By: Steve Suman
If record snowfall the first day of December left any doubt, sub-zero temperatures this week should drive home the point winter arrived – even if it is not “official” until December 21. However, the current extended forecast shows somewhat of a warming trend returning next week, with little indication (at this time) of more snow.
Final Reminder: Tuesday, December 10, is the application deadline for 2020 spring turkey and black bear hunting permits. Apply NOW at www.gowild.wi.gov or at any DNR service center or license sales agent if you hope to hunt turkey in the spring or hunt bear in the fall (or get your preference point)!
“Additional snowfall has further messed up ice conditions on the Quiet Lakes,” says Pat at Happy Hooker. “It might be best to wait for more solid ice or venture only onto small, shallow waters that firmed up earlier.
“It is a good idea to check with local bait shops, resorts, and fishing guides, and to check the ice as you go. Some anglers are starting to venture onto the new ice, but practice precautionary safety to the maximum.
“Most successful anglers are fishing areas close to shore with tip-ups and jig sticks. The best bite is in the early morning and later afternoon time periods. Tip-up fishing for walleye, pike, and bass continues to pass the time during the daylight hours. Glow jigs tipped with minnows are working well for walleye, crappie, and perch in 8-15 feet.”
Trent at Hayward Bait says ice anglers are hopeful that cold nights ahead allow bigger waterbodies to make good ice.
“Some bigger lakes have started to make ice up to about 1-2 inches, while smaller lakes have about 3-5 inches of good ice, with a layer of crust covering several inches of slush. On the bright side, a hand auger should suffice for popping holes.
“The best fishing times are early mornings and late afternoons when fish start to feed. Low light conditions are optimal because this is when all the organisms and microorganisms come up from the bottom to feed, giving all species of fish a chance to feed.
“Walleyes are starting to move toward rock piles and humps, but working the outside of weedlines can still pay off for anglers. Walleye suckers remain the popular choice, but expect walleyes to start feeding on smaller bait such as fatheads.
“Northern pike are hanging in weed beds and tip-ups with large shiners and northern suckers the favored baits, depending on the lake.
“Crappies are in 25-30 feet in/on bowls, humps, and contours along points and drop-offs.
“Bluegills are in 10-15 feet, depending on the lake. Use small plastics on jigs or tip your lure with a crappie minnow head to disperse some scent and trigger a strike. Tungsten jigs are very popular, but when panfish are finicky, switch to lead jigs with small finesse plastics.
“Whatever species you target, fish with a friend, have the proper safety gear, and check the ice as you go.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the jumping ability of Asian carp.
“Asian carp have captured plenty of attention from the media and public in the United States, with part of that interest coming from the devastating ecological effects of which this group of species is capable. However, one of the Asian carp species, the silver carp, has seen so much time in the spotlight because its jumping behavior makes it considerably more telegenic than most species of fish that rarely leave the water.
“Silver carp is the only one of the common five Asian carp species, which includes common, bighead, grass, and black, that exhibits this dramatic jumping behavior. It is often in response to vibrations in the water, including boat motors. In addition to being viral video-worthy, this jumping is a management concern. As silver carp spread into new areas, the hope is that impoundments such as dams and waterfalls will prevent their spread into certain areas. To understand which barriers might prevent carp passage, we must understand exactly how high these fish can jump.
“Researchers in Mississippi and Alabama explored that question by watching video of jumping carp. They found that the average silver carp jump goes about 4 feet high and covers 7 feet in distance, but the maximum height was 9 feet high and 15 feet in distance! That is quite a leap, certainly capable of sending a carp over many low-head dams. The researchers also found that the jumping ability relates to size, with bigger carp jumping higher and farther.
“These results will help those tasked with the unenviable job of stopping these agile invaders.”
The DNR has released preliminary license sales, harvest registration, and hunting incident numbers for the 2019 regular nine-day gun deer season. The DNR issued 564,664 gun deer licenses through the end of the nine-day season. In total, it sold 792,548 gun, archery, and crossbow licenses through the end of gun deer season, selling 54 percent at license agents and 46 percent online. Sales continue through the remaining seasons. Preliminary harvest figures show hunters registered 160,769 deer during the nine-day hunt, including 75,236 antlered deer and 85,533 antlerless deer. Harvest numbers will climb with the continuing hunting opportunities. The largest declines in antlered harvest occurred in the Northern Forest Zone, where significant snow accumulation hindered hunter access. Northern Forest Zone hunters harvested 16,051 antlered deer and 10,470 antlerless deer. The 26,521 deer harvest was a 38.2 percent decrease from the 2018 season. There were four reports of firearm-involved injuries, tying for the lowest season on record, and zero fatalities for the fourth consecutive nine-day gun deer season. For more information, search “weekly totals” on the DNR website www.dnr.wi.gov.
Wisconsin’s regular nine-day gun deer season is now history, but deer hunters have remaining gun hunting opportunities through January. These include the Dec. 2-11 statewide muzzleloader hunt, the Dec. 12-15 statewide four-day antlerless-only hunt, and the nine-day antlerless-only holiday hunt Dec. 24-Jan. 1 in select Farmland Zone counties. Archery and crossbow seasons continue through Jan. 5, with extended archery and crossbow seasons through Jan. 31 in select Farmland Zone counties. Hunters may use any unfilled antlerless harvest authorization during any of these hunts, but they must use them in the zone, county, and land type designated on the harvest authorization. Check the regulations. For more information, search “deer” and “DMU” on the DNR website www.dnr.wi.gov.
The DNR’s Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey will remain active until the end of all deer seasons. Wildlife managers ask hunters to submit reports of what they observe during their time in the field. They use this valuable data to improve population estimates for Wisconsin’s deer herd and other species. For more information, search “deer hunter wildlife survey” on the DNR website www.dnr.wi.gov.
Winter weather and ice fishing have a tight connection, but the winter weather thus far has certainly complicated the relationship! Ice had just started to set up when the snow arrived, and then heavy snow arrived… and then more heavy snow. All of this snow provides an insulating layer that delays ice growth, even with the sub-zero temperatures arriving this week. If you go, go prepared with all necessary safety equipment (that you hope will not be necessary), and make sure to check ice thickness as you go.
Walleye fishing is fair to good, with most action during low light hours. Look for weeds, weedlines, rocks, and humps in depths to 20 feet. Tip-ups with walleye suckers and fatheads, and minnows on jigs, work best.
Northern pike fishing is good with northern suckers and large shiners fished on tip-ups set on weedlines/weed beds.
Crappies are in/on holes, humps, points, and drop-offs in 8-30 feet. Use crappie minnows and plastics on small jigs.
Bluegills are in depths to 18 feet and anglers report success on jigs with small plastics and crappie minnow heads.
Dec. 11: Seasons close: Muzzleloader deer; Bobwhite quail.
Dec. 16: Goose season closes in Northern Zone.
Dec. 25: Christmas Day.
Jan. 1, 2020: New Years Day.
Jan. 4: Seasons close: Goose on Southern and Mississippi River zones.
Jan. 5: Seasons close: Archery deer; Pheasant; Fall turkey zones 1-5; Hungarian partridge; Fisher trapping.
Jan. 18-19: Free fishing weekend – no fishing license required.
Jan. 18: NABA 10th Annual Ice Fishing Event on Nelson Lake (715-296-7881).
Jan. 18: Seeley Hills Classic Ski Event (715-634-5025).
Jan. 31: Seasons close: Squirrel; Bobcat Period 2 hunting/trapping.