The North Woods enjoyed a few days of mild, early spring weather, but the forecast indicates a switch to more typical spring conditions this week. Cooler temperatures will again prevail, mixed with some days of rain and snow mix. At least for the next week, keep a jacket/rain jacket handy!
“There is still plenty of ice on the Quiet Lakes,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “with 1-1.5 feet on the main lake body. There are, however, some weak areas along the shorelines, so check shore ice before accessing the lake. Shore ice deteriorates faster than the main body of the lake ‑ and you do not want to be out on the ice and unable to get back!
“Weather over the last couple weeks left a lot of water on the ice, so rubber boots and even ice cleats are necessary. People are still driving ATVs on the ice, but we recommend against snowmobiles due to the water.
“Panfish fishing is slow, with best action in late afternoon until sunset. Fish the end of weed edges and on drop-offs.
“Crappie action is best with plastics on small jigs, though fish are also hitting crappie minnows. If minnows are not working, switch to plastics. Electronics help find the fish faster than hit-or-miss searching. Once on a school, action is fast and furious, but schools move so the action does not last long. As schools move, stay on them by drilling additional holes.
“Anglers are taking some bluegills and perch in the same areas as crappies, though most perch are small.
“As a reminder, 2020-21 licenses expire March 31 and new licenses for 2021-22 are now on sale. Purchase your new license now and avoid the opening day rush!”
Trent at Hayward Bait says spring set in, ice fishing is dwindling, and open water is on the horizon.
“The panfish bite is good, but mild nights and warmer days will quickly turn the ice, and anglers are reporting patches of honeycomb ice. We highly recommend taking proper safety gear such as spud bars and ice picks, and ice cleats are essential as shorelines start to erode.
“Crappies continue to move in as the temperatures warm. Anglers report them at a variety of depths, ranging from 10-20 feet, depending on the lake. Crappies are suspending higher in the water column and a Vexilar and other electronics can be of great help in finding suspended fish. Jigging spoons and larger profile jigs will trigger good bites as the fish become more aggressive.
“Bluegills are still mostly in 20 feet in main basins, hitting best in mornings and then in the evening hours and just after 6 p.m. Waxies on lead and tungsten jigs are the current angler preference.
“Perch are migrating to shallower water and beginning to approach their spawning areas. Most anglers are fishing in 10-20 feet, which also offers the opportunity to catch crappies and bluegills. To entice those bigger 7-stripe perch, try minnow heads rather than waxies.
“While the panfish bite is good, anglers are also looking for trout and going up to Lake Superior. Maple sapping season is in full swing, but will slow with the warmer nights ahead. Turkey season is just around the corner and bachelor groups are starting to break up as the males begin chasing hens.”
Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says most Chequamegon Bay anglers have hung it up for the season.
“Warm temperatures and very strong southwest winds have made machine travel sketchy and most anglers do not want to walk. The head of the Bay is open and the short bridge area is starting to open.
“Trolling anglers are flocking to Saxon Harbor and the south shore and they are reporting good success on brown trout and coho.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the misplaced bad rap on suckers.
“‘Sucker’ fish have an undeservedly bad reputation and I commonly hear anglers imply they are dirty or ‘just bottom feeders.’ There are several problems with that mentality.
“There are several species with mouths on the underside of their head that people commonly lump under the term ‘suckers.’
“There are the true sucker species, which locally include white sucker and hog sucker. There is another group, the redhorse, which have the same inferior (bottom facing) mouth, but often have more colorful fins and large, shiny scales. There are quillback, buffalo, and carpsuckers, which are rare in the north, but quite common in larger rivers.
“Then there is the common carp, a species introduced in North America and not closely related to these other species. Among all these ‘suckers,’ it is just the common carp we know to be destructive.
“When introduced into a new environment, common carp can root up aquatic vegetation and drive system-wide changes in water clarity and quality. Often, the native ‘sucker’ species are indicators of good water quality, especially the redhorse. Clean, undeveloped rivers such as the Namekagon are loaded with redhorse.
“White suckers are a little more tolerant of lower water quality, but still have an important role to play in the ecosystem. White suckers have historically been one of the main sources of food for several important gamefish species in our Hayward area lakes, including walleye and trophy muskellunge. We do not know them to eat significant amounts of eggs of other fish, another undeserved bad rap.
“I hope this information helps people better understand that there is more to ‘suckers’ than meets the eye, and that many species are worthy of our appreciation and conservation.”
The DNR says seedlings are still available for 2021 spring planting to create and enhance wildlife habitat, stabilize the soil, provide future shady spots, and block winter wind and snow. Talk to a DNR forester to get more information on tree planting and forest management. Developing a good planting plan can focus a landowner’s efforts and create a strategy to achieve their property goals. Seedlings sold by the Wisconsin State nurseries are only for planting in Wisconsin and for reforestation, wildlife habitat, and windbreak and erosion control purposes. To order seedlings, print off a seedling application. For up-to-date information on seedling availability, contact the state nursery at (715) 424-3700. For more information about using seedlings from state nurseries, please review the Frequently Asked Questions.
The DNR is recruiting for its next class of conservation wardens. Interested people can learn what it takes at a virtual information session at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 24. The application period opens in April. Wisconsin conservation wardens have protected the people and natural resources since 1879. This unique career requires candidates with a passion for helping others, communication skills, and appreciation for the outdoors. As credentialed law enforcement officers, wardens work across the state enforcing natural resource and recreation safety laws, educating the public on conservation topics, and providing law enforcement on state parks, forests, and trails. Wardens also work cooperatively with other law enforcement and public safety agencies at the local, state, and federal level. Information sessions are not mandatory, but information provided during these sessions is beneficial for understanding the recruitment process. The DNR encourages anyone who meets the minimum requirements to submit an application. To learn more visit https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/WardenRecruitment/Prepare.
Wisconsin’s wildfire season is underway ‑ spring is the most dangerous time ‑ and the DNR requires burning permits in many parts of the state once the snow cover is gone. Historically, 60 percent of all annual wildfires in Wisconsin occur in March, April, and May. The DNR reminds people to be fire smart and get their free annual burning permit online. For more information on burning permits, fire danger, and preparing for wildfires, visit the burning restrictions webpage.
The DNR is accepting applications through May 31 for the 2021 fall elk hunt in northwest Wisconsin. The application fee is $10. The cost of a hunting license for the drawing winners is $49. Wisconsin residents (only) can purchase applications through GoWild (gowild.wi.gov) or license agents. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will raffle one license, the raffle tickets cost $10 each, and there is no limit on the number of raffle tickets that an individual may purchase.
The Sawyer County Deer Advisory Council (CDAC) will convene a virtual Zoom meeting March 23, starting at 7 p.m., to begin planning for the 2021 deer season. A phone-in option is available at (312) 626-6799; code 850 1769 5247. For more information, visit https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/hunt/CDACFind.aspx.
Rain and warm temperatures are bringing an early end to ice fishing season, but there is currently a good bite in progress. Be cautious, as ice conditions are rapidly deteriorating, so if you go, take all necessary safety equipment, and check the ice as you go. On your way, stop at your favorite bait and tackle shop for the most current ice conditions and the most productive baits and presentations. While there, pick up your new fishing license (effective immediately), as 2020-2021 licenses expire March 31.
Crappie fishing is good to very good once you find ‑ and stick with ‑ the fish, with the best fishing from late afternoon until sundown. The fish are on drop-offs and weed edges in 8-23 feet, depending on the lake, and moving shallower. They are also suspending high in the water column, so use your electronics to check the entire water column. Baits of choice include crappie minnows, waxies, and plastics on jigs, with jigging spoons also producing action.
Bluegill fishing is fair to good, with best success in mornings and late afternoon into evening hours. Look for fish in main lake basins and around weed edges and drop-offs in 18-22 feet. Anglers are using jigs, both lead and tungsten, tipping them with waxies, spikes, plastics, and small minnows.
Perch fishing is good in depths from 8-22 feet, as the fish have started their move toward shallower spawning areas. Anglers are fishing the same areas as for crappie and bluegill, and with comparable equipment. Best baits include jigs with waxies, plastics, and minnow heads for bigger perch.
March 15: Bonus spring turkey harvest authorizations now on sale.
March 20: Crow season closed.
March 20: First day of spring!
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 17-18: Youth turkey hunt.
April 21-27: Period A spring turkey season.
April 28-May 4: Period B spring turkey season.
May 5-11: Period C spring turkey season.
May 12-18: Period D spring turkey season.
May 19-25: Period E spring turkey season.
May 26-June 1: Period F spring turkey season.