This week’s forecast shows quite a change in temperatures (warmer!), but with some possible “heavy” snow Tuesday and mid-week. While just in time for Birkie events and good for snowmobiling, deep snow could hamper ice fishing access and activities.
“If you want to fish for walleye, northern pike, and bass, now is the time, as gamefish season closes March 7.
“Fish have had considerable pressure, so not having sonar bouncing off their bodies can trigger them into biting. For walleyes, northern pike, and bass, anglers should set up outside weedlines. While northern pike and bass can be common, walleyes likely will not bite until a low light period or dark.
“Panfish are showing some patterns, adapting to the temperature change. Though it was extremely cold, it was a consistent cold. Best fishing is 3:30-5:30 p.m. Use your electronics to locate fish, then sit over them and turn it off. Downsize baits to teardrops such as Northland Doodle Bugs and Forage Minnows tipped with waxies on dead sticks.”
Trent at Hayward Bait says we made it through the cold snap and both the weather and the bite are warming!
“We are near the end of February, which means gamefish fishing ends soon, and crappies and perch will start moving shallower to prepare for spawn.
“Walleyes are hitting just after dark and it is a narrow bite window. Most anglers use walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups, but jigging spoons tipped with minnow heads work well during these short bite windows. Anglers caught most fish in deeper water during the cold snap, but we should start to see walleye return to 18 feet.
“Northern pike are more aggressive following the cold snap. They offer good action on northern suckers and large shiners under tip-ups set up in 15-20 feet near vegetation.
“Largemouth bass are in 10-20 feet on drop offs, breaklines, and main basins. Largemouth bass tend to be lethargic this time of year and the key is finesse presentations. The majority of bass catches are by anglers using tip-ups rigged with sucker minnows and shiners.
“Smallmouth bass are on rock and gravel bottoms in 15-20 feet, with most catches by walleye anglers using tip-ups.
“Crappies are still in 25 feet in the main basins, although in some lakes the fish might start moving to drop-offs and breaklines in 15-20 feet. Large profile jigs and spoons should provide some good action.
“Bluegill success is most effective with a finesse approach in 20 feet in main basins. Try small jigs or switch to lead jigs for a slower fall and easier target.
“Perch are near sunken islands and bowls in 30-35 feet, with most action in the afternoon hours. Tungsten jigs and spoons get down to those perch quickly, and waxies and spikes both work well.”
Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says the number of anglers on Chequamegon Bay and the big lake is insane!
“Ice conditions are okay to the north of Red Cliff, but with warmth, they can change in the blink of an eye. Please use caution! If you are new to that area, we advise you use a guide.
“Inside the Bay, conditions are in good shape, with pressure cracks rising and falling.
“Catching remains strong on most days, but like everywhere, on some days the bite is finicky.
“There are photos and reports of people leaving empty propane cans and garbage on the ice. Please pick up after yourselves. Lake Superior is a precious resource – respect it!”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses “fish eaters.”
“Anglers are well aware that fish often eat other species of fish. From flathead catfish to muskellunge, in Wisconsin we have a wide array of ‘piscivores,’ the scientific name for ‘fish eaters’ in the fish world.
“Piscivores exist all across the animal kingdom. Birds are some of the most notorious and common fish eaters. Diving birds such as loons and cormorants eat fish as the overwhelming majority of their diet. Wading birds, such as herons, also specialize in eating fish. Ospreys, and their dive-bombing methods, are one of the more exciting piscivores to watch.
“Reptiles such as snapping turtles and certain water snakes claim fish as a significant portion of their diets. Crayfish, members of the crustacean order, eat plenty of fish, though they might rely on finding dead fish as much as catching live ones. There are even some large insects, such as predacious diving beetles, that can catch and eat small fish!
“Then there are the mammals. Otters are renowned fish-eating specialists, and bears in certain parts of the continent rely on salmon runs as a major part of their diet.
“Humans, of course, are the most efficient and widespread piscivore. Around the globe, humans are capable of catching and eating virtually any species of fish in almost any environment.”
The February 22 Birkie Trail conditions report says the trails south of OO are open and the Birkie Trail Crew groomed them early this morning. Reminder: The Birkie Trail Crew closed the skate and classic trails north of OO to prepare for Birkie events later this week.
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.
Sign up now for this year’s Zoom Sawyer County Fisheries Forum Thursday, February 25, starting at 7 p.m. Main topics include walleye stocking and fall surveys; Couderay and Namekagon river smallmouth and sturgeon projects; Conservation Congress proposals; spring survey plans for the Hayward DNR Fish Team; and we might add other topics.
To participate, register at https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAvduutpjMsH9TT29wEUyx6981cc4cVdLfH. You will receive a confirmation email with information about joining the meeting. Participants can suggest their own topics of interest as part of the registration process.
The Hayward DNR Fish Team looks forward to the event, says DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter, and hopes many people will join in to talk fish and plans for 2021.”
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.
Snowmobilers riding Sawyer County trails this winter should make sure to stop and “Snap a Selfie” with any AWSC signs (required to win!) they see along the way. Posting photos with #sledsawyer2020 on Facebook and Instagram enters you in a March drawing for cash prizes up to $500. Enter as often as you want, but remember – the contest ends Feb. 28!
The February 22 HLVCB snowmobile trail report says Sawyer County trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 8-10 inches. Groomers spent 8-10 hours (each!) grooming areas multiple times, as weekend traffic was heavy and left moguls. For trails currently in the grooming process, visit www.haywardlakes.com/19475.
The February 20 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for the Cable/Namakagon area says trails are open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 2-6 inches. Please obey all posted signs and speed limits – and remember the groomers have the right of way!
The February 19 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Washburn County says trails are open, groomed, and in good to excellent condition, with a base of 5-9 inches. Club volunteers are grooming daily, with each trail groomed once every three days.
Somewhat warmer weather patterns will affect fish patterns, so stop at your favorite bait shop to get the most current information on baits, presentations, and fish locations. Remember the general inland fishing season closes March 7.
Walleye fishing ranges from poor to very good, with most success at and after dark and/or in low light conditions. Look for fish around weeds and weedlines in 15-25 feet. Walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups continue to produce for anglers, with minnow heads on jigging spoons also drawing some attention.
Northern pike fishing is good to very good around weeds, weedlines, and panfish concentrations in 12-25 feet. Best offerings include northern suckers and shiners under tip-ups on weedline edges – and with pike, it is an all-day bite.
Largemouth fishing is fair to decent on weedline edges, main basins, and breaklines in 12-22 feet. Finesse is important for those targeting largemouth, but most catches are by anglers fishing walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups.
Smallmouth fishing remains fair to good on weedlines and rock and gravel bottoms in 18-28 feet. As with largemouth, most catches are by anglers fishing walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups.
Crappie fishing is very good in 15-25 feet in main lake basins, breaklines, and drop-offs, with the best bite in mid to late afternoon. Jigs and spoons tipped with crappie minnows, waxies, spikes, and plastics are all producing catches.
Bluegill fishing is good in about 20-25 feet in main lake basins, with most activity in mid to late afternoon hours. Small jigs and teardrops tipped with waxies, spikes, and plastics are the baits of choice, sometimes fished on dead sticks.
Perch fishing is fair to good on humps, bars, basins, and bowls in more than 30 feet. The most effective baits include fatheads, rosy reds, waxies, spikes, and plastics, on tungsten jigs, teardrops, and spoons.
Feb. 25: Sawyer County Fisheries Forum, 7 p.m. (DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter).
Feb. 24-28: American Birkebeiner (715-634-5025).
March 6: 39th annual Lions “Pre-Birkie” XC Ski Race – rescheduled from Feb. 13 (715-558-6251).
March 20: Crow season closes.
March 31: 2020-21 hunting/fishing licenses expire.
April 17-18: Youth turkey hunt.
April 21-27: Period A spring turkey season.
April 30: Seasons close: Beaver and otter trapping in North Zone.