Steve Suman

 

This week’s forecast indicates sunshine Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday, making them the best days for outdoor recreation. Typical spring weather in the North Woods, but we are moving in the right direction ‑ even if two steps forward and one step back!

 

“What a wet and cool couple weeks we have had in the Quiet Lakes area,” says Pat at Happy Hooker. “Though needed, the precipitation is really testing our rain gear. You might have noticed some of the trees are budding and grass is turning green. Before you know it, we will be mowing ‑ but before that, we need to dry out our wet soggy yards!

“Fishing is off to a slow start due to the weather, but will get better as water temperatures rise. During Easter weekend, anglers reported water temperature at 47 degrees, but it can jump quickly, especially in spring. The best panfish fishing is still a ways out, but be ready when that time arrives.”

“Some cabin and lake home owners have already started putting in their docks, but most boat launches still await dock installation.

“Before you head out on the water, make sure your boat registration is current, that you have performed spring inspection and maintenance on your boat, motor, and trailer, and that it has approved PFDs, a throwable, fire extinguisher, first-aid kit, and rope. In addition, sort through and organize your fishing gear, know the current fishing regulations for the lake you intend to fish, and ‑ be sure you have a current (2021-22) fishing license!”

 

Trent at Hayward Bait says cooler temperatures and rain mixed with snow in the forecast continues this week and most anglers report catching fish in their typical winter spots.

“A few days with sunshine seem to push fish shallow on certain waterbodies, however, which is a good indicator the fish are starting to stage shallower than their winter hangouts.

“Largemouth bass relate more to structure rather than depth at this time of year. Working vegetation, wood, and bay mouths are good points to hone in on with swimbaits, bass jigs, and jerkbaits.

“Smallmouth bass anglers are doing well working rocky structure in 10-17 feet, and swimbaits and live bait on jigs and slip bobbers are working well for anglers.

“Crappie reports indicate fish are staging in 10-20 feet, with the few exceptions depending on the water body. Most anglers are finding crappies slightly suspended around vegetation. Crappies are starting to stage shallower, but it will be awhile before they spawn. Jigs and minnows, ice tackle, and marabou and feather jigs are good options this time of year.

“Bluegills as well are slowly moving into the shallower water. On the colder, cloudy days, they remain in 15-20 feet, but on sunny warm days, they make their way shallow to sunbathe. Most anglers use ice tackle, waxies, and small jigs.

“There are few recent perch reports, however, April through May usually provide a shallow bite in 3-10 feet. Sand flats with scattered vegetation typically hold a few, and panfish jigs and worms under slip bobbers usually do the job.”

 

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses what the fisheries crew has seen thus far in spring, 2021.

“The spring of 2021 ended up being an early one, with ice-out happening about two weeks early on most lakes. Not only was ice-out early, it was nearly simultaneous. Usually, ice lingers on the large, deep lakes such as Grindstone and Round. This year, strong winds and beating sun the week before Easter knocked out the ice on large and small lakes alike at around the same time.

“When the ice is gone, the fish get going!

“On March 29, we had female northern pike ready to spawn in Lac Courte Oreilles’ Musky Bay. By April 1, we had set our first walleye nets on Black Dan, Island, and Durphee lakes, and immediately started capturing walleye in spawning mode. Pike spawn continued to progress during Easter weekend, and activity ramped up on other lakes as well.

“On the Chippewa Flowage, we set nets April 6 and by the next day we observed spawning female walleye and pike. We even saw evidence of very early musky spawning on Black Dan Lake, with paired-up muskies and females releasing eggs in that first week of April. That is not necessarily unprecedented, but it is out of the ordinary.

“Now, with temperatures cooling a bit in the second week of April, it is looking like a protracted spawn for most species. Females who have not yet dropped their eggs may hold onto them a little longer and wait for the next warm-up.

“The rain arriving between April 6 and April 9 was well-timed for the walleye spawn. Rising water during the spawn, especially on our large flowages such as the Chippewa Flowage and Nelson Lake, is generally positive for spawning success, as it mimics the riverine conditions for which walleye are adapted.”

 

Boat owners should be aware of a new law that went into effect April 1 requiring operators of boats less than 26 feet in length to use engine cut-off switches when underway. For more information, clarifications, and exemptions to the law, visit the BoatUS and U.S. Coast Guard websites. If an engine cut-off switch is present, the operator must use it. Take the time to visit these websites ‑ a few minutes of reading could save you from receiving a ticket!

 

Boat Owners Association of The United States says boat owners can get a free, no-penalty boat safety inspection to improve safety aboard their boat this season. U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadrons volunteers have provided more than 150,000 inspections annually at launch ramps, boat clubs, and marinas. Though COVID might still be with us, both groups are moving to get examiners back in the field for safety inspections, as well as encouraging new DIY virtual safety checks. Here is how to get a safety inspection this season.

The DIY virtual safety check offers a combination of an easily downloadable virtual safety checklist – the same used by vessel examiners – with an online guide for boaters to perform their own examination. This safety check shows first-time boat owners how to make their boats safe and increases the chances of passing an in-person vessel safety check. Boaters desiring a vessel safety check boat decal can earn it only through an in-person vessel check.

For an in-person vessel safety check, the easiest way to learn if a marina, boat club, or launch ramp has scheduled an event is to contact your local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons. You can request a safety check at cgaux.org/vsc, but scheduled events offer the surest way to earn a vessel safety check decal.

 

Spring is baby animal season and the DNR reminds people the importance of keeping wildlife wild. During spring and summer, human-wildlife encounters increase, especially those involving young wild animals. While most encounters are harmless, there are times when well-intentioned people interfere because they assume a young animal is an orphan.

Mother animals often leave their young for hours at a time while looking for food. A young animal’s best chance for survival is with its mother.

Before handling or bringing a baby animal to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, check the DNR website for tips to tell if the animal truly needs help. Visit https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/WildlifeHabitat/orphan.

 

April is the busiest month for wildfires in Wisconsin and DNR fire experts remind the public to remain vigilant. Rains have provided a bit of a reprieve, but the dead grass, leaves, and pine needles will quickly dry out and be ready to ignite once again. Be cautious with any outdoor flames, smoke, campfires, ash disposal, and when using equipment. Delay debris pile burning until vegetation greens up or becomes less dry after spring rains. To check the daily fire danger and burning restrictions, visit https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/forestfire/restrictions.asp on the DNR website.

 

Hayward Bass Club is preparing for its weekly fishing outings from May 5 through August 18 and is still accepting new members. Interested anglers should contact Wayne Balsavich at (405) 227-1789 (text preferred) or email haywardbassclub@gmail.com. Annual dues are $50 per two-person team.

 

Wisconsin’s statewide turkey season opens this Wednesday, April 21, with Period A that runs through April 27. Bonus harvest authorizations remain available for periods E and F in zones 1 and 3, and for Period F in Zone 4. The season runs from April 21 through June 1, with six, seven-day periods running Wednesday through Tuesday. Hunters must register their turkey by 5 p.m. the day after recovery by using GameReg or by phone at (844) 426-3734, and need the harvest authorization number on the paper or digital copy of their harvest authorization. For more information, visit www.dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/hunt/turkey on the DNR website.

 

FISHING REPORT

It is less than two weeks before the gamefish opener, so it might be a good idea to start preparing for it! For the time being, anglers are chasing panfish and catch-and-release fishing for trout and bass. While most weather this week is less than ideal for angling, there are some mild and sunny days in the mix.

Largemouth bass are on weeds, wood, and in bay mouths. Use plastics, jigs, and swimbaits. For smallmouth, target rocks in depths to 20 feet with live bait and swimbaits.

Crappies are suspending around weeds in depths to 20 feet. Jigs/minnows and dressed jigs are working well. Bluegills are also in depths to 20 feet and hitting waxies and small minnows on jigs. Fish for perch around shallower weeds with worms and small minnows on jigs.

The Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce fishing report as of April 19 says with the cold temperatures last night it appeared no one was smelting. Could be a pause in the action or the run could be done. Call the smelt hotline (715-682-2500) after 5 p.m. for the most current report.

 

Upcoming Events

April 17: Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame opened (715-634-4440).

April 30: Seasons close: Beaver and otter trapping in North Zone; Early catch and release inland trout.

April 30-May 2: HLVCB hosting Governor’s Fishing Opener (715-634-4801).

May 1: General inland fishing season opens.

May 1: Chippewa Flowage Pike Improvement Project 2.0 begins.

May 1-3: Deerfoot Lodge & ResortInvitational Walleye Opener Tourney (715-462-3328).

May 7-9: 36th Annual Treeland Challenge (715-462-3874; 945-2511).

May 22-23: Deerfoot Lodge & ResortPike Pursuit contest (715-462-3328).

June 5-6: DNR Free Fishing and Free Fun Weekend.

Jun 25-27: Musky Fest (715-634-8662).

June 27: Hayward Bass Club Round Lakes Open Tournament, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (text 405-227-1789).

 

Spring Turkey Season

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.

 

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.