BY: Steve Suman

This week starts with mild temperatures, but turns cold and windy towards the end, with possible snowfall, and wind-chill could be a serious factor at that time. It is finally February and time to pull out the woolies!

“Recent cold temperatures improved ice conditions a bit on the Quiet Lakes,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “but lakes are still not safe for truck travel and we continue to encourage anglers to travel by foot, ATV, and snowmobile.

“Walleye and northern pike anglers continue to catch fish in 8-18 feet around mid-lake humps and shallower water drop-offs. The bite window, which is now late afternoon into dark, is important for targeting walleye.

“Panfish bites are hit and miss, but trying new areas on a lake might be helpful.

“The crappie bite seems stronger in the latter part of the afternoon, with target areas shallow bays holding heavy vegetation to mud transitions. As we move into late winter, bug hatches should start in the soft substrates.

“The lakes are giving up some good perch on shallower sand and weed areas. Noise seems to spook perch less than it does with other panfish, so drilling several holes and moving around is a good tactic. Smaller walleye spoons tipped with live bait, such as waxies and small minnows, are working best.”

Trent at Hayward Bait says last week’s cold front firmed up remaining slush on most lakes.

“We see improved ice accumulation, with snowmobiles and ATVs getting on the ice, but still recommend against driving a vehicle. Be careful on Round Lake, as the main basin has some thin spots.

“Walleyes are feeding best at sunrise and after dark, with anglers using walleye suckers and medium shiners on tip-ups, and jigging spoons and Jigging Raps. Work bars, sunken islands, and sandy bottoms with grass in about 18 feet.

“Northern pike are aggressive during the day in main basins. In mornings and afternoons, set tip-ups with large shiners and northern suckers on weedlines and breaklines in 6-12 feet. Jigging spoons and Rippin’ Raps are good options.

“Largemouth bass are on main basins, breaklines, and drop-offs, and seem to prefer medium and large shiners on tip-ups. Vertical jigging a variety of lures, from lipless crankbaits to jigs to spoons, can entice them. Depths vary depending on the structure, with most anglers finding them in 10-20 feet.

“Smallmouth bass are not seeing much pressure, but walleye anglers fishing walleye suckers and medium shiners under tip-ups in about 12-18 feet are catching a few on rock, hard bottoms, and other structure.

“Crappies are schooling in 25 feet in main basins and deep holes. The bite is good all day, but morning and afternoon hours offer more opportunity. Crappie minnows and waxies on spoons and tungsten jigs work well.

“Bluegills are roaming main basins in 20 feet. Small tungsten and lead jigs work well for light bites, with best fishing in mornings and afternoons.

“Perch are in 15-35 feet and hitting Skandia jigs, Kastmaster spoons, K-Rips, and fatheads and walleye suckers on tip-ups. As we get closer to March, bigger perch become more aggressive.”

Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says the Ashland side of Chequamegon Bay has up to 15 inches of ice, with less ice on the Washburn side.

“You still need to be aware of pressure cracks and please understand conditions can change by the minute.

“Anglers are going out of Bodin’s, where there is mainly pack ice. Some anglers are also going off Red Cliff, where they report 5 1/2 inches of ice.

“We are hearing great reports of coho and splake, and good perch reports, from anglers fishing the channel from Tern Island to the lighthouse.

“Remember to spud your way out and be responsible for yourself!”

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the 2021 Sawyer County Fisheries Forum.

“This year’s Sawyer County Fisheries Forum, held virtually via Zoom, will be February 25, starting at 7 p.m.

“The Fisheries Forum will continue the goal of sharing information with local stakeholders, while addressing questions and hearing any concerns from anglers.

“Main topics this year include walleye stocking and fall surveys; smallmouth and sturgeon projects on the Couderay and Namekagon rivers; upcoming Conservation Congress proposals; and spring 2021 survey plans for the Hayward DNR Fish Team. We might add other topics – and in fact, participants can suggest topics they would like to hear about as part of the registration process.

“People interested in participating should email DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter for details on registering and joining the meeting. We encourage those not familiar with Zoom to try it. We – and first-time users – have had good luck with holding other meetings on this platform.

“We look forward to the event and hope many people join us to talk fish and plans for 2021!”

The DNR is accepting nominations for the 2020 Hunter Ethics Award. The committee considers any nomination for a DNR-regulated hunting activity in Wisconsin and bases selection on exceptional moral actions and character in the field. Written nominations must contain the name, address, and phone number of the witness/witnesses, or be aware of the behavior leading to the nomination. Any hunter or non-hunter can nominate a licensed Wisconsin hunter (resident or nonresident) for the award. The submission deadline is February 19. Mail to DNR, c/o April Dombrowski, 101 S. Webster St., P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921, or email nominations to April.Dombrowski@wisconsin.gov.

The DNR will accept public comment through February 24 on potential economic impacts of proposed permanent rule FH-10-20 that regulates commercial and recreational harvest of Lake Superior cisco and lake trout. The updates aim to maintain healthy fish populations while balancing the needs of resource users, including state and tribal commercial fishers, tribal home use fishers, and recreational anglers. To review the draft rule and economic impact analysis, visit the proposed permanent rules webpage on the DNR website. Email comments to Meredith.Penthorn@wisconsin.gov.

Cable Rod & Gun Club will host its Last Chance Ice Fishing Contest & Cash Raffle this Saturday, February 6, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., on the Lake Namakagon chain. Register at Lakewoods Resort. Entrants may start fishing at 12 midnight. The $10 entry fee includes one cash raffle ticket. The contest offers cash prizes for the longest walleye, northern pike, crappie, bluegill, and perch, with weight breaking ties. There is a separate category for youth anglers. Fish registration closes at 4 p.m. Cash raffle tickets cost $10 each, with cash prizes running from $50-$300. For more information, and where you can buy tickets, visit Cable Rod & Gun Club (www.cablerodandgunclub.com).

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.

While riding Sawyer County trails this winter, make sure to stop and “Snap a Selfie” with any AWSC signs you see along the way. Posting photos with #sledsawyer2020 on Facebook and Instagram enters you in a March drawing – enter as often as you want – and you could win up to $500! The contest runs through Feb. 28.

The January 29 HLVCB snowmobile trail report says crews groomed trails throughout Sawyer County following a bit of snow, and the trails are fair to good – hard, flat, and fast. If you encounter overheating due to the hard-packed trails, find some loose snow on the trail and cool your sled – and ice scratcher are always a good investment!

The February 1 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Washburn County says trails are open, groomed, and in fair condition, with a base of 4-6 inches. Conditions vary due to lack of snowfall. Lake ice conditions are not completely safe, so ride with caution. Clubs are grooming, so watch for active grooming and trail maintenance. Crews groomed Long Lake January 24 after 2-3 inches of a light, powdery snowfall.

The January 30 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for the Clam Lake area says Ashland County trails are open, groomed, in fair to good condition, with a base of 3-8 inches. Bare spots exist, but trails are rideable. Ride at your own risk. The Tri-County Corridor is open; Sanborn to the overpass by Ashland Ford is soft and not in great shape.

FISHING REPORT

Ice fishing is going strong, particularly with the improved conditions, and anglers are doing well for most species. Advice against driving vehicles on the lakes remains – reports of some thin spots on the big lakes – so stick with snowmobiles, ATVs, and foot travel.

Walleye:

Walleye fishing is fair to good, with best success in very early morning and late afternoon into dark. Look for fish on bars, sunken islands, mid-lake humps, drop-offs, and sand/grass bottoms in 6-20 feet. The most productive baits include walleye suckers and medium shiners on tip-ups, jigging spoons, and Jigging Raps.

Northern Pike:

Northern pike fishing is very good to excellent and they provide an all-day bite. Work weeds and weedlines, breaklines, drop-offs, main basins, and mid-lake humps in 6-18 feet. Top baits include northern suckers and shiners on tip-ups, jigging spoons, and Rippin’ Raps.

Largemouth Bass:

Largemouth fishing is fair to good in main basins, drop-offs, and breaklines in 18-22 feet. Shiners on tip-ups, spoons, jigs, and lipless crankbaits are all producing catches.

Smallmouth Bass:

Smallmouth fishing is fair. Use walleye suckers and medium shiners under tip-ups in 10-20 feet on rock and other hard bottoms where you find walleye.

Crappie:

Crappie fishing is good in mornings and afternoons, with best fishing in late afternoon. Look for fish in main basins, and deep holes out to 28 feet, with some in shallow, weedy bays. Best baits are crappie minnows, waxies, and plastics on spoons and tungsten jigs.

Bluegill:

Bluegill fishing is fair to good, also with best fishing in mornings and afternoons. Look for active fish in 20 feet in main basins, working small jigs tipped with waxies, spikes, and plastics.

Perch:

Perch fishing is good to very good in/on sand, weeds, and holes in 15-35 feet. Fatheads and walleye suckers on tip-ups, jigs, and small spoons, and waxies, will all tempt the perch.

Upcoming Events

Jan. 31: Seasons Closed: Squirrel; Bobcat Period 2; Extended archery/crossbow season in valid farmland units.

Feb. 12-15: Cornell Lab’s Great Backyard Bird Count (607-254-2137).

Feb. 13: 39th annual Lions Pre-Birkie XC Ski Race (715-558-6251).

Feb. 15: Seasons close: Coyote trapping; Fox hunting/trapping; Raccoon.

Feb. 25: 2021 Sawyer County Fisheries Forum, 7 p.m. (DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter).

Feb. 24-28: American Birkebeiner (715-634-5025).

Feb. 28: Cottontail rabbit season closes.

March 6: World’s Longest Weenie RoastLakewoods Resort (715-794-2561).

March 7: Seasons close: General inland fishing; Mink trapping; Muskrat trapping.

March 20: Crow season closes.

March 31: 2020-21 hunting/fishing licenses expire.

 

For more information on area events and activities, visit the Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau website, view the Calendar of Events, or call 800-724-2992.