by: Steve Suman
This week’s forecast indicates more snow and cold temperatures, but no mention of strong winds. For those who enjoy skiing and snowmobiling, there is more than “sufficient” snow. For ice anglers, however, it has produced very difficult travel on the lakes.
“We have received a lot of snow,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “which has made access and travel on the lakes a problem, as well as slush areas and many drifts hampering anglers.
“The best travel options are by foot and snowmobile, as ATVs and most vehicles cannot handle the deep snow – there are even reports of some snowmobiles stuck in the deep snow. Pack on the lighter side and be sure to bring along a shovel, as you will need one.
“When it comes to fishing success, anglers who are putting forth the effort report some success. The lakes are producing catches of both predators and panfish, and we are getting close to the end of gamefish season. If you want to catch some walleye, northern pike, or bass, now is the time. Look toward deeper drop-offs near vegetation. Again, putting in time is the biggest key to success.
“Soft bottom mud is home to bug hatches, and these are prime feeding areas for panfish.
“We have no shortage of snow, groomers are grooming, and trails are excellent condition.”
Erik at Hayward Bait says there is plenty of ice and anglers should have auger extensions.
“Travel is tricky on many lakes due to the amount of snow and slush. Plowed roads on a few lakes help anglers, though heavy winds have blown in old ruts and a few roads. Ideally, the freeze-up and strong winds moving snow will improve travel for the remainder of ice season.
“Gamefish season closes Sunday and anglers will bust trails and maintain a few established ice roads as they target walleye and northern pike.
“For walleye anglers, jigging with jigging spoons shines this time of year, but minnow baits such as Acme Hyper Glides and Jigging Raps also work well. Tip-up anglers should use medium shiners and walleye suckers, fishing them just off bottom.
“Northern pike anglers should target 8-14 feet, scattering tip-ups with live suckers and shiners, or dead bait, hanging baits a couple feet off bottom.
“Panfish fishing remains strong. For crappies, fish 25-35 feet with tungsten jigs tipped with waxies and spikes. Fish bluegills a bit shallower, just off weed beds.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the Chippewa Flowage Pike Improvement Initiative.
“In the Chippewa Flowage, northern pike are more abundant than we would like them to be and, in fact, too abundant for their own good. The result is a slow growing population with poor average size. During the most recent DNR survey, only 27 percent of the pike were more than 21 inches.
“Encouraging angler harvest is a potential solution to the problem, one that might improve pike size and bring more overall balance to the fishery. Previously, anglers have not shown much interest in harvesting small pike, even when encouraged to do so.
“A collection of groups associated with the Flowage, including Lake Chippewa Flowage Resort Owner’s Association, Chippewa Flowage Property Owner’s Association, and Hayward Chapter-Muskies Inc., are making pike harvest more appealing by offering a variety of contests and prizes.
“Each pike an angler harvests, reports, and registers at a participating business makes the angler eligible for prizes. Data from these reports will allow for tracking of success.
“The program began in January and already early returns look promising. During a one-day event hosted by Pat’s Landing, anglers harvest 299 pike, with some resulting fillets processed by Whiskey Ridge Sports Shop in Radisson and donated to local food shelves. Even more promising, event anglers were willing to keep small pike, with 73 percent of all pike harvested less than 22 inches, closely matching the size of the population.
“Pike harvest will receive special promotion and encouragement throughout 2019, as the DNR plans to stock several thousand muskellunge in the fall of 2019. We do remind anglers that bag limits and seasons still apply and they must put all fish they harvest to positive use.”
This Friday and Saturday, March 1-2, Lakewoods Resort is hosting its annual World’s Longest Weenie Roast on Lake Namakagon. The event includes snowmobile speed runs, live music, Klement’s racing sausages, a hot dog cookout, and games for kids – and for those who are kids at heart! For more information, visit www.lakewoodsresort.com/weenieroast.
SNOWMOBILE TRAIL REPORT
Snowmobilers should make sure their snowmobile has a current registration and displays a valid snowmobile trail pass, required to operate on all public snowmobile trails. You can order trail passes online, as well as renew registrations.
The February 25 HLVCB trail report for Sawyer County says the area received more snow yesterday (Sunday) and the strong winds produced some drifts. Groomers returned to grooming once the snow and wind subsided. This Sunday, the Annual Bryon Schroeder Memorial Ride starts at 3 p.m. at Louie’s Landing. Pick up your poker card at participating club locations and you can stamp anytime this week. Get in the grand prize drawing for a $1,000 Hayward Power Sports gift certificate and you need not be present to win. We are far from done for the season!
The February 25 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Washburn County says trails are open, groomed, in excellent condition, and with a base of 11-16 inches. Clubs are grooming the trails regularly, but with more snow on the way, be aware you may encounter trails segments not yet groomed.
The February 24 Travel Wisconsin trail report for the Clam Lake/Ashland County area says trails are in good to very good condition and grooming in process every day, and with a base of 15-20 inches. The trail from Marengo north to the east end of Ashland remains closed, with a marked detour route in place.
The February 22 Travel Wisconsin trail report for the Phillips area says trails are in excellent condition – the best in years – groomed, and with a base of 14-28 inches.
The February 22 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Rusk County says the entire trail system is in excellent condition, groomed, and with a base of 10-16 inches.
The February 21 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Bayfield County says trails are excellent, offering some of the best riding conditions of the year, groomed, and with a base of 10-24 inches.
The February 20 Cable area trail report says trails are in very good trail conditions, with a base of 8-12 inches. Please remember groomers have the right-of-way, grooming day and night to make trails the best they can be!
Gamefish season closes this Sunday, March 3, so anglers intending to catch a few walleye and northern pike had best get busy! Do some planning before heading to the lake, however. While there is no shortage of ice, heavy snow, slush, and strong winds have produced difficult access and travel conditions. Check with your favorite bait shop for the most current information for that particular day.
Walleye action remains fair to good, with best fishing in early morning and late afternoon into dark. Look for fish around weeds on deep drop-offs, flats, and breaklines. Move shallower during the low light hours. Various presentations are producing success, including tip-ups with walleye suckers and medium shiners fished near the bottom, minnow baits, and jigging spoons tipped with fatheads and walleye suckers.
Northern pike action is good in 6-18 feet on drop-offs and around weeds and weed edges. The most productive presentations include tip-ups with northern suckers, large shiners, and dead bait. Suspend offerings a few feet off bottom.
Crappie fishing is good in 20 to more than 30 feet, in deep holes and along weed bed edges. Keep moving, checking the entire water column, until you find active fish. Best baits include crappie minnows, waxies, and plastics on tungsten jigs and jigging spoons.
Bluegill fishing is good and anglers should find fish in, on, and just off mid-depth weed beds and on soft bottom areas. The most productive baits include jigs tipped with waxies, spikes, and plastics, and small minnows for larger ‘gills.
Feb. 24: Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing season closed.
Feb. 28: Cottontail rabbit season closes in northern and southern zones.
March 1: Ice anglers must remove shelters from WI-MN boundary waters.
March 1-2: World’s Longest Weenie Roast at Lakewoods (715-794-2561).
March 3: Game fish season closes (see regs); Anglers must remove ice fishing shelters from waters south of Hwy 64.
March 8: 2019 U.S. National Snowshoe Championships at Lakewoods Resort (715-794-2561).
March 8-9: FAT Bike Birkie on the Birkie Ski Trail (715-634-5025).
March 10: Mink trapping season closes.
March 10: Daylight Saving Time begins at 2 a.m.
March 17: Ice anglers must remove shelters from waters north of Hwy 64, Lake Superior, and WI-MI boundary waters.
March 18-22: Remaining spring turkey permits go on sale.
March 20: Winter crow season closes.
March 30: Trout season opens on some sections of Lake Superior tributaries (see regs); Hunt, fish, trap licenses expire.
For more information on area events and activities, visit the Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau website, view its Calendar of Events, or call 800-724-2992.