According the current forecast, we have a weird weather week ahead! Lows range from -5 to 31 degrees, and highs from low 20s to 36 degrees. Some stiff winds return, with top end in the mid-20s. All that and “maybe” some sunshine on a couple days, too. Considering this is early February in the North Woods… somewhat mild! Enjoy it!
“Much needed snow fell last weekend,” says Greg at Happy Hooker. “The trails are thin on the Quiet Lakes and in the woods. Ice condition reports say two feet or more in some places, with a mostly consistent 18 inches elsewhere.
“Thick ice and snow cover blocks light from the weeds, most died off, and from now until warming starts, all fish will relate to the basins.
“Walleyes are in the deepest lake basins. Jigging spoons tipped with minnow heads are the go-to bait, but suckers and shiners on tip-ups and dead sticks will increase your catch. Fish can be finicky, and patience will pay off.
“Northern pike fishing is good with northern suckers, shiners, and big fatheads on tip-ups and dead sticks. Pike like an easy meal, and can be anywhere in the water column, so set baits at different depths.
“Crappie, bluegill, and perch are schooling in deep basins. Use small jigs and jigging spoons tipped with waxies, spikes, and plastics. Fish aggressively at first, downsizing if that does not work. Panfish are eating small bugs off the soft bottom, so use matching presentations. Vertical jigs versus horizontal style jigs might help with bigger bluegills and crappies, as the fish feeding up see a smaller profile.”
Jarrett at Hayward Bait says the best walleye fishing is during early morning, evening, and throughout the night.
“Walleye anglers are finding fish on trees, rock, and other structure, and just off steep drop-offs to deep water. It is a slower bite than earlier in the season and some anglers report finding fish difficult. Most use medium shiners, walleye suckers, and fatheads, with some using Jigging Rap type lures tipped with minnow heads.
“Northern pike are anywhere from 5-20 feet, over weeds, both deep and shallow, and just off weedlines. Live bait is the best option, with northern suckers and medium and large golden shiners all producing success.
“Crappies in most lakes are in basins and deep holes this time of year, typically in 20- to 30-foot holes, and suspending in the water column when feeding. Most anglers use live bait such as crappie minnows and waxies, but others report good success with plastics.
“Bluegills are anywhere from 6-20 feet, in shallow weeds to deep basins and suspending with crappies. They are generally within the weeds in shallow water out to 10 feet, and typically suspending 3-4 feet off bottom in 15-20 feet. Waxies and spikes are best, but as with crappies, some anglers report success with plastics.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the importance of oxygen to fish at all life stages.
“Saying that oxygen is important to living things is one of those incredibly obvious statements. Yet, we do not always consider how oxygen, or lack thereof, impacts fish.
“Basic fish biology tells us that fish obtain oxygen via their gills, which are specialized to ‘pull’ it from the water. A limited number of fish can also breathe oxygen, gulping it from the surface and holding it in crude organs that function similar to lungs.
“Even in the earliest stages of a fish’s life, oxygen is important.
“A recent study on perch demonstrates how important oxygen is to the development and survival of fish eggs. The researchers reared perch eggs in waters with three different levels of dissolved oxygen: normal, a little lower than normal, and much lower than normal. They tracked the development, hatching success, and even the heartbeats of the eggs.
“Unsurprisingly, the eggs reared at the highest oxygen levels had the fastest development and the highest hatching success at 78 percent. In water with somewhat lower oxygen, the hatching rate dropped to 20 percent. None of the eggs in the lowest oxygen-level water hatched. Pre-hatch embryos in the high oxygen water also had faster heartbeats than those in the lower oxygen treatment.
“These results make the importance of oxygen for fish development and hatching very clear, while also illustrating the consequences of losing well-oxygenated water.
“Nutrients can create more biological oxygen demand that might reduce available oxygen for fish at critical times and life stages. Maintaining healthy watersheds and shorelines, along with other efforts to minimize nutrient inputs to lakes and rivers, are the best ways to maintain dissolved oxygen levels.”
The Hayward Lions Club’s 40th Annual Pre-Birkie is this Saturday, February 12. Racers have the choice to classic or skate the short (26k) or long (42k) race. Both races start at Birkie Ridge, just north of Seeley. The course heads south down the skate trail to OO, then turns north up the classic trail to Fire Tower (short) or past Timber Trail (long), and loops back to finish at Birkie Ridge. Come and enjoy the day at the Hayward Lions Pre-Birkie race!
The February 3-6 Birkie Trail conditions report says conditions remain very good for skiing. The American Birkebeiner week event is February 23-27 and crews plowed the field at Birkie Ridge, including the skijoring loop, which remains closed until further notice. Crews groomed Easy Strider, from OO north to Fire Tower on the Skate and Classic trails, Birkie Ridge trail connector, and the loops at the Birkie Trailhead in Cable. Skiing any part of the Birkie Trail System December through March requires a Birkie Trail Ski Pass.
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.
The February 7 HLVCB snowmobile trail report says Sawyer County trails are open, groomed, and in fair condition, with a base of 3-5 inches. We definitely need snow, but trails are actually laying down flat. Groomers pulled snow from the sides and work when temperatures are good for grooming. Reports from around the county remain consistent. There are some rocks and some icy, bare corners, but trails are holding up surprisingly well. Never judge trails by those near roads and in the open, as they will be dirty and have bare spots. Many are connecting trails, so you will not ride them long. Lake riding is excellent. A huge thank you to the groomers and volunteers who work hard on the trails and maintain the machines!
The February 7 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for the Clam Lake/Ashland County area says trails are open, groomed, and in fair to good condition, with a base of 3-5 inches. Trail conditions vary and there are some thin spots in places, so ride with care. We received a few inches of snow over the weekend and can use more. Please stay on the correct side of trails, and be cautious on forest roads and trail re-routes. The Trail 8 reroute near Clam Lake shares a stretch of Forest Rd 336 with vehicle traffic.
The February 4 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for southeast Douglas County says all trails are open, groomed, and in fair condition, with a base of 6-8 inches. There are still areas of dirt poking through on some trails. We need more snow! Stay on marked trails ‑ it is critical we respect the landowners who allow us to use their property.
The February 3 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for the Cable/Bayfield County area says trails are open, groomed, and in fair condition, with a base of 2-4 inches. Some trail areas have exposed rocks. We need more snow!
The February 3 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Washburn County says trails are open, groomed, and in fair condition, with a base of 2-6 inches. Trails will are open, but need new snow soon, and there is little in the forecast. Get out and ride while you can!
Fishing action is fair to good for most species. Before going on the ice, stop at your favorite bait and tackle shop to get the most current information regarding fish locations, baits, and presentations.
According to many reports, ice thickness is 15-20 inches on most Hayward area lakes. Always go with caution, however, and practice ice fishing safety protocols regarding travel and equipment.
Walleye anglers and those targeting other gamefish ‑ the general inland fishing season closes at the end of the day March 6. If you check regulations on the DNR website, make sure to view information for THIS year!
Walleye action is fair, but anglers making the effort are catching fish. Most success is in early morning and from late afternoon into after dark. The fish are in deep basins, around wood, rock, and other structure, and on drop-offs adjacent to deep water. Best baits include walleye suckers, shiners, and fatheads on tip-ups and dead sticks. Minnow heads on jigs and jigging baits are also producing.
Northern pike action is good to very good and the fish are nearly everywhere in 6-22 feet, from weeds and weedlines to drop-offs, and near concentrations of panfish and baitfish. Northern suckers, shiners, and fatheads under tip-ups and dead sticks will motivate them.
Crappie fishing is fair to good, with best fishing in mornings and afternoons. Look for fish in deep holes in 20-30 feet, and check the entire column for suspending fish. Baits of choice include crappie minnows, fatheads, waxies, spikes, and plastics on jigs, and jigging spoons.
Bluegill fishing is fair to good in basins and shallow bays in 5-20 feet. Search the entire water column for suspending fish. Waxies, spikes, and plastics on small jigs and teardrops work well, with jigging spoons also drawing interest. Modify the presentation, and downsize if necessary.
Perch fishing is fair to good once you locate the fish, dispersed from shallow to deep, on weeds, humps, drop-offs, and flats in depths to 30 feet. Waxies, spikes, plastics, and minnow heads on jigs are all productive offerings.
Jan. 28: Crow season opened.
Jan. 31: Seasons closed: Squirrel; Bobcat Period 2 hunting/trapping.
Feb.12: Hayward Lions Pre-Birkie.
Feb. 18-21: Great Backyard Bird Count (607-254-2137).
Feb.23-27: Slumberland American Birkebeiner week (715-634-5025).
Feb.28: Seasons close: Cottontail rabbit.
For more information on area events and activities, visit the Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau and Hayward Area Chamber of Commerce websites, view the Calendar of Events, or call (715) 634-8662 or 800-724-2992.