by: Steve Suman
The forecast predicts somewhat warmer temperatures this week and Wednesday is the only day showing a slight chance of showers. Low temperatures range from low teens to low 20s, but nice to finally see them above zero!
“Ice fishing during this late season has been nothing short of exhausting,” says Pat at Happy Hooker. “We have gone from shoveling snow to working around flooding. With the warmer temperatures, most anglers are staying off the lakes and finding other activities to do. We hope things will improve in the next couple of weeks and provide for late ice fishing, but until then, wear rubber boots and make good decisions.
“Between getting machines stuck and putting up with crusted ice and continuous slush pockets, the lakes are nearly impossible to fish. However, for anglers ambitious enough to get on the ice, fishing can be good. Target deeper basins and vegetation for roaming crappies, using a mix of panfish forage spoons and small tungsten jigs tipped with soft plastics.
“There were a few snowmobile riders last weekend, but we have lost a lot of snow with the warmer temperatures. While there is still quite a bit of snow remaining, especially in the woods, most grooming concluded for the season. Trails are still open and rideable, but watch for bare spots in the open areas and standing water in low spots.”
Erik at Hayward Bait says warm weather and cooler nights are allowing anglers to take advantage of the late ice fishing season.
“Travel conditions on the lakes have become much easier, though it is better to go with snowmobile/ATV/foot access.
“Panfish fishing is good and we have a solid crappie bite. The location of crappies depends on the lake, but most anglers are finding them in 12-22 feet. These fish are constantly roaming and it is usually a good idea to drill a few holes.
“Bluegill fishing is also good on most lakes, with anglers finding bluegills in 12-16 feet.
“The perch bite is starting to improve and anglers should look for any traces of old weed growth in 6-20 feet. Perch fishing usually only gets better as they near spawning time. Use teardrops, tungsten jigs, and spoons tipped with waxies, spikes, and crappie minnows.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses methods to prevent winterkill.
“Winterkill happens when conditions use up the oxygen reserves in the water under the ice and fish do not have enough oxygen to survive. This problem impacts shallow, productive lakes in particular, and fisheries managers have tried for decades to solve it.
“Aerating lakes is one solution to the problem. Technological advances such as more efficient pumps and solar power have made these projects more feasible, but they are still costly and complex.
“An alternative method includes clearing snow from the ice throughout the winter. The rationale behind this approach is that aquatic plants can continue to produce oxygen throughout the winter, but not if snow on the ice blocks light penetration. Plants can only make oxygen with sufficient light. Without light, they actually consume oxygen.
“In Canada, in 1983, researchers experimented with a snow removal method by attempting to clear portions of a lake using a snowplow mounted on a tractor. Plowing snow for 61 hours throughout the winter and with an estimated cost of nearly $2,000 (Canadian), they were able to keep only about 30 acres effectively clear of snow.
“The researchers compared oxygen and other parameters between that site and a control site where no clearing occurred and found very little difference between the two sites. They attributed the failure of this experiment to water movement under the ice, which might have prevented creation of a good area of dissolved oxygen.
“Researchers estimated it was necessary to clear at least 15 percent of a lake’s surface area to produce better odds for positive results, concluding that with the associated costs there would be few instances where this would be feasible.”
The DNR reminds outdoor recreationists that it is time to purchase their new fishing, hunting, licenses, and trapping licenses, as well as check their boat, ATV, UTV, and off-highway motorcycle (OHM) registrations, as many will expire after March 31. For ATV, UTV, and OHM renewals received after March 31, there is a $5 late fee. Licenses, registrations, and renewals are available online at GoWild.wi.gov and at more than 1,000 license agents.
The 2019 DNR Spring Hearings and Wisconsin Conservation Congress county meetings are Monday, April 8, in each county, starting at 7 p.m. The Sawyer County meeting is at Hayward High School. The DNR will present 49 proposed fisheries and wildlife rule change questions. People can review the questionnaire online prior to April 8. Attendees interested in natural resources management can offer input on proposed changes and advisory questions. There is an online option for people who are unable to attend a hearing or who prefer to provide input at the hearing using their smart phone. Individuals must sign in to use the online version, just as they do in person. County residents can vote for WCC delegates to represent them or run themselves for a Conservation Congress seat. Providing input on resolutions or participating in the WCC election requires in-person participation. The online input form will go live at 7 p.m. April 8 and remain open until 7 p.m. April 11. For more information, search “spring hearings” on the DNR website.
The DNR has revised the 2019-29 bear management plan and will present the plan at six informational sessions around the state. The nearest local meeting is in Rice Lake Monday, April 1, from 7-9 p.m., at UW-Eau Claire-Barron County. If you would like to submit comments concerning the Bear Management Plan, send them to DNRBearPlanComments@wisconsin.gov by midnight Sunday, April 14. For more information, search “bear” on the DNR website.
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.
This is the final snowmobile trail report for this season, for reasons obvious when reading this week’s report! While some areas still have sufficient snow – and Sawyer County trails never close – conditions are neither conducive nor safe for riding at this time. It is highly unlikely any additional grooming will take place, even with a major snowfall event.
The March 22 HLVCB trail report says the end of the snowmobiling season is nearing. Lake Hayward is open and crews are pulling stakes on lakes including Lac Courte Oreilles, Callahan, Chetac, and the Chippewa Flowage. Use caution, watch for volunteers pulling stakes and signs, and thank you for a great season!
The March 20 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Bayfield County says Bayfield County snowmobile and ATV/UTV trails closed for the season as of March 20. The ATV/UTV trails will re-open when conditions allow, usually sometime in late April/early May, as determined by each respective landowner or trail manager. The tri-county corridor and ATV/UTV routes remain open as usual.
The March 18 Travel Wisconsin trail report for the Clam Lake area and Ashland County says trails closed for the season, though the tri-county corridor is still open.
The March 25 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Phillips and Price County says trails officially closed for the season.
The March 18 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Rusk County says all snowmobile trails closed for the season.
The March 25 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Washburn County says all snowmobile trails closed for the season.
Fishing conditions continue to improve (about the only direction they COULD move!) and panfish anglers are again starting to get on the ice. Crappie action is good, with fish in 10-25 feet, deep lake basins, and around deep weeds. They move, so you need to move with them and drill plenty of holes. Top baits include plastics on tungsten jigs and small spoons. Bluegill fishing is good in 10-18 feet on the standard offerings of waxies, spikes, and plastics. Perch anglers are catching some fish in and around weeds in depths to 22 feet. Best success is with waxies, spikes, and crappie minnows on tungsten jigs, teardrops, and spoons.
March 20: Winter crow season closed.
April 15 through July 31: Illegal to allow unleashed dogs to run on DNR lands and FWPAs (see regs).
April 16: Sawyer County CDAC meeting, DNR Service Center, 7 p.m. (715-266-6291).
May 4: Seasons open: General inland gamefish (see regs); Musky south of Hwy 10; Frog.
May 4-June 14: Smallmouth bass season catch and release only.
April 13-14: Youth turkey hunt.
April 17-23: Period A.
April 24-30: Period B.
May 1-7: Period C.
May 8-14: Period D.
May 15-21: Period E.
May 22-28: Period F.