By: Steve Suman

 

The forecast calls for snow early in the week, with somewhat cooler temperatures. How this change affects ice and trail conditions depends on how much snow falls and how low the temperatures drop.

Happy New Year!

“There is a lot of snow and slush on the Quiet Lakes,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “and it may be a long while until anglers can drive on the ice. Walking remains the best choice. Due to the conditions, many productive spots are not receiving pressure and ambitious anglers could enjoy very good success.

“Fishing consists of daytime catches of walleye, northern pike, and bass. Set tip-ups or dead sticks at varied depths and dial in from there.

“Panfish action is fair. With the frequent changes in pressure systems, most fish will just not bite. The best tactic is to downsize presentations and use live bait under a float. The fish seem slow on the intake, so when the bobber goes down, give them plenty of time.”

John and Ken at Hayward Bait says ice conditions are good for walking on most lakes, but bring a spud, check your way as you go, and use extreme caution.

“Walleye anglers are catching fish with walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups set along weedlines in 12-15 feet.

“For northern pike, set tip-ups with northern suckers and large shiners around weed beds and coontail. Concentrate on the coontail for larger pike.

“Crappie fishing is good around weeds in 15-18 feet with crappie minnows, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on tungsten jigs.

“Bluegill action is good on tungsten jigs tipped with waxies, spikes, mousies, plastics, and Gulp! baits.”

Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says Chequamegon Bay ice is in good shape.

“The Ashland side has 6-8 inches, with a little less on the Washburn side up to Houghton Point. Due to the warm weather and west winds, use extra caution. As of Saturday, the ice was holding, but with a lot of water on top.

“Water clarity is improving and we have access to Second Landing. Success varies, but Second Landing anglers are reporting nice catches of walleye, northern pike, and perch.

“People targeting trout are mainly fishing the Washburn side of the Bay.

“Inland lakes have a lot of slush, but crappie fishing is good if you are willing to battle conditions.”

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses five ways people can make fishing better.

“It is my good fortune to work in Hayward, a community that cares a lot about fishing, with so many individuals and groups who dedicate significant amounts of time, money, and effort into improving fishing and providing fishing opportunities for others. Surely many others share that goal, but do not know how to get started. Here are five simple ideas on how you can improve fishing, most of which are free or inexpensive!

“Join a group: Throughout the state, we are blessed with groups dedicated to improving and protecting fisheries. You see the names of these groups attached to all kinds of projects, but pull back the curtain and you realize a small handful of hardworking individuals are doing most of the work. These groups are always looking for new blood and new ideas!

“Take personal responsibility: Learn about selective harvest or ask your local biologist what kind harvest might benefit a fishery. When the fish are really biting, take only what you need, even when you could take more.

“Be a good neighbor to fish: If you have lakeshore property, consider the type of habitat your shoreline provides. Is your property a source of, or devoid of, fish habitat? The choices of landowners around a lake can determine a lot about the amount and quality of fish habitat.

“Do your part to catch violators: Everyone gets upset when they see someone breaking the law and over-bagging fish. If you complain to friends, neighbors, and DNR staff after the fact, those breaking the rules are typically long gone before wardens hear about the issue. Call (800) TIP-WDNR immediately to register anonymous tips. This information is critical to catching those abusing resources. Do not feel guilty about calling in tips. If the suspicious activity turns out to be nothing, the person in question just gets a visit from a friendly wardens and no ticket.

“Think about the big picture: One challenge of fish management is helping people understand how interconnected fish are to water quality and the landscape at large. A person concerned only with walleye might struggle to understand how changes in water quality in a small tributary might affect the fish they target. Thinking about conservation in the big picture, where damage done in one place can have wide ranging and often-unexpected ripple effects, will lead to a healthier ecosystem, including fisheries. This now includes concern about a warming climate, which is already having impacts on local fisheries and will continue to do so.”

Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies, Inc. invites the public to attend its meeting Tuesday, January 7, starting at 7 p.m., at Flat Creek Eatery in Hayward. This is a business meeting to discuss plans, projects, activities, and the budget for 2020. Admission is free and anyone interested in joining Muskies Inc. can purchase a half-price membership at the meeting. For more information, call Mike Persson (715) 634-4543.

SNOWMOBILE TRAIL REPORT

The DNR reminds snowmobilers to make sure their snowmobile has a current registration and displays a valid snowmobile trail pass. Wisconsin requires a trail pass to operate on all public snowmobile trails. You can order trail passes online, as well as renew registrations.

The December 28 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Washburn County says all trails are open and groomed, with a base of 8-15 inches, but in poor condition. Clubs are working to provide as much riding opportunity as possible. Please note lake ice is not safe at this time, including Long Lake and the Spider Lake Chain. In general, swamps and wet areas have frozen, but use caution. Many wet areas have rough ice crossings and crews have not yet groomed some wet areas.

The December 27 Travel Wisconsin trail report says 80 percent of Douglas County trails are open, groomed, and in fair condition, with a base of 14-18 inches. The snow compressed due to the warmer weather and clubs report good riding conditions in most of Douglas County, though the weather created some wet spots. Clubs are working on clearing trees, packing trail bases, and grooming. Make sure the trail you intend to use is open and do not trespass on private property.

The December 27 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Bayfield County says trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 18-24 inches. Though the trails lost a bit of snow with the warmer temperatures, there is still a solid base.

The December 26 Hayward Lakes Visitors & Convention Bureau Sawyer County snowmobile trail report says the warm weather is further delaying lake riding. We would prefer a better report, but recommend not riding on even the few lakes crews staked. Our primary goal is safety. You can get to many locations without riding on the lakes and the wooded trails still offer great riding, with a base of 12-16 inches. Just make sure to map your route prior to your ride.

The December 26 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Ashland County says trails are partially open, not groomed, and in poor condition, with a base of 12-24 inches. Groomers continue to work on the trails, but downed trees, deep snow, and warm temperatures make it difficult. The Tri-County Corridor is open from Superior to Ashland. Several areas on the eastern end require attention, but crews marked all known hazards, so use caution when approaching ribbons, barricades, and cones. Please stay on the trails!

The December 26 Travel Wisconsin trail report for the Clam Lake area says trails are open, some groomed, and in fair condition, with a base of 15-20 inches. At this time, we recommend no lake riding. Wood trails are fair, but be cautious of swamps and standing water.

FISHING REPORT

Ice conditions are slushy and wet, though not enough to deter a surprising number of anglers. Ice depths vary greatly, even in different locations on the same lake, and anglers must use extreme caution. Until these conditions change, walking is the wisest and safest form of travel – and use a spud to check ice thickness as you go!

Walleye:

Walleye fishing is fair to good, with fishing success best on weedlines in 8-18 feet. Best presentations are walleye suckers and shiners fished under tip-ups.

Northern Pike:

Northern pike fishing is good to very good. Set tip-ups tipped with northern suckers and large shiners over and on the edges of shallow to mid-depth weed beds and coontail. Look for bigger pike in the coontail.

Crappie:

Crappie fishing is good around weeds in 15-18 feet, with crappie minnows, plastics, Gulp! baits, and small spoons all effective offerings.

Bluegill:

Bluegill anglers are having good success around shallow to mid-depth weeds. Top bait choices include waxies, spikes, mousies, plastics, and Gulp! baits on tungsten jigs.

Upcoming Events

Dec. 26: Period 2 bobcat hunting/trapping season opened north of Hwy. 64.

Dec. 31: Frog season closes (see regs).

Jan. 1, 2020: New Years Day – Happy New Year!

Through Jan. 1: Antlerless-only Holiday Hunt in farmland units (see regs).

Jan. 4: Seasons close: Goose in Southern and Mississippi River zones.

Jan. 4: 7th Annual Tipper Tourney at Pat’s Landing on the Chippewa Flowage (715-945-2511).

Jan. 5: Ruffed grouse season in Zone A/Northern Zone closes under emergency rule.

Jan. 5: Seasons close: Archery deer; Pheasant; Fall turkey zones 1-5; Hungarian partridge; Fisher trapping.

Jan. 5: Early catch-and-release only trout season opens (see regs).

Jan. 7: Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies, Inc. meeting, 7 p.m., at Flat Creek Eatery (715-634-4543).

Jan. 11-12: Hayward SWX Frozen Adrenaline SnoCross Race at Sevenwinds Casino and Lodge (833-479-4637).

Jan. 18-19: Free fishing weekend – no fishing license required.

Jan. 18: NABA 10th Annual Ice Fishing Event on Nelson Lake (715-296-7881).

Jan. 18: 10th Annual Ice Fishing Contest at Staudemeyer’s Four Seasons Resort (715-798-2346).

Jan. 18: Seeley Hills Classic Ski Event (715-634-5025).

Jan. 25: Winterfest and Candlelight Hike at Pattison State Park 3-7 p.m.

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 website, view its Calendar of Events, or call 800-724-2992.