Steve Suman

 

Monday afternoon’s 78-degree (or warmer!) temperature was a great way to start the week. However, spring is in session and the forecast indicates wet (rain possible every day) and warm (though not as warm as Monday) for the remainder of the week and through the weekend. This rain and warmth will help remove remaining ice and snow and make foliage grow, which is good for the critters!

 

“Open water is coming soon on the Quiet Lakes,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “so get prepared for fishing!

“Ice had moved quite a ways from the shoreline on Lost Land last week ‑ enough so that one could have launched a boat. Rain and thunderstorms this week should help with ice-out.

“This is a good time to prepare for the May 1 gamefish opener, which is less than a month distant!”

 

Trent at Hayward Bait says the ice is out on many area lakes and rivers, making open water very accessible to anglers.

“Gamefish season does not open until May 1, but anglers can still enjoy fishing for panfish and rough fish, as well as catch-and-release only fishing for trout and bass.

“Largemouth bass relate to vegetation and coontail and milfoil should be productive. Do not overlook grass near points, ledges, and other structure. Check to see if fish are close to bottom or suspending, which can vary with weather conditions. With no bug hatches yet, bass will feed on baitfish and crayfish once the water reaches more than 40 degrees. Crankbaits, swimbaits, and spoons can all work well at this time.

“Crappie anglers are targeting shallow water, looking for fish moving toward spawning areas. Most anglers use small tackle and ice fishing lures, including jigs and minnows, small under-spin jigs, and lipless crankbaits. Work staging areas and secondary points near spawning areas, as fish relate to drop-offs and vegetation.

“Bluegills remain a bit deeper than crappies and will wait for warmer water before making their way in to spawn. Main basins and even rivers are good areas. As with crappies, ice fishing tackle can produce until the water warms, and crawlers, waxies, and red worms are good options.

“Perch relate to shallow water and cover this time of year. Shallow flats near drop-offs can hold perch from pre-spawn through post-spawn. Most anglers report success with worms and jigs on the lakes and spawn sac eggs on the rivers.

“Steelhead season is upon us and many anglers have made their way to the Brule River. Most anglers favor spawn sacs, crawlers, crankbaits, and jerkbaits for these fish.

“Turkeys can be active in the morning hours and hunting season is just two weeks away. Now that the snow is gone, it is more difficult to find turkey tracks, but a good ear can locate calling birds.”

 

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses ‘been-there, done-that’ fish management.

“‘Have you tried… ?’ is the start of many conversations I have had with well-meaning people who want to try on the fish management hat and offer potential solutions to today’s thorniest problems. What follows is usually a reasonable proposal, often rooted in biology on some level. The person making the suggestion might be thinking, ‘The answer is so simple! Why is the DNR not trying this?’, but in many cases, we have tried it!

“The early and middle-parts of the 20th century were loaded with fish management trial and error, where big projects or initiatives were attempted and studied. These inform some of today’s management strategies, or in many cases, tell us what did not work, and following are a few local examples.

“Stocking additional forage (minnows, suckers, perch, etc.) for predator fish is an idea raised frequently, especially in response to slow-growing predator fish. The DNR attempted this on the Tiger Cat Chain in the 1940s when it stocked 1.1 million suckers to try to boost musky growth and size. There were no observable changes to the muskies.

“Inversely, there is sometimes a proposal to heavily stock predators as a means to establish great gamefish fishing and/or control abundant panfish. Clear Lake offers an interesting case study, which received an extensive stocking of several predator species as a part of an experiment. The panfish abundance never really changed, and with the exception of some muskies that hung on, the long-term predator scene in Clear Lake did not change much either.

“The last class of popular ‘fixes’ for lakes involves habitat additions. It is very appealing to think we can engineer our way around challenging fisheries issues, and in specific circumstances, that can be the case. However, projects such as adding rock for walleye spawning or fish cribs to boost populations only rarely show success, despite numerous attempts locally and regionally.

“These historical case studies highlight a few important reminders for DNR fish biologists and partners interested in helping to improve fisheries. First, there often isn’t much low-hanging fruit when it comes to management fixes. Second, we have more than 100 years of fish management activities we can look back on and determine what future actions might be worthwhile.

“That is not to say we should never roll out a new twist on old ideas, such as adding structure or stocking something. However, focusing on overall ecosystem health is more likely to lead to positive outcomes, even if this work is more challenging and nebulous.”

 

Hayward Bass Club is preparing for the upcoming fishing season, selecting the lakes and setting the schedule for its weekly fishing outings from May 5 through August 18. The club is still accepting new members and 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.

 

The DNR continues to look for volunteers for two different frog and toad surveys. The Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey (WFTS) is a citizen-based monitoring program coordinated by the DNR, in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

One survey requires volunteers to drive along set routes three nights during frog mating season. Volunteers survey one night each in early spring, late spring, and summer, making 10, five-minute, stops per night at each site. They identify the species calling and record that information and the relative abundance of each species. There are roughly two driving routes per county and many routes are still available for 2021.

The other survey is a phenology survey that people can complete at home or a nearby wetland, lake, or river. Such surveys help monitor frog breeding seasons in relation to fluctuating spring weather conditions. Volunteers select one site to monitor throughout the spring and early summer and spend five minutes per night, as often as possible, recording data.

Both surveys occur at night and are great for families, and can be completed while social distancing.

New volunteers (and others!) can learn the different calls to identify the species, and learn more about frog and toad biology and ecology, by watching a series of short videos on all 12 frog and toad species in Wisconsin.

 

The DNR and Wisconsin Conservation Congress (WCC) will hold the 2021 Spring Hearings April 12, beginning at 7 p.m. They will again hold the hearings online due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The public can provide input online on proposed natural resources rule changes from the DNR and advisory questions from the Natural Resources Board (NRB) and WCC. The online input webpage will go live at 7 p.m. April 12, and remain open for three days (72 hours). The DNR will post results when they are available.

The rules and advisory questions from Fisheries, Wildlife, NRB, and Wisconsin Conservation Congress are available for preview online. The public can also recommend changes by submitting citizen resolutions online. The DNR must receive all citizen resolutions by 5 p.m. April 5. People who complete the online input form (April 12-15) will see resolutions submitted indicating the individuals reside in that county.

According to DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter, fisheries questions 1, 4, 13, 14, and 21 have local implications for Sawyer County. Question 1 relates to a small section of the Flambeau River that passes through the county and affects no other Sawyer County waterbody. Question 14 relates to the Namekagon River downstream from Trego, though might be of some local interest.

Typically, county residents have the option to run for a seat on the WCC and elect delegates to represent their county’s views. Due to the ongoing pandemic, however, the WCC canceled the 2021 elections and extended the terms of each WCC delegate by another year.

For more information, visit https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/about/wcc/springhearing.

 

FISHING REPORT

Open water fishing is arriving early this spring, though the gamefish opener is not until May 1. Currently, anglers can harvest panfish and rough fish, with trout and bass fishing catch-and-release only. Redhorse suckers should start running soon and might have started in some rivers.

Look for bass around weeds and other cover, especially near baitfish. Live bait and spoons can do the trick.

Crappie and perch are moving toward shallower water, with weeds and drop-offs good locations to try with minnows, waxies, and plastics on jigs. Bluegills remain somewhat deeper, with waxies, worms, and crawlers on small jigs and teardrops productive offerings.

For those interested in smelting, the Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce fishing report as of April 5 says the ice has left Chequamegon Bay, but smelt are still not running. Smelt usually run the first two weeks in April, once ice leaves the Bay. Call the smelt hotline (715-682-2500) after 5 p.m. for the latest report. Bayview Beach and Pier remain closed until May 1 due to erosion.

 

Upcoming Events

March 31: 2020-21 hunting/fishing licenses EXPIRED!

April 12: WCC Virtual Spring Hearings begin at 7 p.m. and remain open for 72 hours.

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

April 17-18: Youth Turkey Hunt.

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 Weekend.

Jun 25-27: 71st Annual Musky Festival (715-634-8662).

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

 

Spring Turkey Season

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.

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

 

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.