By: Steve Suman
Following a weekend of mild temperatures and strong winds, this week’s forecast indicates a return to more seasonal winter weather. Look for single digit lows, both above and below zero, and highs in the 20s, with snow late in the week. This combination makes for excellent conditions for nearly all winter recreation – take advantage!
“Walleye action remains slow, with anglers catching only an occasional fish, and time of day an important factor. The best times are early morning and late afternoon into dark. Walleye suckers, shiners, and fatheads are the baits of choice, fished under tip-ups rigged with small treble hooks.
“Being a mobile angler is always an advantage, but it becomes more important now that we are in mid-winter.
“Anglers continue to get good mixed bags of northern pike, bass, and panfish. Anglers are concentrating on vegetation edges in 10-20 feet, setting up outside of other fish shelters. An even better choice is to find an area of ice that is not receiving angling pressure.
“For predator fish, use sucker minnows and shiners under tip-ups set over weed tops and weed edges in 5-10 feet – and northern pike and bass are active all day.
“Panfish anglers continue to choose waxies and plastics on small tungsten jigs.”
Trent at Hayward Bait says ice conditions are improving.
“People are starting to drive vehicles onto some lakes, but before driving out, please check ice conditions.
“Vegetation is starting to die off, making lake bottoms anoxic – depleted of dissolved oxygen – and fish are suspending higher in the water column and/or moving to shallower water. Fish are lethargic and it is a very light bite. A good jigging rod with a fast tip and spring bobber can increase your odds of hook-ups during a light bite.
“Walleye action slowed during the day and fish are more active at night. Walleye suckers, medium shiners, and fatheads are good options for live bait, while Jigging Raps and spoons are good jigging options. Most anglers are finding success in about 15-foot depths.
“Northern pike still favor northern suckers and large shiners on tip-ups, though depths vary from lake to lake.
“The panfish bite is also very light. Kender K-Rips, plastics, waxies, mousies, and crappie minnow heads on lead and tungsten jigs are all effective bait choices.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses fishing spots and angler etiquette.
“One could argue the most valuable thing to an angler is not an expensive rod, electronics, or the boat, but knowledge. Oftentimes, it is knowledge about fishing spots and patterns that an angler has accumulated over decades of experience.
“How willing are anglers to share that precious information? That question was at the heart of a survey mailed to 100 anglers, most in the Hayward area, but also to a few fellow fish biologists around the state. The survey offered four response options to the following scenario: If you take a friend fishing on a waterbody you know well and show them one of your favorite fishing spots, what is your expectation for how they will use that information?
“Responses included 5 percent saying the friend should not fish the spot on their own, while 36 percent thought it was okay for the friend to fish there, but with strings attached, such as not telling others or asking permission before going back. About 40 percent said the friend was now free to fish the spot at any time, no strings attached.
“The remaining 18 percent offered their own criteria for sharing, ranging from ‘Don’t ever show your friends your spot!’ to different attitudes depending on if it was a small ‘secret’ lake or a big popular fishing destination. Some reported ending a fishing relationship with someone based on too much sharing of their spots.
“Ultimately, it seems clear from this survey that a little communication might save a few fishing friendships. If you do not want a friend to share a spot, make that clear to them before taking them to the spot!”
SNOWMOBILE TRAIL REPORT
The DNR reminds snowmobilers to make sure their snowmobiles have a current registration and display a valid snowmobile trail pass. Wisconsin requires a trail pass to operate on all public snowmobile trails. You can order trail passes online, as well as renew registrations.
The February 3 Hayward Lakes Visitors & Convention Bureau Sawyer County snowmobile trail report says trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 8-16 inches. Lake Hayward by the bridge is opening and the trail behind the big musky at the landing to Market Place is still good and open to riders. However, the trail from the intersection on the lake to Hayward Marine closed until further notice. There is good ice on the other main lakes, but it is always best to stay on the trails. If you leave the trails for food and/or lodging, make it your aim to get from point A to point B. Another concern is plowed lake roads. We share the lakes with anglers who often have to plow a path from the landings to get their fishing shacks on the ice, which can create berms in the snow. When snowmobilers cross a lake off the trail, they can unexpectedly encounter these roads and hit the berms. In addition, be aware of the fishing shacks and tip-ups. Stay safe and be aware of your surroundings!
The February 3 Travel Wisconsin trail report for the Clam Lake area says trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 12-18 inches.
The February 3 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Washburn County says all trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a compacted base of 9-16 inches.
The February 3 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Douglas County says all trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with base of 18-20 inches. Reports of deer on the trails continue, so keep an eye out while traveling!
The January 31 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Ashland County says trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 10-14 inches. There are temporary, well-posted trail closures in Marengo and on Trail 77 in Cayuga. Trails 11 and 13 have new signage and one area on Trail 13 has a small, marked section of open water.
The January 30 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Bayfield County says trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 12-24 inches.
The January 29 Cable area trail report says trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 10-12 inches.
The January 29 Travel Wisconsin trail report for the Phillips area says trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 16-20 inches. Trail 82 into Sawyer County is open and in very good condition. There is a logging operation on Trail 85. Trail 94, closed due to a creek washout and high water on some sections, remains closed until the water recedes and crews make repairs. A re-route on the northern section of Trail 120 is in effect all season, eliminating a bad part of the swamp. There might be wet areas on some trails and do not try to go off the main trail.
Improving ice conditions (continue to use caution!) and moderate temperatures are encouraging more interest in ice fishing this season. Check with your favorite bait and tackle shop for the most recent ice conditions, fish locations, and bait du jour.
Walleye action slowed somewhat, especially the daytime bite, which is not unusual this time of year, and best fishing is in early morning and late afternoon/evening into dark. Depths range from 6-28 feet. Anglers are having the best success fishing walleye suckers, shiners, and fatheads on tip-ups, as well as with Jigging Raps/baits and spoons.
Northern pike action is very good to excellent and an all-day bite. Target in/on/over/along weeds and weed edges in 4-25 feet, depending on the lake. Northern suckers and large shiners on tip-ups are the baits of choice.
Crappie fishing is good to very good, though it is a light bite. The fish are suspending or on weed edges in depths to 25 feet, so check the entire water column from top to bottom. Top crappie baits include crappie minnows, waxies, mousies, and plastics on lead and tungsten jigs.
Bluegill fishing is good, but also with a light bite. Look for fish around, in, and on the edges of weeds and weed beds in 6-22 feet. Be sure to check the entire water column! The best baits include waxies, mousies, spikes, and plastics on lead and tungsten jigs.
Jan. 31: Seasons closed: Squirrel; Bobcat Period 2 hunting/trapping.
Feb. 12: DNR emergency rule hearing on Lake Superior commercial fishing; Ashland, starts at 6 p.m. (608-316-0080).
Feb. 15: WFNW 24th Annual Family Ice Fishing Event on LCO, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. (715-462-3559).
Feb. 15: Seasons close: Coyote trapping; Raccoon trapping and hunting; Red and gray fox gun and trapping.
Feb. 19-23: 46th Annual American Birkebeiner (715-634-5025).
Feb. 28: Cottontail rabbit season closes.