The most current forecast (Monday evening) predicts snowfall accumulation up to 8 inches in the next day or two. Aside from -11 degrees Monday night, temperatures this week range from highs in the mid-20s to single digit lows. Snow will benefit snowmobilers and skiers, and somewhat hinder anglers, but the cold temperatures should benefit all of them!
“At last report, crews have staked Lost Land Lake for snowmobiling, but there are no reports for the other lakes.”
Trent at Hayward Bait says the recent snowstorm was a ‘doozy.’
“Upsides to the snowstorm are that ice cleats are no longer a necessity and cold temperatures will build ice, even with the snow accumulation. Anglers are taking out ATVs on some lakes, while other lakes opened up in areas. Always be safe when on the ice – and it is still a good idea to use a spud bar and take ice picks.
“Walleye action is good, with early morning and at dark into evening hours best. Work drop-offs, ledges, and outside weed edges in 10-15 feet. Shiners and sucker minnows on tip-ups work well, as do jigging Slender Spoons, Tinglers, and Kastmasters tipped with fatheads and sucker minnows.
“Northern pike are active near vegetation and directly over weed tops in 10 feet, hitting northern suckers and large shiners on tip-ups.
“Largemouth bass are on breaklines, drop-offs, and in main lake basins near crappie and bluegill. Walleye and pike anglers fishing shiners under tip-ups are catching bass, with jigging lipless crankbaits producing a few.
“Crappies anglers are doing well working main lake basins and bowls in 20-30 feet, with some as shallow as 10 feet. Snyder and Kastmaster spoons and lipless crankbaits are good, especially tipped with crappie minnows and waxies.
“Bluegills are on vegetation near drop-offs and muck bottoms in basins. Depths vary by waterbody and structure, but average 15-20 feet. Jigs tipped with waxies and spikes work well.
“Perch are on muck bottoms and sandy humps in lake basins, with most in 10-20 feet. Fish near bottom with waxies and spikes on jigs, using crappie minnows for an aggressive bite.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses Couderay River smallmouth bass.
“Over the past few years, the DNR Hayward Fish Team has tracked sturgeon returning to the Couderay River. We also started PIT tagging smallmouth bass we caught incidentally while trying to catch sturgeon, purchasing tags with funds from the Wisconsin Smallmouth Bass Alliance.
“In 2019, we deployed 106 PIT tags in smallmouth bass up and down the river, recording the GPS capture point location for each fish. This allows us to see – if we recapture the bass – how it moved throughout the river.
“We returned to the Couderay in 2020 and were able to recapture 11 of the 106 tagged smallmouth, also capturing additional, untagged, smallmouth. The relatively low ratio of tagged to untagged fish indicates it is likely there are more smallmouth bass in a small river than meets the eye.
“Next, we compared the 2019 tagging point location of the 11 smallmouth to where we captured them in 2020. We were very interested to find that of the 11 smallmouth, 10 occupied the exact same holes in the river as they did in 2019. This is not to say they did not move around at times, but it indicates these smallmouth have a relatively tight home range.
“The one smallmouth that did move made quite a journey, going 8 miles downstream from its initial capture point.
“We plan to continue this project and obtain more recapture data in 2021.”
The DNR has not yet updated deer harvest totals from December 21, but statistics as of that date are available on the DNR website. The Antlerless-only Holiday Hunt in valid farmland units run through January 1.
The Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey ends January 3. Annual results are in the Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey report. The DNR also requests submissions of trail camera photos of cougar, lynx, moose, wolf, and wolverine.
Ruffed grouse season closes January 3 in the Northern Zone (Zone A) and hunters can still submit samples from grouse they harvest to the West Nile virus study ending this year. The DNR asks hunters to provide samples or give the sample kits to friends who will fill them. For more information, visit the ruffed grouse webpage on the DNR website.
Late fall turkey season runs through Jan. 3 in zones 1-5 and zones 1, 3, and 4 still have many bonus permits available. Hunters can purchase one per person, per day through license sales agents and the Online Licensing Center until units sell out or season ends. Permits cost $10 for residents and $15 for nonresidents.
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has awarded Wisconsin $215,067 in funding for 13 projects. Locally, funding will provide for researchers to use elk telemetry data and new vegetation sampling to evaluate the use and habitat quality of managed forest openings relative to other forest types in Ashland County, but will also benefit Sawyer, Bayfield, Washburn, Rusk, and Price counties.
According to the Monday December 28 Birkie Trail conditions report, the Birkie Trail Crew groomed the Birkie Trail Head loops, including the skate trail to the power lines and back, which at this point, are the places to ski, and touched up the loops at OO. There is only about a 1.5-inch base on sections with only natural snow, so be careful. The crew awaits more snow to begin the greater Birkie Trail.
Skiing at Birkie Trailhead is open from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Please do not ski outside of these hours, as groomers might be on the trail. A Birkie Trail Ski Pass is required December through March to ski any part of the Birkie Trail System.
SNOWMOBILE TRAIL REPORT
Snowmobiles must have a current registration and display a valid snowmobile trail pass for operation 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.
The December 28 HLVCB snowmobile trail report says crews groomed trails 8, 31, 63, and 77 from Hayward to Seeley, and trails 9 and 3/5 south towards Moose Lake (no lakes or swamps in these areas). These are good areas to ride, but need more snow. There is an ICE HEAVE ALERT for Round Lake (not yet staked for snowmobilers). Several lines of ice heaves in the middle of the lake and towards Leder Bay are extremely dangerous and difficult to see.
The December 28 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Sawyer County says crews groomed the Tuscobia Trail from Winter to the Price County line, and from Winter to Lemington. Jump River crews clearing a one-mile stretch on Trail 18 along Hwy CC had a chipper go down and were unable to clean the debris. They will do so, but for now, be aware! An Ice Heave Alert for Round Lake indicates there are two major heaves, hundreds of yards long, running across the main trail (not staked!), so please be alert and keep your speed in check.
While on Sawyer County trails this winter, make sure you stop and “Snap a Selfie” with any AWSC signs you see along the way. Posting photos with #sledsawyer2020 on Facebook or Instagram enters you in a March drawing and you could win $500! Enter as often as you want. The contest runs through Feb. 28.
A good drop of snow at Christmas made for easier foot travel on the previous glare-ice lakes, but it did little to help build more ice. Colder temperatures this week – though with more snow in the forecast – should help improve the ice building process. For now, depths range from thin to 10 inches (not common). Ice builds by temperature, not the calendar, so check the ice as you go. Always take safety equipment – for your benefit and that of others.
A few upcoming dates of which anglers should be aware include the December 31 close of musky season (check the regulations); January 2 opening of early inland catch and release trout season (opens at 5 a.m. – check regulations); and the January 16-17 statewide Free Ice Fishing Weekend during which no fishing license is required! Check the event calendar for local fishing events that coincide with Free Fishing Weekend.
Walleye action is good, with the best times early morning and just at dark into nighttime. Look for fish on outside weed edges, ledges, and drop-offs in 8-18 feet. Best offerings include shiners and sucker minnows under tip-ups, as well as fatheads and sucker minnows on jigs and on jigging spoons.
Northern pike action is good to very good, with fish in/on/around weeds and weed edges in 6-15 feet. Northern suckers and large shiners under tip-ups are working well for most anglers.
Largemouth bass continue to provide action on drop-offs, breaklines, and near the panfish concentrations in deep basins. Most catches are on shiners under tip-ups set for walleye and northern pike, but jigged lipless crankbaits are also producing fish.
Crappie fishing is good to very good, with fish in 8-30 feet or deeper in lake basins and deep holes. Crappie minnows, waxies, plastics, and jigging spoons are all effective offerings.
Bluegill fishing is good around weeds, drop-offs, and muck bottoms in 12-22 feet. Waxies, spikes, and plastics on small jigs are the baits of choice.
Perch action is good on sandy humps and muck bottoms in 8-15 feet. Waxies, spikes, and small minnows on jigs are working well.
Jan. 4-31: Extended archery/crossbow season in valid farmland units (see regs).
Jan. 16-17: Free Ice Fishing Weekend statewide – no fishing license requirement!
Jan. 16: Elk Country ATV Club Annual Ice fishing contest, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. (715-794-2298).
Jan. 16-24: International Snowmobile Safety Week.
Jan. 25: Crow season opens.