By: Steve Suman
Though blessed by phenomenal weather last week, we are in for a very abrupt reset! A current winter storm watch is in effect for Tuesday and Tuesday night, with more than six inches of snow possible. The forecast is constantly changing, so keep on top of it. Still, for Wednesday – Veterans Day – prognosticators predict sunshine!
“Two weeks ago,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “anglers on the Quiet Lakes were breaking skim ice to launch boats and get into back bays. Last week brought bright, sunny days and temperatures in the 70s, setting new record highs. This week, we have more realistic fall and early winter weather with rain, snow, and lows below freezing.
“The time of day you fish is not a big factor this time of year. Fish are putting on the feed, preparing for winter, and this is arguably the best fishing of the year. Slip-bobber fishing is still catching fish and if you can get out, you are up for a very rewarding outing. The bite should hold into the first stages of ice fishing, which is coming soon enough!
“Muskie anglers are working large musky suckers in areas near vegetative flats and catching some good fish.
“Walleye anglers are doing well fan-casting shorelines, as well as drifting and jigging weed and rock edges with 1/8 oz.-jigs tipped with live bait and plastic tails.
“Anglers continue to pick up a few northern pike and largemouth bass. Fish are back to familiar spring routines so it is best to revert to early spring locations.
“Crappies are still in and around submerged weeds and deeper holes. A light rod with 4- to 6-pound mono, small red hook, split shot, small float, and crappie or fathead minnows is a great late season crappie set-up. If you find the roaming schools of crappies, it can be fun to fish for them with your Vexilar, fishing as you would when ice fishing.”
Trent at Hayward Bait says warm weather reaching 60s and even the 70s last week made for good outdoor recreation.
“Musky anglers are seeing some fish shallow, but most in about 15 feet. Though musky suckers are hard to come by, live bait is working well. Large crankbaits, Magnum Bull Dawgs, and other large rubber baits are the favorites.
“Walleyes are on the bottom of flats and near vegetation in 25-35 feet. Minnows and crawlers on slip bobbers, as well as snap jigs, are doing the job. Trolling requires downriggers or bottom bouncers to get crankbaits deep enough.
“Northern pike moved shallow during the warm-up. Smaller fish are in 3-8 feet; bigger fish are in 8-10 feet. Northern suckers, spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, and swimbaits are all effective.
“Largemouth bass are staging in creek channels and on drop-offs and points. Swimbaits, spoons, and deep diving crankbaits are working well. As the weather cools, drop-shot rigs are productive for suspended fish. The best fishing times are early morning from 6 a.m.-8 a.m. and after dark from 6 p.m.-8 p.m.
“Smallmouth bass are staging in the rivers, but on rock and gravel bottoms in 20-25 feet in the lakes. Crawlers under slip bobbers, Ned rigs, drop-shot rigs, and deep diving crankbaits will pull a few.
“Crappies are in main basins and on flats around vegetation in 25-35 feet, suspending at about 15 feet. River channel openings can also hold a few this time of year. Jigs and minnows, waxies, and larger jigs are working well.
“Bluegills are on structure, vegetation, flats, and main basins in 10-20 feet. Fish favor waxies on jigs, but it is a very light bite.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses Sawyer County’s popular fishing destinations.
“Wisconsin has an almost ridiculous volume and diversity of fishing opportunities. Two great lakes surround the state on two sides, with the Mississippi, St. Croix, and St. Louis rivers surrounding another side. In the interior of the state, you find more large rivers, small trout streams, lakes, flowages, and sloughs.
“A 2014-15 angler diary survey tracked where 1,400 anglers fished throughout the state, offering a fascinating perspective on the waterbodies in which anglers have interest. Naturally, some of the large waterbodies with excellent fisheries that are near population centers topped the list, including Lake Winnebago, Mississippi River, Green Bay, Lake Michigan, and the Wisconsin River.
“It was interesting, however, to see that five waterbodies in Sawyer County made the top 50 lakes. Lake Chetac came in at the #15 spot, which was a little surprising since it is less than 3,000 acres in size. Only two smaller waterbodies ranked higher on the list, but Lake Chetac is a fish factory, as this ranking seems to confirm.
“The Chippewa Flowage was a couple spots lower on the list at #17, while the Chippewa River, part of which is in Sawyer County, came in at the #31 spot, Nelson Lake at #44, and Grindstone in at #50.
“While the entire state is brimming with great fishing spots, we in the Hayward area are lucky to have more than our fair share!”
On Wednesday, November 18, the DNR will host a virtual meeting on Lake Superior resources management that will address proposed new lake trout and cisco quotas, and associated potential rule options. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. The public can access the meeting via Skype or by calling (866) 715-6499 and entering pass code 7599820721#. For more information, contact Brad Ray (715-779-4036).
As of November 4, the turkey harvest in zones 4, 6, and 7 are as follows: Zone 4: 363; Zone 6: 237; Zone 7: 117. Sales of bonus remaining fall turkey authorizations continue at one per person, per day, until the unit sells out or seasons end. Turkey authorizations cost $10 for residents and $15 for nonresidents. In Zone 4, 1,242 bonus harvest permits remain available. No permits remain for zones 6-7. Fall turkey season in zones 6-7 ends Nov. 20, but remains open in zones 1-5 through Jan. 3.
As of November 3, the Sawyer County deer harvest total is 681 deer, consisting of 371 antlered and 310 antlerless. Totals include: Archery – 226 deer (107 antlered, 119 antlerless); Crossbow – 455 deer (264 antlered, 191 antlerless).
Sales continue for bonus antlerless deer tags 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. As of November 9, Sawyer County has 366 bonus tags available for private land harvest.
The DNR is encouraging 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 they purchase 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.
Hayward Rod & Gun Club, three miles east of Hayward on County Road B, is hosting its annual rifle sight-in days for the public November 14-20, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., regardless of weather. The sight-in fee is $6 per rifle and experienced club members can assist with sight-in efforts. There is a mask requirement. The club also has a fundraiser rifle raffle for a Ruger .308 Win. American Predator bolt action with 4-12x scope. Raffle tickets cost $10/each or 3/$20. The drawing is at 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20, and the winner need not be present. For more information, call (715) 634-4912.
Musky anglers are catching some nice fish on mid-depth weed flats and near panfish concentrations. While musky suckers are the first choice, they are currently very difficult, if not impossible, to find in this area. As a result, most anglers are fishing large to extra large stickbaits, jerkbaits, crankbaits, and rubber baits such as Bull Dawgs.
Walleye anglers continue to do well fishing weeds, flats, and rock in 20 to more than 30 feet, with many fish hugging the bottom. Top baits include walleye suckers, fatheads, chubs, crawlers, plastics, and snap jigs. Some anglers are drift fishing, jigging, and slip bobber fishing, while others are trolling crankbaits on bottom bouncers.
Northern pike fishing is good to very good as pike prepare for winter, cruising in and around weeds and panfish and baitfish concentrations. Depths range from 3-15 feet and deeper. Sucker minnows, jerkbaits, spinners, spinnerbaits, spoons, and swimbaits all work. Go deeper with bigger baits for trophy pike.
Largemouth bass success continues, with the best times earlier morning and after dark in the evening. Fish are in a variety of depths, in creek channels and on drop-offs and points. Live bait, swimbaits, spoons, crankbaits, drop-shot rigs, and Ned Rigs are all catching largemouth.
Smallmouth bass anglers continue to do well fishing the rivers and on rock and gravel lake bottoms in 18-28 feet. Drop-shot rigs, Ned Rigs, deep diving crankbaits, sucker minnows, and crawlers under slip bobbers are all productive offerings at this time.
Crappie fishing is good to very good in deeper weeds, holes, basins, and flats in depths to more than 30 feet. Look also for fish suspending over that deep water about midway in the water column. Make sure to check the entire column! Best choice is light tackle with crappie minnows, fatheads, and waxies on jigs, fished under slip bobbers.
Bluegill fishing is good once you locate fish, but the bite is not aggressive. Look from them on flats and in holes, weeds, and other structure in 8-25 feet. Light tackle with waxies, worm chunks, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs and under slip bobbers work well. Try a spring bobber for those delicate bites!
Nov. 19: Crow season closes.
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.