March arrived and with it warmer weather. Expect cold nights, but highs most days in the 40s – and yes, that is an 80-degree swing from a couple weeks ago! This is wonderful weather to get outdoors and enjoy the fresh North Wood’s air!
“Lakes are seeing less angler pressure and the challenge is ice trolling – drilling several holes until locating fish – and locating feeding fish. Some days it is easy to find fish, but hard to get them to bite. Patient anglers are catching fish.
“Walleyes are tough, but northern pike and bass are still hitting. Best action is in deeper areas where roaming panfish swim through any level of the water column, so vary bait depths in the water column.
“Gamefish season closes March 7, but 2020-21 licenses do not expire until March 31. As the days grow longer, panfish fishing will get better and anglers should use small tungsten jigs, waxies, and small plastics.
“This time of year, fish might not commit to baits and when that happens, adapt to what they want and try downsizing and slow jigging or dead sticking. Many fish have seen the same baits and presentations all winter, but with countless soft plastics and lures available, try something different, not something you saw another angler use. If you find success – keep the secret to yourself!”
Trent at Hayward Bait says ice conditions are good, 16-20 inches, but some lakes have slush. In addition, anglers should use caution on lakes with springs or rivers.
“Walleye action is best as the sun sets below the tree-line. Jigging spoons tipped with minnow heads in 15-20 feet work well, as do walleye suckers and medium shiners on tip-ups.
“Northern pike are in 20 feet, taking northern suckers and large shiners on tip-ups, with dead bait a good option. Mornings and afternoons are the most productive times.
“Largemouth and smallmouth bass are on weed edges and breaklines in 15-20 feet, taking suckers and shiners on tip-ups.
“Crappies are hitting jigs and large profile spoons tipped with crappie minnows and waxies in 15-25 feet. Look for fish suspending about 8 feet off the bottom.
“Bluegills are finicky. Slowly falling small lead jigs entice them better than tungsten jigs, and spikes provide a smaller profile than waxies. The majority of bluegill are in main basins in 20 feet, with mornings and afternoons most productive.
“Perch are in 15-30 feet and less active, but provide a consistent bite most of the day. Some are now moving shallower for spawn. Tungsten jigs and spoons, tipped with waxies and spikes, get to the bottom quickly.”
Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says Chequamegon Bay fishing slowed a bit with the warm spell and conditions are definitely changing.
“Ice in the Bay is holding up well, with up to 20 inches in some places, though a bit slushy on some approaches. It might be wise to use a sled or ATV.
“The south channel is open and the ice heaved at Bodin’s. Anglers are still going north of Bayfield, but use extreme caution, as heaves are causing the ice to crack and open in some areas.
“Anglers are catching good numbers of perch, northern pike, walleye, whitefish, brown trout, and splake, and coho are hitting shiners near the coal dock.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the relationship of Wisconsin’s trout species.
“Wisconsin anglers likely know the ‘Big Three’ trout species that are available in the inland parts of the state: brook trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout. Many anglers may not know that these three species, despite all called ‘trout,’ are not all that closely related to each other. In fact, each of these three species exists in a separate taxonomic genus and has closer relatives in other parts of the world.
“Brook trout is the only species of the three that is native to Wisconsin. Interestingly, ‘brookies’ are not even a proper trout, but a member of the char family in the genus Salvelinus, and more closely related to lake trout, bull trout, and arctic char.
“Rainbow trout are native to the drainages of the Pacific west coast. They are in the genus Onchorhynchus, a big group that includes the five species of pacific salmon, golden trout species, Apache and Gila trout, and the numerous cutthroat trout species. Rainbows, introduced to Wisconsin and most of the continental United States through stocking programs, are one of the most commonly stocked fish in the world.
“Brown trout exist in the genus Salmo and have just one other close relative, the Atlantic salmon.
“These three species would have almost no overlap in their geographic ranges without centuries of human intervention. Now, it is possible to find all three swimming in the same river.
“Interestingly, despite not being in the same taxonomic genus, brook and brown trout hybridize rather easily when both species exist together.
“Natural hybridization among fish outside of the same genus is relatively uncommon in the fish world. Most hybrids with which Wisconsin anglers would be familiar are among two species in the same genus – walleye x sauger, pike x muskellunge, and various sunfish hybrids in the genus Lepomis.”
The March 1 Birkie Trail Conditions Report says the Birkie Trail Crew is working on grooming plans for this week following Birkie 2021. Today, the crew will groom one pass from OO headed south to Hatchery and do the other tomorrow. Later Monday, they will groom the Birkie Classic and Birkie skate trails north of OO, but it will take a few days as the crew recovers from race weekend.
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 North Wisconsin Rod & Gun Club in Ashland is hosting its 34th Annual Ice-O-Rama from 5 a.m. Saturday March 6 through 12 noon Sunday March 7. Anglers fish at their own risk. The largest walleye, northern pike, lake trout, trout/salmon, and perch win $150. There are cash prizes for second and third places, as well as raffle drawings. Winners need not be present, but they must provide a legible phone number. Anglers weigh in at the Rod & Gun Club and Second Landing, three miles east of Ashland, and runs from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.-noon Sunday. Organizers will not register frozen fish. The contest entry fee is $10.
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 1 HLVCB snowmobile trail report says Sawyer County trails are open, groomed, and in great condition, with a base of 6-8 inches. Sunday offered fantastic pretty views with the fresh snow! There are reports a few water holes opened in the ice where Flowage Trail 3/9 goes north off Squaw Bay, so please ride with caution. Temperatures will be warmer this week, but take a moment to enjoy today and all things positive!
The March 1 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Washburn County says all trails are open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 6-10 inches. With warm and sunny weather in the forecast, enjoy a ride before it arrives!
The February 28 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for the Clam Lake area says trails are open, groomed, and in fair to good condition, with a base of 10-15 inches. Crews will continue to groom if temperatures get below freezing. Ride at your own risk.
The 6-8 inches of fresh, wet, heavy snow that fell Sunday morning will not help improve already slushy fishing conditions on most lakes. Cold nights continue, but daytime highs will be in the 40s for much of this week. Ice thickness is more than 20 inches on some lakes, but with pockets of slush in some areas. Anglers who want to fish for gamefish should be aware the general inland gamefish season runs through March 7, so better get out there this week! For panfish anglers, the 2020-21 hunting/fishing licenses are good through March 31.
Walleye fishing is fair and challenging, with the best fishing at sunset into after dark in 12-22 feet. The most effective offerings include walleye suckers and medium shiners under tip-ups. However, some anglers are catching fish on jigging spoons tipped with minnow heads.
Northern pike action is good to very good, particularly in morning and afternoon hours. Target breaklines and weedline edges in 12-25 feet. The most productive presentation is rigging northern suckers and large shiners under tip-ups, although some anglers report good results with dead bait.
Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass:
Smallmouth bass action is fair to decent, with fish on weed edges and breaklines out to 25 feet or so. Most catches are by walleye and pike anglers fishing suckers and shiners under tip-ups.
Crappie fishing is fair to good in 12-28 feet, with many of the fish suspending about 8 feet off bottom. Crappie minnows, waxies, plastics, and Gulp! baits on larger spoons and jigs will get their attention. Make sure to check the entire water column.
Bluegill fishing is fair to good, with morning and afternoon hours offering the best chances for success. Look for fishing in about 20 feet in main lake basins. The best offerings are spikes on small lead jigs, with waxies, spikes, and plastics on small jigs and teardrops also taking some fish.
Perch fishing is fair to decent, with fish as deep as 30 feet, though moving toward shallower water in anticipation of spawning season. Start over deeper water and move shallower until you find fish. Tungsten jigs and spoons tipped with waxies, spikes, and minnow heads are good temptations.
March 6-7: North Wisconsin Rod and Gun Club’s 34th Annual Ice-O-Rama
March 7: General inland fishing season closes.
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 17-18: Youth Turkey Hunt.
April 21-27: Period A spring turkey season.
April 30: Seasons close: Beaver and otter trapping in North Zone.