The forecast for this week starts with cold temperatures and Tuesday snowfall of 1-6 inches possible. However, as all who spend any time in the North Woods know, snowfall predictions are usually only approximations and can vary from less than predicted to “quite a bit more” than the forecast. The remainder of this week shows a slight warming trend into the weekend, with sunshine Wednesday and Thursday, and more chances for snow through the weekend.
This year’s winter solstice, the official start of the astronomical winter, occurs Tuesday, December 21, and is both the shortest day and longest night of the year! Each day will get longer now (though not immediately noticeable!) and offer more minutes of sunlight until the summer solstice June 21 (when we once again start to lose daylight).
Drive safely if you travel ‑ and Merry Christmas!
Jarrett at Hayward Bait says cold temperatures are here, and combined with Mother Nature’s snow removal service last week, the lakes should be able to form some solid ice as we head into Christmas and the New Year!
“Walleyes are still shallow, but with these cold temperatures and as the ice builds in the shallow bays, we could see them start a move to deep water. Now that the snow is gone from the ice and sunlight able to penetrate, the sunlight should keep weed growth alive a bit longer and anglers can continue to target walleyes roaming among shallow weedline areas. Tip-ups are working well, and anglers are catching a few fish by jigging.
“Northern pike are currently both shallow and deep, with the majority of fish in about 10 feet near structure and/or baitfish. Big baits such as northern suckers and large shiners on tip-ups are working well and serving as the main course.
“Crappies still cruise shallower weed flats in 10-15 feet, but many fish are making the move to main lake basins. Main lake basins are typically the deepest area of a lake, with mud bottoms, normally bowl-shaped or a large area of deep water, and depths from 20-35 feet. Fish start on the bottom of the basins looking for insects, but as oxygen dissipates throughout the winter, these same fish will then suspend.
“Bluegills continue to roam with crappies early this winter. Many big bluegills will tuck into the weeds and anglers can harvest them by fishing ‘pockets’ within the weeds, or ‘cuts’ in and out of the weeds, where bluegills feel they can venture out and still maintain cover from predators. Waxies and spikes on small jigs will work throughout the entire winter.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses a Spider Lake fisheries management plan.
“The DNR has initiated the creation of a fisheries management plan for Spider Lake in Sawyer County. A fisheries management plan sets goals and objectives for the management of important species of fish, makes recommendations for future actions such as stocking and regulation changes, and coordinates fish management activities among interested partners.
“Many waters in the Hayward area have similar plans, but no such plan exists for the Spider Chain. The DNR deemed a plan necessary due to some recent challenges the fishery faces with introduced northern pike and walleye stocking.
“Public input is a crucial component of a fisheries management plan and people who are interested in the Spider Chain fishery can participate in this planning process in two ways.
“First, there is a public meeting January 12 via Zoom, starting at 6 p.m. This session is to discuss the planning process and receive input from interested stakeholders. To join the meeting, please email email@example.com to receive the registration link.
“There will also be an online questionnaire about angler experiences on the Spider Chain and preferences for future fish management. You can access that questionnaire at www.surveymonkey.com/r/SpiderChainFMP and it will remain open until February 12.
“We hope that anyone with an interest in the Spider Lake Chain will participate in one or both of these input avenues and that these online options enable people to participate no matter where they are this winter.”
The DNR is offering an antlerless-only Holiday Deer Hunt that runs Dec. 24-Jan. 1 in select Farmland/Zone 2 counties and bonus antlerless harvest authorizations are still available. Polk County (Central Farmland Zone 2), the area closest to Sawyer County open to this hunt, currently has 469 bonus authorizations available for private land and 4,156 for public land hunting. Bonus authorizations cost $12 for residents, $20 for nonresidents, and $5 for youth hunters 12 years and younger.
- Archery: 294 deer (196 antlered, 98 antlerless)
- Crossbow: 614 deer (407 antlered, 207 antlerless)
- Nine-day season: 1,811 deer (1,001 antlered, 810 antlerless)
- Youth Hunt: 47 deer (18 antlered, 29 antlerless)
- Muzzleloader: 77 deer (43 antlered, 34 antlerless)
- December 4-day antlerless hunt: 50 antlerless
There is still time to provide input to the DNR on the draft ATV/UTV trail guidelines to promote statewide consistency in trail planning, design, and construction. In consultation with various stakeholders and trail users, DNR staff created the guidelines to establish common language for developing recreational trails that are physically sustainable and protect natural resources. The final guidelines will serve as a reference for the DNR and other public trail providers when considering trail development and funding.
The DNR encourages the public to submit comments regarding the draft ATV and UTV trail guidelines via email to: DNRFWPPRGuidance@wisconsin.gov. It will accept comments through the December 23 deadline.
Pat’s Landing on the Chippewa Flowage is hosting its 10th Annual Tipper Tourney fishing tournament Saturday, January 8, from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. This is a northern pike and largemouth bass “fun” fishing tournament with fishing limited to the west side of the Chippewa Flowage, excluding Crane Creek and Crane Lake. The registration fee is $15 per entrant. The contest offers door prizes and awards prizes for the longest northern pike, longest largemouth bass, and the longest stringer. For more information, visit www.treelandresorts.com, or call (715) 945-2511.
SNOWMOBILE TRAIL REPORT
Snowmobiles must have a current registration and display a valid snowmobile trail pass to operate on public snowmobile trails. You can renew registrations and order trail passes online. Members of the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs (AWSC) can purchase trail passes at a discounted rate directly from www.awsc.org. You do not need to be a Wisconsin resident to be an AWSC member.
According to the December 18 HLVCB snowmobile trail report, trails in Sawyer County technically never close and do not have a “target” opening date. Landowners offer the privilege of riding on their land, but landowner use is a priority and that includes hunting. These private lands have gates that landowners and trail captains do not open until the trails are rideable and groom-able, which requires a decent base of groom-able snow, and areas to which the trails lead are safe. The trails might lead to lakes and/or swamps and gates remain closed until those areas are safe.
NEVER go around a closed gate and ride on private property. Doing so can cause closure of a trail with crucial access to other land and trails for which we have requested and received permission to ride. If you see someone go around a closed gate and ride on private property, please report the action to the DNR. Do not let such actions ruin riding privileges. As the signage says, “Stay on the trail ‑ or stay home.”
Trail captains, clubs, and businesses check ice progress several times a day when there is enough ice to walk from the shoreline safely. Generally, they look for about 8 inches of ice to consider the lake ice safe for travel and trail staking. This thickness must be consistent throughout the lake, as well as the lake trails leading to neighboring lakes.
In the meantime, as we wait for snow and ice to build, prepare your gear, charge the batteries, tune up the sleds, and make sure the registration and trail pass are current!
Ice conditions are improving after mild temperatures and rain took away much of the snow cover last week. Colder temperatures this week will build some ice, and we could use about a week of those cold temperatures before we receive more snow cover, but the forecast shows more than four inches of snow on the way Tuesday. Anglers are hitting the ice, regardless, and fishing is good for most species, but do be cautious and check the ice as you go.
Walleye action remains very good to excellent on shallow to mid-depth weedlines in most waters. Walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups are working well, with Jigging Raps and jigging spoons moving fish for some anglers. The best bite starts in late afternoon and continues into after dark.
Northern pike fishing is very good to excellent in a variety of depth around weeds and structure holding panfish and baitfish concentrations. Large northern suckers and walleye suckers are the baits of choice, fished under tip-ups set on and along weeds and weedlines, with some jigging baits producing success, too.
Crappie fishing is good to very good on weeds, weed edges, and flats in 8-18 feet, and lake basins in 20-35 feet. It is important to check the entire water column for fish suspending high or holding near bottom. Once you locate them, they will move and you will need to do so, too. Crappie minnows, waxies, plastics, and Gulp! baits on jigs, and small jigging spoons, are the top producing baits.
Bluegill fishing is good in/on weeds, weedlines, flats, and lake basins in 8-25 feet. Traditional panfish baits such as waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits fished on teardrops and small jigs, jigging spoons, and small minnows for large bluegills are all working well.
Dec. 24-Jan 1: Antlerless-only Holiday Deer Hunt in select Farmland/Zone 2 counties (see regs).
Dec. 31: Musky season closes.
Jan. 2: Fisher trapping season closes.
Jan. 8: 10th Annual Tipper Tourney on the Chippewa Flowage, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (715-945-2511).
Jan. 15-16: Free Fishing Weekend.
Jan. 22: Staudemeyer’s Four Seasons Resort’s 12th Annual Ice Fishing Tournament 7 a.m.-4 p.m. (715-798-2346).
Jan. 28: Crow season opens.
Jan. 31: Seasons close: Squirrel; Bobcat Period 2 hunting/trapping.
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.