by: Steve Suman
The forecast predicts yet another week of milder temperatures and dry weather, though with snow at the end of the week. Next week appears to be more of the same, but with temperatures slowly sliding downward, and it is likely the North Woods will see single-digit – and subzero – lows in the week following. Winter will arrive – it’s just taking its time… or maybe practicing “social distancing.”
December 10 is the application deadline for 2021 spring wild turkey and black bear season tags. Hunters can purchase applications for the permit drawings at GoWild.wi.gov or through authorized license agents.
Bear hunters should note changes in bear management zones effective for the 2021 season as defined in the Black Bear Management Plan. Preliminary estimates show hunters harvested more than 4,100 bears in 2020 and the DNR is currently working on harvest quotas for the 2021 season. For most management zones, hunters must apply for several years before receiving a permit through the drawing. Applicants must apply at least once during any three consecutive years to retain accumulated preference points.
The DNR also issues turkey harvest authorizations through a preference-based drawing system. Applicants may choose up to two combinations of period and zone, or choose one zone and accept a tag for any period. The DNR encourages applicants to provide second and third choices to maximize the likelihood of drawing a harvest authorization. The DNR notifies successful applicants by mail after finalizing drawing results. Unsuccessful applicants receive a preference point to increase their chances to draw a tag the following spring season.
Trent at Hayward Bait says that with daytime temperatures consistently in the mid to upper 30s and the forecast showing days possibly getting into the 40s, we might need to ask Santa for more ice for Christmas!
“The nights are cold enough to keep what ice we now have, but not quite cold enough to make much ice. Some smaller lakes are iced-over, though larger waterbodies such as LCO and Round Lake remain open.
Finding enough ice to walk on is still a challenge. Nelson Lake, Bart’s Bay on Lake Hayward, and a few others have the most ice – up to 4-5 inches in spots – while most ice is 1-2 inches. Anglers able to get on the ice are fishing shallow, in 2-5 feet. ‘Just in case,’ make sure to take your spud bar, ice picks, and any other safety gear you might need.
“Walleyes are shallow and 2-5 feet is a good depth to target them with walleye suckers and medium shiners on tip-ups. If you prefer to use jig poles, spoons and blade baits are favorites, and Tinglers and Slender Spoons can be good lure choices for early ice.
“Northern pike are in 2-5 feet, hitting northern suckers and shiners on tip-ups, but if you prefer jigging, larger spoons and blade baits are producing.
“Along with the walleye and pike, anglers are catching largemouth bass in about 4 feet. Vertical jigging lipless crankbaits can usually pull a few all winter long.
“Panfish reports are scarce, though a few anglers are finding some crappie and bluegill in 5-10 feet. Lead ice jigs and small spoons work fine for these shallow panfish, but most are in deeper water areas where the ice is not safe.
“The deer are starting to move again after the pressure of the nine-day gun season. Plenty of archery season remains for hunters who have not filled their tags, and muzzleloader season runs through December 9. The secondary rut has not started just yet, so there are still opportunities to bag that late season buck.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses family ice fishing spots near Hayward.
“Ice fishing is a great activity for families looking to get outside and participate in a safe and socially distanced activity. Following are some very basic tips and spots for those new to ice fishing or looking for a good, family-friendly location.
“Safety first – do not rush out on the ice until you know it is thick enough for walking. You will often hear that some consider that 4 inches of ice is safe to walk on, but for families, I recommend 6 inches and avoiding any areas with flow.
“You do not need high tech gear to start ice fishing, and if you pick your days carefully, you should not need a shack or heaters. Ice fishing poles for kids can be very simple, and there is usually no need for anything beyond a small teardrop jig and wax worm.
“If you have the means, a tip-up is the ultimate tool for ice fishing with kids. Tip-ups enable you to fish effectively for large predator fish, such as northern pike, and do not need constant attention. This allows the kids to jig for panfish at the same time – or just goof around – but the first time a flag goes up will be exhilarating for the whole fishing party!
“One of my favorite family ice fishing spots near Hayward is Spring Lake, with access at the intersection of County E and Williams Road. You can walk out a short distance from the landing and have a great chance at pike on tip-ups, with enough small perch and bluegills around to keep young anglers happy for hours. Spring Lake does tend to get harder to fish in the second half of winter.
“Lake Hayward is another great local spot that offers several access points. There are usually small pike around that will hit a tip-up, and panfish fishing can be good, too.
“Smith Lake, with access off Hwy T, can be productive for pike along weed edges and panfish in deeper holes.
“For more tips, spot recommendations, and gear and bait needs, stop at any of the local bait shops.”
Fishing Has No Boundaries, Inc. (FHNB), headquartered in Hayward, recently received a $5,000 grant from the MTN DEW Outdoor Grants program, one of twenty nonprofits to receive a grant through this program.
“In a year when people have been cooped up in their homes, spending time outdoors is more important than ever,” says FHNB executive director Kathy Overman. “We’re thrilled to receive this $5,000 grant, which allows us to continue reaching people who need a helping hand and reinforces the important work we’re doing to stimulate the mind of those who believe they cannot fish.”
According to the December 7 Birkie Trail conditions report posted by the Birkie Trail Crew, there is about 2.5km of snow at Birkie Trail Head in Cable, including the newly opened Birkie Roller and World Cup segments. The crew refreshed the skate deck this morning and the classic tracks are in good shape. Please note that ‘groomed’ always means the classic tracks are set and the skate deck groomed, unless specifically stated otherwise. In addition, Birkie Trail ski passes are required December through March to ski on any part of the American Birkebeiner Trail System.
- Zone 4: 469
- Zone 6: 305
- Zone 7: 165
The fall season in zones 6 and 7 closed Nov. 20, however, for hunters still interested in hunting turkeys during the late season, and willing to travel, the late fall season in zones 1-5 runs through Jan. 3 and bonus permits remain as follows:
- Zone 1: 4,150
- Zone 3: 3,886
- Zone 4: 1,194
Reminder: December 10 is the deadline to apply for spring turkey harvest permits.
As of November 30, the DNR’s preliminary deer harvest total for the 2020 nine-day gun season is 188,712, including 85,340 bucks and 103,372 antlerless deer. Sawyer County hunters registered 1,702 deer, including 869 bucks and 833 antlerless deer. Current Sawyer County deer harvest totals for other seasons are as follows:
- Archery: 415 deer (246 antlered, 169 antlerless)
- Crossbow: 808 deer (521 antlered, 287 antlerless)
- October Youth Deer Hunt: 79 deer (33 antlered, 46 antlerless)
Muzzleloader deer season opened November 30 and runs through December 9.
The DNR reminds hunters they can help families in need through the Deer Donation Program by donating deer at participating meat processors. Call ahead to make sure the processor can accept the deer. The Deer Donation Program began in 2000 and hunters have donated more than 92,000 deer, providing more than 3.7 million pounds of venison distributed to food pantries across the state. For more information, visit the www.dnr.wisconsin.gov and search “Deer Donation Program.”
Hayward lakes are transitioning from open water to ice, and though there are anglers testing the waters (so to speak), it is still early ice due to milder temperatures this year. If you “must” go, use an abundance of caution. It is, after all, 2020 – not a good year to take unnecessary risks! Wind it down on the safe side.
Walleye anglers are concentrating on depths to 10 feet, with walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups the baits of choice. Jigging spoons and blade baits work well for artificials. Anglers should note that the walleye season on the Chippewa Flowage closed November 30.
Northern pike are also in less than 10 feet, hitting northern suckers on tip-ups, as well as larger jigging spoons and blade baits.
Largemouth bass are shallow with the other gamefish, according to anglers, and are active on lipless crankbaits.
Panfish anglers are catching crappies and bluegills in those same depths, though most are in deeper water areas currently inaccessible due to thin (or no) ice. Crappie minnows work well, as do waxies and plastics on small jigs and teardrops, and small jigging spoons. Take a variety of baits and let the fish indicated their preferences!
Nov. 29: Mourning dove season closed.
Dec. 21: Winter solstice, the first day of winter – and shortest day of the year!
Jan. 25: Crow season opens.