By: Steve Suman
This week’s forecast for the North Woods indicates snow from Wednesday into the weekend, followed by a major change to colder temperatures starting Saturday and continuing into the New Year. It would be most helpful to get the cold temperatures to build more ice depths before receiving any major snowfall, but the lengthy period of subzero low temperature might overcome the snow pack insulation.
“The Quiet Lakes still have some areas of soft ice, with less than an inch in some places,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “and as such, few anglers, if any, are fishing on Lost Land and Teal lakes.
“While snowmobile trails are open, the swamps are not yet frozen and crews have not staked lake snowmobiles trails. More snow and cold is on the way and should help the situation.”
“There is 4-6 inches of ice on most of the smaller lakes and shallow larger lakes. Most of the deeper lakes have some ice, but still less than 4 inches, and we do not recommend any ATV, UTV, or snowmobile travel at this time. Plenty of anglers are getting out on foot, but be careful – and always check conditions.
“Walleye fishing is decent, with most anglers focusing on shallower water with walleye suckers and medium shiners on tip-ups. Always try jigging some rattle spoons and Jigging Rapalas as well.
“Northern pike are providing some good action on the weed flats and edges, with the best bet larger shiners under tip-ups.
“Crappie action is usually a little deeper, on spoons and tungsten jigs. Panfish anglers are finding some bluegill action around the weeds on jigs tipped with waxies and spikes.”
Mike at Jenk’s says Chippewa Flowage ice depth is about 5 inches, with roughly 4-6 inches on back bays, but always exercise caution on the ice!
“Walleye season on the Flowage closed November 30, but Round, Lost Land, and Teal lakes are usually productive with walleye suckers. Northern pike fishing just started and the few reports so far indicate shiners are the way to go.
“The crappie bite also started and most anglers report success primarily on live bait, so try crappie minnows.”
Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says Chequamegon Bay completely iced over and there is good lake access right behind the shop.
“At this point, anglers are walking and spudding their way out. On the Ashland side, water clarity is okay and we have 4-6 inches of ice about halfway out to the lighthouse. So far, anglers report whitefish, northern pike, and perch, with most using lake shiners, crappie minnows, and waxies.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses inspiration and mentoring concerning the outdoors.
“This week, I would like to share a personal story from which others can perhaps draw inspiration.
“My dad taught me how to fish, as dads often do for many future anglers. However, a close friend’s dad, Art Bernhardt, worked for the DNR and every time I was around him, I would get the sense Art knew all these secrets about the outdoors, the kinds of things I was desperate to learn.
“For a kid obsessed with fishing, and later hunting, it was inspirational to learn that Art had converted those same passions into a DNR career. Art’s influence, along with that of my dad and grandpa, who also loved to fish, set me on a course of lifelong enjoyment of the outdoors through fishing and a career of working to make fishing better for others.
“Art Bernhardt passed away a little more than a decade ago, but he left behind a wonderful legacy in his son, Art Jr., who is now a fisheries biologist in Florida. I would like to consider myself a part of his legacy as well.
“It is my hope that hearing about this kind of experience reminds you that you can be a great outdoor inspiration for the young people in your life. Consider becoming a mentor for others or joining one of the many conservation groups that promote outdoor education and mentoring.
“The passion for conservation and enjoyment of the natural resources in our state exists only because one generation passes it down to the next generation.”
SNOWMOBILE TRAIL REPORT
The DNR reminds snowmobilers to make sure their snowmobile registrations are current and their snowmobiles display a valid trail pass. You can order trail passes online (as well as renew registration). Wisconsin requires a trail pass to operate on all public snowmobile trails. There are two types of trail passes for snowmobiles registered in Wisconsin. A $10 discounted annual trail pass is available to owners of snowmobiles who currently belong to a Wisconsin snowmobile club affiliated with the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs (AWSC). The annual trail pass is $30 for owners of snowmobiles who are not members of a snowmobile club affiliated with the AWSC. A nonresident snowmobile trail pass is $50 for snowmobiles registered in/in the process of registration in another state, province, or country. Make your selection carefully because snowmobile trail passes are not refundable.
The December 18 HLVCB trail report says the season is off to a good start, with great snow (12-15 inches) in the northern part of the county and fair amounts in the southern part. Groomers are out on the Seeley Hills and Moose Lake trails, giving them a 3- to 6-inch base. Trails are partially open, as lakes and wetlands have yet to freeze due to the snow insulation. Tuscobia Trail is open and groomers are grooming this week. Chequamegon Forest trails are also open. Bayfield County is open and the Cable area is grooming with a base of 4-6 inches. Ashland County is partially open, Price reports fair conditions, and Washburn and Rusk counties remain closed.
The December 15 Cable area trail report says all snowmobile trails in the Cable area and Bayfield County officially opened Dec. 15, with the trails in early season condition. We received decent snowfall in the past few days, with more in the forecast, however, swamps and wet areas still require some packing to get a hard frost in the ground. Snowmobile clubs are out opening gates, clearing trails of downed trees, and packing trails. Grooming operations are underway where conditions permit. Watch for groomers and be safe on trails. Crews have not yet staked the trails on Cable area lakes.
The December 15 Lakewoods trail report says the area has 8-12 inches of snow and trails officially opened Dec. 15. Trails are in early season condition and the lakes are still not yet safe for travel. Clubs are opening gates, clearing recent tree falls, and packing trails. Grooming will begin in areas where conditions permit. A few riders have commented that the trails are better than they expected for early season riding, but still have the usual rough spots.
Ice depths are slowly increasing, as is fishing interest and activity. However, choose your spots carefully and use extreme caution (seriously!) if you decide to venture onto the ice. Some areas have more than five inches of ice, while other areas might have an inch. Use a spud bar and check as you go, following common sense safety procedures. Check with your favorite bait shop to get the most recent information on ice thickness and problem areas.
Walleye fishing is fair to good in shallower areas. Use tip-ups with walleye suckers and shiners, or try Jigging Rapalas and jigging spoons.
Northern pike action is good in/on/over/ and around weeds, weed flats, and weed edges, with most anglers using large shiners under tip-ups.
Crappie fishing is fair to good in/over deeper water. Best baits include crappie minnows, spoons, and tungsten jigs.
Dec. 16: North Exterior Zone Canada goose season closed.
Dec. 24-Jan. 1: Antlerless-only Holiday Hunt – farmland units only.
Dec. 25: Period 1 Bobcat season closes.
Dec. 26: Period 2 Bobcat season opens.
Dec. 31: Seasons close: Pheasant; Fall turkey zones 1, 5; Hungarian partridge; Fisher trapping; Frog.
Jan. 7: Late archery deer season closes.
Jan. 20: Northland Area Builders – 8th Annual ice fishing event (715-296-7881).
Jan. 31: Seasons close: Squirrel; Ruffed grouse in zone A (northern zone); Bobcat hunting/trapping season Period 2.
Feb. 17: Drummond Sno Jacks Bar Stool Races (715-739-6645).
Feb. 22-24: American Birkebeiner (715-634-5025).