Winter missed its “official” December 21 start date by nearly a week, but it arrived in all its glory Sunday night and Monday morning ‑ and appears to be settling in for the duration. Snowfall reports show nearly a foot of fresh snow in northern Sawyer County, with slightly lesser amounts in the county’s southern area. Strong winds, cold temperatures, and more snow are on the way this week. The forecast calls for 1-4 inches, but predictions said 3-5 inches for this last (foot-deep) snowfall, so keep an eye on the actual weather conditions!
Jarrett at Hayward Bait says walleye fishing is solid, with walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups working well in 8-15 feet.
“Many walleyes are still cruising weedlines, but with the increasing snow cover and inevitable decay of those weedlines, these fish might soon start heading to deeper structure.
“Northern pike continue to roam all over the lakes. Many of the smaller pike are cruising through weedlines looking for panfish, but the big dogs are roaming mid-level flats searching for a big meal. Tip-ups set with big suckers and shiners one foot off bottom are catching some nice fish. Remember that it is winter and clipping the tails of bigger minnows might be just the ticket for pike that are sluggish and/or do not want to chase around the bait.
“Crappies are starting to make their way to the lake basins. At this time of the year, you might find fish suspending, but many of them in the basin will hover around near the bottom of the water column, feeding on insects emerging from the mud. Small bloodworm and insect imitations fished above feeding schools will tempt big black crappies into biting.
“Bluegills are holding on weedlines in 10-20 feet, but also cruise the lake bottoms. Weed pockets draw fish into the cuts, and underwater points can hold fish as well. Spikes and waxies tipped on small jigs work well, but do not be afraid to try small jigging spoons for the biggest fish in the bunch. Remember to practice selective harvest on those big males!”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the DNR Hayward Fish Team’s year, in fish.
“We have put up the nets for winter and winterized the electrofishing boat, which means it is time to look back on our year and the fish data we collected in Sawyer County.
“The DNR Hayward Fish Team surveyed 42 lakes and rivers in the area in 2021, with varying survey objectives and target species for each of the waters. In total, our team handled 24,464 fish that represented 58 different species. Once again, walleye was the most common fish we handled. That does not indicate that walleye are the most abundant species, rather, that we put a lot of survey effort into specifically targeting them.
“The next most abundant species was bluegill, which was not a surprise.
“Our team handled more than 1,000 of the following species: bluegill, black crappie, brook trout, largemouth bass, northern pike, smallmouth bass, walleye, and yellow perch.
“We also handled an impressive 355 muskellunge ranging in size from 10-50 inches.
“Some of our most rare captures included brown bullhead, finescale dace, silver redhorse, and a warmouth x bluegill hybrid. Some of these species are not really that rare, we just happened to encounter only one or two during the year.
“These fish data reflect on different amounts of survey effort that in many cases can tell us something about species abundance. We measure many, but not all species, which can give anglers an idea of what they might be able to expect in a waterbody. Data on where different species occur also has relevance for trout stream classification and protection of rare or endangered species.”
Outdoor enthusiasts can welcome the New Year by stepping into the outdoors with a First Day Hike. For the 11th consecutive year, the DNR joins in the annual New Year’s Day adventure, sponsored by America’s State Parks.
The hikes provide a way for individuals and families to welcome the New Year in the outdoors, exercising and connecting with nature, and for many, it has become a tradition. Several properties across the state will have guided hikes available, including Amnicon Falls State Park in Douglas County. Wisconsin state parks are open year-round, offering a variety of scenic winter hiking opportunities.
Wisconsin state parks, forests, and trails feature some of the Midwest’s best scenery and annually attract more than 22 million visitors. Additional opportunities to hike by moonlight or candlelight trails continue throughout the winter.
A vehicle admission sticker, required to visit state park system properties, is available online, in-person at state parks, by calling a state park office directly (credit cards accepted), or in-person at open DNR service centers.
Wisconsin’s Free Ice Fishing Weekend is Saturday and Sunday January 15-16. All waters of the state are open to fishing without a license, though all usual regulations remain in force. If you are new to fishing or have not purchased a fishing license in 10 years, purchase a “First-time buyer – Welcome back” resident license for only $5!
Elk Country ATV Club is hosting its annual ice fishing contest on Upper Clam Lake Saturday, January 15, from 8 a.m.-3 p.m., with raffle prize drawings throughout the day. For more information, call (715) 794-2298.
Pat’s Landing on the Chippewa Flowage will host 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 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.
The December 27 HLVCB snowmobile trail report says central Sawyer County received about 11 inches of fresh wet and heavy snow, while the southern part of the county around Birchwood received about 8 inches. There is more snow in the forecast for this week. Many groomers will wait for Monday night’s cold temperatures to allow the snow to set and freeze, and start grooming tonight or Tuesday.
Crews have staked the main trail on both the east and west side of the Chippewa Flowage and opened the gates on the west side. There are some washouts and large rocks on Trail 12 between Trail 18 and the Flowage, and on Trail 18 between County Rd B and Hemlock Haven Rd. If you encounter any large rocks, throw them off the trail ‑ both riders and groomers would very much appreciate it!
Crews staked Callahan today and will stake trails on Grindstone, LCO, Whitefish, and Sand lakes Tuesday.
Groomers in the Round, Spider, and Lost Land lake areas will be out today. Crews have staked Tiger Cat Flowage, Spider, Lost Land, Moose, Little Round, and Nelson lakes. Osprey staking begins today and Big Round staking starts Tuesday. Groomers will soon be in the Seeley Hills.
Trails are open, but please ride with caution. If you are on the lake, stay close to the stakes. Trail staking on most lakes should be in place by the end of Tuesday.
The December 27 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for the Cable and Clam Lake areas says the trails remain closed prior to grooming.
A foot of fresh snow could make lake travel challenging and the forecast says more snow will fall this week. According to most reports, ice conditions range up to about 8-inches, but that is not across the board. It is still early in the season, so (as always) use caution when traveling on the lakes. Snowmobile trail crews are currently in the process of staking lake trails. Considerably colder temperatures this week will improve conditions, but most likely gradually due to the increasing snow cover.
Walleye action is good on weedlines in 6-18 feet and on deep structure. Walleye suckers and shiners under tip-ups set over those areas are producing some nice fish, and anglers working Jigging Raps and jigging spoons report success, too. The best bite window remains late afternoon into after dark.
Northern pike fishing is good to very good, with the fish distributed in many areas. Small pike are around weeds and weedlines holding panfish and baitfish. Target trophy pike with large baits on mid-depth flats and in somewhat deeper water. Northern suckers, walleye suckers, and shiners on tip-ups set on weeds and weedlines, as well as jigging baits, are icing some fish. Clipping the tail of the minnow will provide a “less active” offering.
Crappie fishing is good in deep lake basins and on mid-depth flats for fish suspending or feeding on the mud bottoms, so make sure to check the entire water column! Best bait offerings include crappie minnows, waxies, plastics, imitation bloodworms and insects, Gulp! baits, and small jigging spoons. Fish keep moving and you will need to do so, too.
Bluegill fishing is good to very good around weeds, weedlines, flats, and basins in depths to 22 feet. Look for fish in weed pockets and on underwater points. As with crappie fishing, make sure to check the entire water column. Waxies and spikes on small jigs and teardrops, and small jigging spoons work well. Try small minnows for those bigger bluegills.
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 – no fishing license requirement!
Jan. 15: Elk Country ATV Club annual ice fishing contest (715-794-2298).
Jan. 15-23: International Snowmobile Safety Week.
Jan. 28: Crow season opens.
Jan. 29: 2022 Seeley Hills Classic (715-634-5025).
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.