The North Woods received an abundance (some might say over-abundance) of snow this past weekend. However, this heavy, water-laden snow combining with relatively mild temperatures and sunshine will likely delay some snowmobile and ski trail grooming and degrade already questionable ice conditions. The current forecast indicates no additional snowfall until the weekend, but as always, the predictions are subject to change.
“It is very rare to have ice fishing opportunities on the Quiet Lakes this early in the season,” says Pat at Happy Hooker. “The bigger, deeper waterbodies still do not have safe ice and no one should attempt to walk on them. Ice on the smaller, shallower lakes set up nicely, but is also sketchy. Shorelines softened and weakened along the edges and the considerable wet, heavy snow will push down the ice. Play it safe – it is very important to check the ice as you go. If you go on the ice, please be very careful.
“Anglers fishing small, shallow waters report decent success on walleye, northern pike, and bass on mini-breaks close to shorelines in 5-15 feet. Action is mostly on pike and bass during the day.
“Walleye fishing is best in late afternoon into after dark when the fish approach shallower water to feed on baitfish. Bring tip-up lights for the low-light times, and a pair of ice cleats and a headlamp come in handy, as well.
“During the day, fish shallower water for panfish, setting a tip-up rigged for predator fish nearby. Move deeper with the approach of darkness. Electronics are important, but it is also important to practice sound control – being silent and not spooking fish is a big deal!”
Trent at Hayward Bait says the past weekend brought mild temperatures, strong winds – and a bunch of snow!
“If you make it past the open shorelines, there is maybe 4-8 inches of ice. Larger waterbodies have minimal cover, with some completely open. Bring ice picks, float suits, and a spud bar to check ice thickness as you go.
“Walleye and northern pike are hitting best in 6-12 feet. Tip-ups with sucker minnows and shiners work for both species, and you might snag a few bass. Make sure to work weedlines, rock piles, and other good structure.
“Walleye are on outside weed edges and rock piles. If you jig, Lindy Glow Streaks, Jigging Raps, and JR’s Stop Sign spoons are good options. Best times are early morning and late afternoon to early evening, with evenings more productive.
“Northern pike are tight to weeds. If jigging, try larger Swedish Pimples, Tinglers, and lipless crankbaits.
“Crappie anglers should start in 20-30 feet, with Kastmaster spoons, Hyper Glide jigs, and standard jigs tipped with live bait good options.
“For bluegills, jigging is a good way to put fish on the table. If fish are fussy, try tipping lead jigs with Nuclear Ant Legs to trigger those soft bites.
“Whatever species you target, fish with a friend and stay safe!”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the Tiger Cat Chain management plan.
“In the Hayward area, the Tiger Cat Chain, comprised of Upper and Lower Twin, McClaine, Burns, and Placid, lakes, and the Tiger Cat Flowage, is a special place for many anglers. Historically, it was a consistent producer of muskellunge and a popular place to catch largemouth bass.
“In 2006, DNR fisheries management staff met with interested stakeholders to begin production of a fisheries management plan for the chain. Stakeholders provided feedback on the species for which they had the most interest and their management preferences for those species, such as catch and release vs. harvest, for example.
“A variety of factors delayed completion of the plan for many years, but the DNR finalized it in October 2019, at a critical time for the Tiger Cat Chain.
“Northern pike, a relatively new species to the chain, pose a significant management problem for muskellunge. In the 20 years since the first documentation of pike in Tiger Cat, the muskellunge population has changed dramatically, from an abundant, small-bodied population to a less-dense population with bigger top-end size. Maintaining a fishable density of muskellunge is a key objective in the management plan.
“Walleye, largemouth bass, and black crappie are other species of interest, with each posing their own unique challenges in this lake chain. The plan lays out targets for abundance and size of each species that, if achieved, will deliver quality fishing opportunities for anglers.
“Tiger Cat Lake Association has been a fantastic partner in managing this chain and we look forward to continuing our work with them towards achieving the plan’s goals.”
The DNR has released preliminary deer harvest totals for opening weekend and will release preliminary season totals Tuesday, Dec. 3. You can view those totals by visiting 2019 Wisconsin deer harvest summary on the DNR website. The summary includes reports on the nine-day gun deer hunt, as well as archery, crossbow, muzzleloader, youth, and antlerless seasons. You can compare this year and last by visiting “Compare 2018 and 2019 Deer Harvest” on the DNR website. Hunters registered 46,866 bucks on opening weekend, compared to 67,636 in 2018. According to DNR big game ecologist Kevin Wallenfang, the 2018 season was the earliest possible and 2019 season the latest possible. This occurred for the 2007-08 and 2012-13 seasons as well, which experienced declines in opening weekend registrations, too. For more information, search “2019 Wisconsin deer harvest summary” on the DNR website.
Five Wisconsin hunters experienced success during the state’s second managed elk hunt this fall. The state awarded five bull-only tags and all five hunters were successful. In addition, members of the Ojibwa tribes successfully filled their five-bull quota. The tribes receive up to half of the elk harvest quota tags annually. The legal elk hunting area falls within the Clam Lake elk range of Sawyer, Bayfield, Ashland, and Price counties. More than 23,000 Wisconsin residents submitted a $10 application in 2019 to win one of four state tags, and approximately 2,500 more purchased a raffle ticket to win the final tag in a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation drawing. The 2020 elk hunt application period is March 1 through May 31. For more information, search “elk” on the DNR website.
State park admission stickers and state trail passes for 2020 are now available and state properties will immediately honor the new stickers and passes. All motor vehicles stopping in state parks and recreation areas, and some state forest and trail parking areas, must display a current vehicle admission sticker. The annual sticker costs $28 for residents and $38 for non-residents. People registering more than one vehicle to the same household can purchase additional stickers ($15.50/residents; $20.50/non-residents). Resident senior citizens 65 and older can purchase an annual sticker for $13. Daily sticker costs vary according to the area. Residents and non-residents 16 and older who bike, in-line skate, ride horseback, cross-country ski, and ride off-highway motorcycles on specific state trails must purchase a state trail pass. Annual passes cost $25; a daily pass is $5. Walking and hiking do not require a trail pass. For more information, search “state park stickers and trail passes” on the DNR website.
The weekend snowfall of approximately 15 inches was wet and heavy, which will not advance ice conditions on area lakes. Some anglers continue to try (push!) their luck, but if you go, use EXTREME caution. Many fishing days remain!
Walleye anglers are catching some fish on breaklines, weed edges, and rocks in 5-18 feet. The best fishing is in shallower water during the low light conditions of early morning/late evening into dark. Preferred presentations include walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups, Jigging Raps and jigging spoons, and jigs with live bait.
Northern pike are also in the weeds in 5-18 feet. Sucker minnows and shiners on tip-ups are working well, as are assorted jigging baits such as Swedish Pimples.
Crappies are in deeper water out to 30 feet, but depths vary by time of day. Tungsten jigs with crappie minnows and other live bait, as well as small jigging spoons such as Kastmasters and Hyper Glides, are producing good action.
Bluegill fishing is good around weeds and other cover, though some fish are more cooperative than are others. Small jigs with waxies, plastics, and Gulp! baits will entice some fish, but for others, you will have to figure out their desires!
Nov. 29: Mourning dove season closed.
Dec. 1: Seasons closed: Regular gun deer; Duck and goose in Southern Zone.
Dec. 2: Muzzleloader deer season opened.
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. 25: Christmas Day.
Jan. 1, 2020: New Years Day.