This week starts warm and sunny, with some inclement weather midweek, and then returns to mild and sunny the remainder of the week into the weekend. Great weather to be outdoors, but it will be sloppy in most areas! Reminder: Please be note that Daylight Saving Time begins this weekend at 2 a.m. Sunday, March 14 (turn clocks ahead one hour) and that Wisconsin’s general inland fishing season closed March 7.
“Although we are still using machines to travel on the ice, we will soon be back to walking. Ice loss depends on temperatures and other factors, but we should still have a couple good weeks for ice fishing. Expect slush, so rubber boots are in order.
“Game fish season closed March 7 so it is now all about panfish. This is a good time to chase roaming schools of bluegills and crappies, as well as find schools of perch in shallow basins.
“Some schools are vulnerable and it is a good idea to leave them alone. If you fish water deeper than 20 feet and find some nice crappies, these fish do not do well with pressure changes and you will likely kill them as you reel them up from those depths.
“Best panfish baits are soft plastics on small tungsten jigs, matching colors complementing the water color. Use soft plastics for bluegills and crappie minnow heads for crappies.
“Some anglers have moved on from ice fishing and are preparing boats for open water fishing.
“Snowmobile trail conditions vary from place to place. Some areas are poor, while some still quite passable, the latter areas are those that are most protected from the elements.”
Trent at Hayward Bait says gamefish fishing closed, temperatures in the 40s make being outdoors a pleasant experience, and spring is in the air.
“Ice conditions are still good, though there is quite a bit of slush and water on top of it due to the warmer weather. The best time to fish seems to be in early morning when the top layer is still firm and the bite is most productive.
“Crappies are now very active and most anglers are doing well in 15-20 feet on weed edges, basin edges, and drop-offs. Not a big change in depth, but the fish are starting to migrate. Spoons and large profile jigs are working well.
“Bluegills are in about 20 feet in main lake basins and on breaklines, and still quite finicky. Small, light, jigs tipped with spikes are the proven set-up at this time.
“Perch are becoming increasingly aggressive as they move shallow to spawn. The fish are fat and full of eggs! Most anglers are finding perch in 10-20 feet, with spoons and tungsten jigs tipped with minnows and waxies very effective.
“Spring turkey season is not far off and this is a good time to find turkeys traveling together, before splitting up and making it harder to track one or two individual turkeys.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the drainages of Sawyer County.
“As humans, we tend to think of geography mostly in the terms that we created, such as north or south, east or west, county or state boundaries, or proximity to man-made landmarks such as roads. However, it is helpful for anglers and fish biologists to think about geography in terms of watersheds.
“Sawyer County offers an interesting example of how different watersheds offer varying types of waterbodies and angling experiences. I think of Sawyer County as 10 different drainages, though you could certainly divide it even further on a smaller scale.
“Nelson Lake is in the Totagatic River drainage, which covers just a small corner of the county. The Namekagon River drainage includes Smith Lake, Lake Hayward, Pacwawong, and Phipps, several of which lie right along the river and have fisheries that include many riverine species. Then there is the Couderay River drainage, which has some of the largest and clearest natural lakes in the state. It is no coincidence that these lakes are quite different from others in the area, as it is characteristic of the watershed.
“In the southwest corner of the county, there are several lakes in the Red Cedar drainage, including Big Chetac. Many lakes in the Red Cedar drainage are naturally very productive and support a high biomass of fish, another watershed characteristic.
“The Weirgor River drainage does not include many lakes, but does contain some of the best native brook trout streams in the area, fed by cool water coming out of the northernmost portion of the Blue Hills.
“The Brunet River drainage includes many lakes in the Winter area.
“The Flambeau River drainage includes several popular lakes within Flambeau River State Forest.
“The East Fork Chippewa River drainage includes Barker, Hunter, and Blaisdell lakes, all having native sturgeon capable of reaching 6 feet in length, something not present in most other local watersheds. The West Fork of the Chippewa includes some of the darkest stained water in the area, and supports native musky and walleye populations.
“The Chief River drainage lakes all have an historic reputation for high-density musky populations and abundant and small panfish.
“The Chippewa Flowage sits at the confluence of several of these drainages, a testament to its size. Thinking in terms of drainages, as opposed to individual waters, also helps us understand how management actions or disturbances in an area may not be isolated, and how impacts can be felt elsewhere.”
The DNR is urging people to complete vegetative debris burning and check previously burned piles for lingering embers before the snow melts. This is the safest time of year to burn, with fires less likely to escape and cause wildfires. Before burning, obtain proper burning permits and check the daily fire restrictions. Fire season begins right after the snow melts, and vegetation quickly dries out with warmer temperatures, low humidity, and gusty winds. In 2020, during the peak of spring wildfire season, the DNR suspended issuing burning permits due to COVID-19 safety concerns.
The March 8 Birkie Trail Conditions Report says the Birkie Trail Crew groomed the OO loops, Easy Strider, and OO south to Gravel Pit late Sunday. With the warm temperatures and rain in the forecast, it is likely they will not do much grooming outside the areas around Birkie Trail Head this week as they prepare for the March 13 Fat Bike Birkie.
Skiing at Birkie Trailhead is open from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Do not ski outside these hours, as groomers might be on the trail. Winter lights are on from dusk to 10 p.m. at Hatchery, OO, and American Birkebeiner trailheads. Skiing any part of the Birkie Trail System December through March requires a Birkie Trail Ski Pass.
The sale of remaining harvest authorizations for the 2021 spring wild turkey season begins at 10 a.m. Monday, March 15, on a first-come, first-served basis. Hunters can purchase one authorization per day. Each zone has a designated sales date: Monday – Zone 1, Tuesday – Zone 2, Wednesday – Zone 3, Thursday – Zone 4, and Friday – zones 5 and 7 (no authorizations remain for Zone 6). All remaining bonus authorizations go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 20, and will continue until all zones sell out or the season ends. Hunters can purchase authorizations through authorized license sales agents and the Online Licensing Center. The cost for authorizations is $10 for residents and $15 for nonresidents. Please note that purchasers must have a spring turkey license and stamp.
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 March 08 HLVCB snowmobile trail report says Sawyer County trails are open, not groomed, and in poor condition, with a base of 0-5 inches. Crews have removed trail stakes from Big and Little Round and Osprey lakes, with Lake Hayward to follow.
The March 8 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for the Clam Lake area says trails are open, not groomed, and in poor condition, with a base of 0-6 inches. Ashland County trails are open, but in poor condition. The Tri-County Corridor is open. Trails closed from Ashland to Mellen 13 side and Ashland to Deer Creek on Trail 9 side. Connecting routes in villages and connecting roads are bare. You can still ride in the forest.
The March 8 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Rusk County says county trails closed as of today. Trail workers will work on projects long after trails close and before trails open next year.
Wisconsin’s gamefish/general inland fishing season closed March 7 and fishing now revolves mostly around panfish. Ice conditions are changing and anglers will have to deal with considerable slush that will probably increase with this week’s warm temperatures and rain. Remember that your 2020-21 fishing license expires March 31 and you will need a new license to continue fishing, be it on ice or open water.
Crappie fishing is good to very good when you locate and stay on the schools of fish, which are on the move. Search weed and basin edges and drop-offs in 12-23 feet. Best bait choices include crappie minnows, minnow heads, waxies, and plastics on spoons and various size jigs.
Bluegill fishing is fair to good, with fish somewhat selective about angler offerings. Look for fish on main lake basins and breaklines in 17-22 feet. Downsize tackle and baits to smaller, lighter jigs tipped with spikes and soft plastics.
Perch action is very good to excellent in 8-22 feet as the fish move toward shallower spawning areas. Tungsten jigs and spoons tipped with minnows, minnow heads, waxies, and plastics will all get interest.
March 7: General inland fishing season closed.
March 13: Fat Bike Birkie (715-634-5025).
March 14: Daylight Saving Time begins at 2 a.m. (turn clocks ahead one hour).
March 20: Crow season closes.
March 31: 2020-21 hunting/fishing licenses expire.
April 12: WCC Virtual Spring Hearings begin at 7 p.m. and remain open for 72 hours.
April 17-18: Youth turkey hunt.
April 21-27: Period A spring turkey season.
April 30: Trapping seasons close: Beaver and otter in North Zone.