The forecast for this week shows double-digit subzero low temperatures, with wind chills registering as low as -35 to -50 degrees. This will continue for at least the better part of a week. When outdoors, be cautious, dress for the conditions, and do not take unnecessary risks!
“Temperatures have dropped into the subzero range,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “and ice thickness on most of the Quiet Lakes is almost strong enough to hold larger vehicle traffic. Anglers should not go on someone’s word and continue to check ice on their own.
“Fishing is a little better, with some bites better than others, depending on the targeted species. For whatever reason, live bait is performing well, not so much on tip-ups, but with jigging.
“Walleye anglers are still catching fish, but finding it more challenging, and they report better success fishing in early morning and late afternoon into dark. Work mid-lake humps and weed drop-offs in deeper water.
“Northern pike and largemouth bass continue to roam weed edges, so setting tip-ups with suckers and shiners over those areas should turn a few fish.
“Crappies are now cruising in deeper water locations and these schools will continue to grow with the mid-winter bug hatches starting to take place.
“Panfish fishing is good for anglers fishing off the beaten path. Good areas include 5-12 feet in shallow back bays.”
Trent at Hayward Bait says fishing action slowed, but ice conditions are slowly improving with the colder weather.
“The walleye bite is tough during the day, with better fishing after dark. Anglers report a decent bite from 7-8 p.m. and in the midnight hours, with most anglers finding success in 12-18 feet. Use walleye suckers and shiners on tip- ups set over rock and gravel bottoms, bars, and weed edges.
“Northern pike are active throughout the day, with mornings and afternoons most productive. Work northern suckers and shiners on tip-ups on main basins, breaklines, and drop-offs near vegetation in 10-20 feet.
“Largemouth bass are in main basins in about 20 feet, and near drop-offs with vegetation in 10-15 feet. Smallmouth are on gravel bottom humps and bowls in 15-18 feet. Suckers and shiners on tip-ups are enticing both species.
“Crappies are in 25 feet in main basins, with fish active in mornings and afternoons. Crappies are on the move, so hole hopping might be necessary. Jigs and spoons tipped with waxies, spikes, and plastics work best.
“Bluegills are also a morning and afternoon bite. Work waxies and spikes on small jigs in main basins in 15-20 feet.
“Perch fishing will improve as the month progresses. Best action is in afternoon hours in 12-35 feet, depending on the lake and structure. Fish sandy bottom humps and drop-offs with waxies and spikes on tungsten jigs and spoons.”
Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says fishing on Chequamegon Bay was great last week – until Thursday’s storm.
“Anglers are scattered throughout the channel west of the lighthouse and report a hot bite. There is about 16-18 inches of ice, the channel is loaded with smelt, and catches of coho, splake, perch, brown trout, and sturgeon are common.
“Anglers report great success catching big brown trout off the Sioux and Onion in rivers in about 30 feet.
“The ferry is not running and anglers picking their way as far as Hermit Island report about 6 inches of ice.
“Make sure to bring an ice bar – as well as all other necessary safety gear – to check your way.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the Hayward Fish Team’s focus for this year.
“The Hayward DNR Fish Team is hopeful that 2021 will again allow for spring fieldwork, as spring is a critical time to survey some of our most important gamefish species.
“One of our focuses in 2021 and in following years is evaluating some management initiatives enacted not long ago. One of those initiatives, the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative, led to more availability of large fingerling walleye for stocking.
“Many of our lakes received the large fingerlings during the past 6-7 years, and some fish from those early stockings have reached adulthood. Our crew, with crews across the state, will survey adult walleye populations in some of these stocked lakes, and data collected will provide information on the success of individual stockings.
“In addition, we will survey panfish populations in lakes that received experimental size and bag limits in 2016. Data from crappie and bluegill in these lakes will help determine if those regulations were successful in improving panfish size.
“Fortunately, we have a number of ‘silver bullet’ lakes that are part of both the Walleye Initiative and the panfish experimental regulations project, and we plan to survey three of these lakes, Durphee, Black Dan, and Island, in 2021.
“We will also survey a number of other lakes, with various survey objectives.”
This year’s Sawyer County Fisheries Forum, via Zoom, is February 25 and starts at 7 p.m.
Main topics this year 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 there could be additional 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.”
The DNR is accepting nominations for the 2020 Hunter Ethics Award. The committee considers any nomination for a DNR-regulated hunting activity in Wisconsin, basing selection on exceptional moral actions and character in the field. Written nominations must contain the name, address, and phone number of the witness/witnesses, and the behavior leading to the nomination. Any person can nominate a licensed Wisconsin hunter (resident or nonresident) for the award. The submission deadline is February 19. Mail submissions to DNR, c/o April Dombrowski, 101 S. Webster St., P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921, or email to April.Dombrowski@wisconsin.gov.
The DNR is accepting public comment through February 24 on potential economic impacts of proposed rule FH-10-20 regulating the harvest of Lake Superior cisco and lake trout. 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.
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 February 8 HLVCB snowmobile trail report says Sawyer County trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 8-10 inches. Lakes are snow covered and offer good riding. Stay on the trails – it is difficult to spot hazards under new snow! The Trail 18 access to the Chippewa Flowage by R&R remains closed. This cold spike might help, but for now, stay away from the barricaded area.
The February 8 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for the Clam Lake area says trails are open, groomed, and in good to excellent condition, with a base of 5-10 inches.
The February 8 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Washburn County says trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 5-9 inches. Clubs are grooming, so watch for active grooming equipment.
Last week’s snowfall and the arrival of extremely cold temperatures will most likely slow interest in fishing for the coming week or so, though most species of fish are still hitting. Ice thickness should improve, albeit perhaps slightly with the new snow cover. For the sake of safety, it is still a good idea to check your way as you go!
Walleye fishing slowed a bit and the daytime bite is difficult. Best fishing is in early morning and from late afternoon into well after dark. Locations vary and include weeds and weed edges, mid-lake humps, weedy drop-offs, bars, and bottoms with rock and gravel. Walleye suckers and shiners under tip-ups are currently the most productive offerings.
Northern pike action is good to very good and the fish offer an all-day bite, though it is best in morning and afternoon hours. Set tip-ups with walleye suckers and shiners on weeds and weed edges, main basins, breaklines, and drop-offs in depths from 8-25 feet.
Largemouth bass continue to provide anglers decent action, even when not the target species. Most catches come on walleye suckers and shiners under tip-ups set on weed edges, drop-offs, and lake basins in 12-22 feet.
Smallmouth bass are active, though anglers show little interest in fishing for them. Try working gravel bottom bowls and humps in 12-20 feet with walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups.
Crappie fishing is fair to very good once you locate the schools – and plan to move to keep on active fish. Mornings and afternoons offer the best success. Look for fish in bays, main basins, and deep water in depths from 5-28 feet. Crappie minnows, fatheads, waxies, spikes, and plastics on jigs and spoons are all working well.
Bluegill fishing is good, with the best bite in mornings and afternoons. Look for fish in bays and main lake basins in depths ranging from 5-22 feet. Waxies, spikes, and plastics on small jigs and teardrops will produce some interest.
Perch action is fair to good, with the best bite during afternoon hours. Fish are scattered around various structure in depths from 5-35 feet. Tip small minnows, waxies, and spikes on tungsten jigs and spoons, fishing them in shallow bays and on sandy humps and drop-offs.
Feb. 13: 39th annual Lions Pre-Birkie XC Ski Race (715-558-6251).
Feb. 25: 2021 Sawyer County Fisheries Forum, 7 p.m. (DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter).
Feb. 24-28: American Birkebeiner (715-634-5025).
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.