This week, it appears the North Woods’ weather will provide a roller coaster ride variety, offering something for everyone, at least in small quantities. Lows should range from 20 to 40 degrees, with highs ranging from 36 to nearly 60 degrees. These temperatures are all within April’s annual averages. Expect rain (and maybe some snow flurries) early in the week, midweek delivering a bit of sunshine, and rain again late in the week, with all of those predictions subject to change at any time!
“There is still plenty of ice on the main Quiet Lakes, with enough to fish safely,” says Greg at Happy Hooker, “but shorelines are going away quickly. Be sure to practice ice safety if you head out, as you cannot always tell what the current is doing under the ice.
“Panfish ‑ crappie, bluegill, and perch ‑ should now be relating to shallow weeds. With longer daylight and a higher sun, some shallow weed beds should start growing, even under the ice. Fish will also relate to the warmer water coming in from river, stream, and creek inlets. Small jigs with plastics that mimic bugs should be excellent, and crappie minnows on bigger jigs and spoons should attract the larger fish in the schools.
“Early trout season runs through May 6 and the next couple of weeks might be a good time to wade some rivers, streams, or creeks to try your hand at trout fishing. Anglers must use artificials and release all fish they catch. Flies and small inline spinners such as Mepps and Rooster Tails work well, as will lures with some flash, such as Dardevle spoons.
“Now that most of the snow is gone, getting into the woods and looking for shed antlers is a great way to get outdoors and see some new scenery.”
Levi at Hayward Bait says ice conditions are deteriorating rapidly with the recent rain and warm weather.
“There is still about 18 inches of ice on some lakes, others have no ice, and most lakes have rotted shorelines. Use your best judgment and stay safe.
“Crappie fishing is picking up with the warmer weather. Look for fish to push shallow or be just below the ice. Depending on the lake, some fish might still be in deep basins as well, but your best bet to find fish is most likely in 5-15 feet. Look for weeds and weedlines or basins. Plastics work best, but crappie minnows and waxies work well, too.
“Bluegill fishing is improving with the warming weather, too. Look for fish pushing into the shallow bays within the weeds or along weed edges in 3-10 feet. Waxies work best, but plastics are catching the bigger bluegills.
“Perch fishing is also picking up as the fish head to their spawning grounds near creek mouths and shallow mudflats in 5-10 feet. Crappie minnows, fatheads, waxies, and small spoons all work well.
“Trout fishing is very good for the early catch and release season and anglers are catching many brown trout. Small Rapalas are producing the most catches, but spinners are also working well.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses fish recruitment.
“To fisheries biologists, ‘recruitment’ is the term that describes new fish coming into the population, usually through natural reproduction. Recruitment is critically important and it is what sustains the fisheries.
“Recruitment is also very complicated, varying from one species to the next and from one year to another. Nest-guarding species such as bass and bluegill tend to have more stable recruitment than do ‘broadcast spawners’ such as walleye. In fact, poor walleye recruitment has become one of the biggest issues in the Midwest.
“I have found that anglers often have an overly simplified understanding of what makes recruitment happen, with many believing the most important factor is maintaining many large females in the population. That attitude might come from our strong farming tradition in Wisconsin.
“It is true that you cannot make a lot of calves without having a lot of mature female cows, but fish are a totally different animal. A single female walleye can have thousands of eggs, theoretically enough to populate an entire lake. This means that environmental conditions, as much as the number of spawners, often determine recruitment.
“Studies of fish recruitment ‑ and there are a lot of them ‑ have found many different factors that are important in determining the number of young fish produced. Water temperature, water level, available prey, predation, and other factors all come into the picture. The number of spawners can be important too, but it is not usually a straightforward relationship. For example, in walleye there can be less recruitment than expected at high densities of adults (spawners), possibly because cannibalism becomes more common.
“With so much complexity, we need to gather lots of field data from surveys to maintain an understanding of how different fish species are recruiting, particularly as environmental conditions change.”
Spring turkey hunters complete their first hunting period Tuesday, April 26. For hunters interested in pursuing wild turkey yet this year, leftover tags are still available in Zone 1 (periods E and F), Zone 3 (periods E and F), and Zone 4 (Period F) south and east of Sawyer County.
The DNR offers turkey hunters a “first harvest or experience certificate” to commemorate the experience and honor that special moment. The DNR also offers these certificates for deer, bear, bobcat, fisher, and otter. Those who would like to receive a first harvest or experience certificate should visit the First Harvest or Experience webpage on the DNR website. The DNR will send a printable certificate to your email address.
For more information, search “turkey hunting” on the DNR website.
Results from the 2022 Spring Hearing are now available. More than 28,000 people responded to the Spring Hearing questionnaire during the April 11-14 comment period. The hearing offers the public the opportunity to comment on natural resource related advisory questions from the DNR, Natural Resources Board, and Conservation Congress and on previously submitted resolutions from members of the public. (Note: The survey inadvertently omitted Question 15, but there will be opportunities later for public input.)
As part of the Governor’s Fishing Opener, the Northwest Wisconsin ITBEC Tourism Committee is hosting a Family Fishing Day Saturday, May 7, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., at Shell Lake Memorial Park in Washburn County. Families are welcome to come out to enjoy a fun day full of family entertainment, including a free community fish fry from 11 a.m. until the fish is gone ‑ servings are limited, so come early! The first 100 families to check in at the walleye statue will receive a family swag bag. In addition to the fish fry, highlights include casting instruction with DNR staff; minnow races; making fishing lures; scavenger hunt; build-your-own s’mores station; live entertainment, and more.
Northwest Wisconsin ITBEC Tourism Committee and Molson Coors are sponsoring the fish fry and the Shell Lake Lions Club will prepare the meal. There is no charge for the meal, but the Lions Club appreciates donations for their time!
For more information, visit www.northwestwisconsin.com or call (715) 635-9696).
Hayward Chapter-Muskies Inc. welcomes the public to its club meeting Tuesday, May 3, at Flat Creek Lodge in Hayward. A general business meeting starts at 7 p.m., followed by featured guest and speaker John Dettloff, well-known local guide and resort owner. His presentation on fishing for muskies on the Chippewa Flowage begins at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free and anyone interested in becoming a new member of Muskies, Inc. can purchase a half-price membership at the meeting. For more information, call Mike Persson (715) 634-4543.
Some anglers are still ice fishing, but ice conditions are continuing to deteriorate. With just shy of two weeks until the fishing opener, the ice-out situation does appear a bit more encouraging. Use extreme caution if you go on the ice ‑ IF you can get on it, as shorelines are opening quickly with the wind, rain, and milder temperatures.
Trout anglers fishing the early trout season (closes May 6) on selected waters report good success with flies and spinners, spoons, and other baits. Anglers must use artificials and release all fish they catch. If you get the urge, visit the early trout season page on the DNR website, check the regulations ‑ and purchase a trout stamp!
New fishing regulations go into effect in northern Wisconsin this year, in particular walleye regulations. The complete list of changes is available on the DNR’s Fishing Regulations webpage.
Crappie action is good and getting better as the temperatures continue to warm. Fish are beginning to move to shallower weeds, weedlines, weed beds, and stream mouths in 4-18 feet, with some fish still in deep basins. Crappie minnows, waxies, and plastics on jigs and spoons are producing, with fish favoring plastics at this point.
Bluegill fishing is good to very good and improving as the weather warms. Fish are in and on weeds and weed edges, shallow bays, and near stream mouths in 3-12 feet. The most productive offerings include waxies and plastics, with small minnows and plastics working best for the bigger bluegills.
Perch fishing is good and getting better, with fish on and around spawning sites and shallow weeds, mudflats, and stream mouths in 4-12 feet. Baits of choice include fatheads, crappie minnows, minnow heads, waxies, and plastics tipped on jigs and spoons.
March 31: The 2021-22 fishing/hunting licenses expired!
April 30: Trapping seasons close in Northern Zone: Otter; Beaver.
May 12-15: Treeland Challenge Bass and Walleye Catch and Release Tournament (715-462-3874).
May 20-21: 35th Annual Fishing Has No Boundaries Hayward event (715-634-3185).
May 28: Musky season opens in Northern Zone.
June 4-5: DNR Free Fishing and Free Fun Weekend.
A: April 20-26
B: April 27-May 3
C: May 4-10
D: May 11-17
E: May 18-24
F: May 25-31
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.