Steve Suman

This week’s forecast shows a mix of sunny, cloudy, and cold days, with a warm-up and the best chances for snow Saturday and through the weekend.

“We are seeing ice depths of 6-12 inches on the Quiet Lakes,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “so most lakes are still too unstable for truck traffic.

“Fishing is good with the more consistent weather and the lakes continue to put out some good bites. Quantity can happen now and then, but most fish are average to below average size.

“Walleye anglers are still catching fish, but not at the pace of a few weeks ago. The best bet is to use dead sticks to pick up some nice fish. Anglers are also using very limber-tipped rods, 6-pound mono, and glow hooks tipped with small shiners and fatheads – and it still pays to jig near a dead stick. The best bite windows are early morning and late afternoon into after dark.

“Northern pike fishing is keeping anglers busy for those that set tip-ups with shiner and northern suckers over the top of weeds and weed edges in 6-10 feet.

“Panfish fishing is good on bobber and minnow combinations, and small teardrops tipped with waxies, fished in, over, and around vegetation in 8-12 feet. The best bite is in late afternoon.”

Trent at Hayward Bait says the recent cold snap firmed the slush and improved ice conditions.

“Fishing is consistent with normal January patterns, but some lakes are off due to lowered water levels and you might see inconsistencies from the normal depths.

“Walleyes are hitting walleye suckers, medium shiners – and even northern suckers – on tip-ups set over a range of depths. Most fish are in 25 feet, but with a shallow bite in 5-10 feet. Best times are just before sunrise and from sunset until about 7 p.m.

“Northern pike are hitting throughout the day on northern suckers and large shiners under tip-ups set over 20 feet, though you can find some on ridge tops and drop-offs in 10-15 feet.

“Largemouth bass are in 15-20 feet on drop-off and in main basins. Smallmouth bass are in 4-8 feet, hitting walleye suckers and medium shiners under tip-ups, jigs, spoons, and lipless crankbaits.

“Crappies are in main basins in 25-30 feet. Tungsten jigs and small spoons tipped with waxies and spikes will do the job, as will tip-downs with fatheads. It is usually a morning and evening bite, though some lakes, if you find the right school of fish, produce throughout the day.

“Bluegills are in 20 feet in main basins and waxies and spikes on lead and tungsten jigs work well. The bite windows match those for crappie.

“Perch are on the bottom on sand, humps, and bowls in 30-35 feet. Skandia and Acme jigs and small spoons tipped with waxies and spikes work well, with a consistent bite throughout the day.”

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses anglers and snowmobilers sharing the ice.

“There was a recent online debate about whether ice anglers could fish near marked snowmobile trails and Warden Aaron Koshatka stepped in to shed some light on this situation.

‘Anglers are allowed to fish anywhere on a body of water provided they legally accessed that body of water,’ says Koshatka.

“In theory, that would include right on a snowmobile trail, though there are numerous reasons why that is a bad idea. Best-case scenario for fishing on or very near a snowmobile trail might be a busted tip-up; worst-case scenario could include some serious safety issues for all involved.

“For snowmobilers, the restrictions are more specific: ‘Snowmobilers must yield the right of way and slow your snowmobile to 10 mph when riding within 100 feet of a person who is not on a snowmobile or a vehicle, and when within 100 feet of an ice shanty.’

“In many ways, each group has a role to play in maintaining safety while recreating on hard water. Anglers can choose spots that lie a safe distance from marked trails; snowmobilers can reduce speed when near anglers, as per regulations.

“Sawyer County has tens of thousands of acres of lakes – there should be enough ice for everyone.”

Mark your calendars for February 25 and the 2021 Sawyer County Fisheries Forum via Zoom, starting at 7 p.m., says DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter.

“While we would love to be able to have these conversations in person, this is the next best thing, and we can have a great meeting. An added advantage is that people can join from anywhere!”

Register at https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAvduutpjMsH9TT29wEUyx6981cc4cVdLfH, after which you will receive a confirmation email with information about joining the meeting.

“If there is a topic you would like us to cover, you can let me know as a part of the registration process.”

The DNR is now accepting nominations for the Hunter Ethics Award for the 2020 calendar year. The committee bases their nominee selections on exceptional moral actions and character while in the field. The award recognizes hunter actions symbolic of Wisconsin’s hunting heritage, an honor representing an outdoor tradition enjoyed responsibly, respectfully, and safely. Any hunter or non-hunter can nominate a licensed Wisconsin hunter for the award.

To be eligible for the 2020 award, a nominee must be a licensed (resident or nonresident) Wisconsin hunter. The committee will consider any nomination for a DNR-regulated hunting activity act that occurred in Wisconsin during the 2020 calendar year. Written nominations must contain the name, address, and phone number of the witness or witnesses, or be aware of the behavior, which led to the nomination.

Submit nominations by mail to: DNR, c/o April Dombrowski, 101 S. Webster St., P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921, or email to April.Dombrowski@wisconsin.gov. The submission deadline is Feb. 19.

The January 24 Birkie Trail Conditions Report says the Birkie Trail Crew groomed the loops at Birkie Trail Head, OO south towards Hatchery Creek Trail and back, and the Birkie Skate Trail from OO north to Birkie Trail Head.

Skiing at Birkie Trailhead is open from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Do not ski outside these hours, as groomers might be on the trail. Winter lights are on from dusk to 10 p.m. at Hatchery, OO, and American Birkebeiner trailheads. Skiing any part of the Birkie Trail System December through March requires a Birkie Trail Ski Pass.

SNOWMOBILE TRAIL REPORT

Snowmobiles must have a current registration and display a valid snowmobile trail pass to operate on public snowmobile trails. You can renew registrations and order trail passes online. Members of the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs (AWSC) can purchase trail passes at a discounted rate directly from www.awsc.org. You do not need to be a Wisconsin resident to be an AWSC member.

While riding Sawyer County trails this winter, make sure to stop and “Snap a Selfie” with any AWSC signs you see along the way. Posting photos with #sledsawyer2020 on Facebook or Instagram enters you in a March drawing – enter as often as you want – and you could win up to $500! The contest runs through Feb. 28.

The January 25 HLVCB snowmobile trail report has an extensive list of Sawyer County snowmobile trail updates and far too many to list here (visit https://haywardlakes.com/19475). In addition, the report asks snowmobilers to stay on the marked trails. Trespassing and going off approved trails onto private property has become a huge issue this year, which can cause loss of trail access. Please ride smart and be respectful!

The January 25 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for Washburn County says all trails are open and have a base of 2-5 inches. Trails are in “early season” condition so crews might not groom all trails. Ride with caution – lake ice is not completely safe at this time. Crews are grooming trails, so watch for active trail maintenance. New snow is necessary for a good trail surface. Crews groomed Long Lake January 24 following 2-3 inches of light, powdery snow.

FISHING REPORT

Ice thickness is “up to” a foot on most lakes, acceptable for ATVs and snowmobiles (check your path for yourself!), but not stable enough for vehicles. Since bait and presentation preferences can change from day to day, check with your favorite bait and tackle shop on your way to the lake for the most current information.

Walleye:

Walleye fishing is good to very good, with the best fishing in very early morning and late afternoon into after dark. Concentrate on 22-28 feet, but anglers are also catching fish in 4-12 feet. Walleye suckers and medium shiners on tip-ups and dead sticks work best, with northern suckers on tip-ups producing, too.

Northern Pike:

Northern pike action is very good to excellent and pike are on the feed all day. Use northern suckers and large shiners under tip-ups set over weeds and on weed edges, ridges, and drop-offs in 4-18 feet.

Largemouth Bass:

Largemouth bass remain active on drop-offs and in main basins in 12-22 feet. Tip-ups set for walleye and northern pike are producing most of the bass catches, though anglers jigging for panfish are catching them, too.

Smallmouth Bass:

Smallmouth bass are showing up in shallow water, around 4-8 feet, and hitting shiners and walleye sucker on tip-ups, jigging spoons, and lipless crankbaits.

Crappie:

Crappie fishing, when you find the schools, is good to very good near weeds in 6-15 feet and out to 30 feet in main lake basins. The best bite is in late afternoon. Baits offering the best success include crappie minnows, small shiners, and fatheads on plain hooks under bobbers, teardrops, tungsten jigs, small spoons, and on tip-downs.

Bluegill:

Bluegill fishing is good, with late afternoon offering the best success on most lakes. Some lakes have a morning bite, and some offer an all day bite. Look for fish around weeds in 6-15 feet, as well as in deeper main basins. Best bait options include waxies, spikes, and small minnows fished on plain hooks, teardrops, and lead and tungsten jigs.

Perch:

The perch bite is steady, with fish near/on the bottom of sand, humps, and bowls in depths to more than 30 feet. Waxies, spikes, and minnows on teardrops, tungsten and lead jigs, and jigging spoons are all producing catches.

Upcoming Events

Jan. 25: Crow season opened.

Jan. 30: 2021 Seeley Hills Classic (715-634-5025).

Jan. 30: Birkie Tour (715-634-5025).

Through Jan. 31: Extended archery/crossbow season in valid farmland units (see regulations).

Jan. 31: Seasons Close: Squirrel; Bobcat Period 2.

Feb. 12-15: Cornell Lab’s Great Backyard Bird Count (607-254-2137).

Feb. 13: 39th annual Lions Pre-Birkie XC Ski Race (715-558-6251).

Feb. 15: Seasons close: Coyote trapping; Fox hunting/trapping; Raccoon.

Feb. 24-28: American Birkebeiner (715-634-5025).

Feb. 25: Sawyer County Fisheries Forum, Zoom meeting, starts at 7 p.m.

Feb. 28: Cottontail rabbit season closes.

March 6: World’s Longest Weenie RoastLakewoods Resort (715-794-2561).

March 7: Seasons close: General inland fishing; Mink trapping; Muskrat trapping.

March 20: Crow season closes.

March 31: 2020-21 hunting/fishing licenses expire.

 

For more information on area events and activities, visit the Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau website, view the Calendar of Events, or call 800-724-2992.