by: Steve Suman
The forecast for this week shows high temperatures from 15 to 40 degrees and lows from -6 to 20 degrees, with a few snow chances. It will be winter in the North Woods for a while yet, but we are already almost in the second half of February!
The 2018 Sawyer County Fisheries Forum is this Thursday, February 15, starting at 6:30 p.m., at Hayward High School. According to DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter, the focus this year is on projects and partnerships.
“We are excited to tell people about some of the projects we are working on to improve trout, walleye, musky, panfish, and bass fishing. In addition, representatives from many of the excellent groups in this area will discuss their work on habitat projects, youth fishing opportunities, and fish stocking. Fish management is a true community effort in the Hayward area and this is a night to put our heads together and plan for the coming year.”
To learn more, view the video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkhEN6PsMjY (many thanks to John Myhre.)
“Last week’s cold weather impacted outdoor and fishing action,” says Pat at Happy Hooker.
“Some walleye anglers are finding fish in late afternoon hours in and around weeds, with the best fishing during low light conditions. Use walleye suckers and medium golden shiners on tip-ups set on weed edges. Jigging baits such as Buckshot Rattle Spoons also produces fish, or work rock hump tops in early evening.
“Catch northern pike on weed edges and in deeper weeds. On weed edges, hang tip-up baits a foot or so off the bottom. On deep weeds, suspend tip-up baits just above the weed tops.
“Crappie action is good on crappie minnows, but with a short bite window in mid to late afternoon. Fish are deep, close to/hugging the bottom. They suspend at times, and move, so vary bait depth and move with them if you can.
“For panfish, use waxies and plastics on jigs to catch bluegills in weeds and perch on deep weed/mud edges.”
Erik at Hayward Bait says ice conditions are great, with plenty of ice, and fishing is solid.
“The walleye bite slowed, but anglers fishing deeper main lake humps on the bigger lakes are still catching some fish. Jigging is productive with Jigging Rapalas and spoons tipped with minnow heads.
“At this time, northern pike fishing is the most popular. Focus on deep flats and humps, using large shiners on tip-ups.
“Crappie action is good for anglers using spikes and plastics on tungsten jigs – and keep moving until you find fish. Bluegill fishing is decent, with waxies your best bet.”
Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says ice conditions are great on Chequamegon Bay, with approximately 24 inches on the Ashland side and about 20 inches on the Washburn side.
“The Ashland side has considerable truck traffic, but pressure cracks on the Washburn side are limiting vehicles.
“Last week produced everything from smelt to sturgeon, with anglers in the Bay scattered from 10-35 feet. Most use lake shiners, but favor golden shiners for tip-up fishing.
“Anglers are targeting whitefish between Long Island and Houghton Point and off Bayview Beach north of Washburn. The whitefish are generally in 50-70 feet.
“There is finally decent ice in the Islands, with anglers making it almost to Cat. Remember: You do so at your own risk! If you intend to fish the Islands, use a snowmobile, bring flotation, picks, ropes, etc. – and check your way with a spud bar!”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the ‘best’ tip-up bait for fishing northern pike.
“A few weeks ago, during a weekend ice fishing outing of fisheries biologists on a Hayward area lake, the discussion turned to ‘suckers or shiners?’ as the best bait for northern pike when using tip-ups. While we did not come to a definitive conclusion, there were some useful points raised that might help other anglers.
“Most bait shops offer both ‘pike suckers’ (technically white suckers) and ‘large shiners’ (technically golden shiners, sometimes common shiners), setting up a choice for anglers. In most cases, pike are probably not picky enough for it to matter, but on some days, and in some places, your bait choice could make a difference in your fishing success.
“In the wild, it is more common to find white suckers over a muck or sandy bottom as they feed on invertebrates in the sediment. Golden shiners, however, have a strong preference for weedy areas. Picking your bait type based on the area you plan to fish may have some benefits. A minnow on a tip-up might fool a picky pike more easily if the minnow is a species the pike expects to see in that area.
“Visibility is another factor. Shiners, as their name implies, have more reflective scales and that ‘shine’ might be more likely to attract pike from farther away, an advantage greater in clear water.
“In very dark or stained water, pike rely more on sensing vibrations in the water with their lateral line, which might negate the difference between the two species or even favor a larger sucker.”
Saturday, February 17, Walleyes for Northwest Wisconsin (WFNW) will host its 22nd annual Family Ice Fishing Event from 8 a.m.-2 p.m., on Lac Courte Oreilles. Organizers will open event headquarters at the public boat landing parking area off Highway K at 6:30 a.m. for registration and raffle ticket sales. Raffle tickets and wristbands necessary for fishing contest prizes are available at Hayward Bait, Outdoor Creations, Stone Lake Bait, and AAA Sports Shop in Spooner. Wristbands cost $5 for adults. This year – in a major change from previous events – youth up to 17 years of age receive free entry courtesy of Retreat Home Furniture.
There are separate divisions for youth and adults and organizers award fish prizes in drawings from all qualified entries. Anglers can earn up to three drawing entries, but must register all qualifying fish by the 2 p.m. deadline. Sawyer County Outdoor Projects and Education (SCOPE) sponsored all youth division prizes.
Raffles include rip tickets, gun, party sled, 50/50, and a Grand Prize raffle that includes portable ice shacks, power augers, cash prizes of $500, and thousands of dollars in other prizes. Grand Prize tickets cost $5/each or 5/$20. Discounted ticket bundles (200 available) offer $130 worth of tickets for $75. All raffle drawings, with the exception of rip ticket raffles, begin at 2 p.m. and winners need not be present to win. For more information, visit www.wfnw.net or call (715) 634-2921 or (715) 209-5232.
SNOWMOBILE TRAIL REPORT
The DNR reminds snowmobilers to make sure snowmobile registrations are current and snowmobiles display 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 February 12 HLVCB trail report says there is a base of about 4-8 inches and groomers are getting trails ready again after another great weekend. There are some icy spots around corners, but the majority of trails, wooded ones in particular, are in very good to excellent condition, as are the lakes. Surrounding counties report trails in good condition.
The February 12 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Washburn County says all Washburn County snowmobile trails are open and in good condition with a base of 5-10 inches. Use caution on the trails and watch for trail grooming equipment.
The February 7 Namakagon Trail Groomers trail report says there is a good base of 3-6 inches and trails are fair in some areas and very good in others, but groomers are doing a great job. Heavy use areas have some brown mixed in, but are grooming well. Expect some icy corners and a few bare spots. There are still areas of concern. For Trail 90 east between Old Grade and Federal Rd., follow reroute signs and watch for logging trucks. Trail 15 between Club Lake Rd. and Camp Eight Rd has heavy ice over the trail where a spring continues to spread water on the trail.
Walleye anglers continue to catch fish, but action slowed compared to previous weeks. Low light hours offer the best odds for success, though afternoons are producing fish. Concentrate on the deep, clear lakes, particularly deeper weeds, weed edges, humps/rock humps, and bars, Baits of choice include walleye suckers and golden shiners on tip-ups, or try Jigging Raps and spoons tipped with minnow heads.
Northern pike action is very good on weed edges and deeper weeds, flats, and humps. Best baits include northern suckers and large shiners on tip-ups. Set baits near bottom on weed edges and just above the tops of deep weeds.
Crappies offer good to very good action once you locate and stay with them, but you have to be there for the bite in the afternoon hours. Check the entire water column, as fish can hold tight to the bottom or suspend at various levels in the water column. Crappie minnows, waxies, spikes, and plastics on small tungsten jigs will all catch fish.
Bluegill & Perch:
Bluegills are in mid-depth to deeper weeds and taking waxies and plastics on small jigs. For perch, work the same baits, including minnows, in areas where deep weed edges meet mud.
Feb. 15: Seasons close: Coyote trapping; Raccoon trapping and hunting; Red and gray fox gun and trapping.
Feb. 15: Sawyer County Fisheries Forum, 6:30 p.m. at Hayward High School.
Feb. 15: Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area snowshoe adventure, 11 a.m.-noon (715-463-2739).
Feb. 17: Walleyes for Northwest Wisconsin Family Ice Fishing Event 8 a.m.-2 p.m. (715-634-2921).
Feb. 17: Drummond Sno Jacks Bar Stool Races (715-739-6645).
Feb. 22-24: American Birkebeiner (715-634-5025).
Feb. 26: Seasons close: Cottontail rabbit; Mink trapping.
March 19: Sales begin by zone for remaining spring turkey harvest authorizations (888-936-7463).
March 20: Crow season closes.