditions that do not allow use of ice as a platform for fishing.
Nov. 29: Mourning dove season closed 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.
Jan. 15-16: Free Fishing Weekend.
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.