The current forecast predicts a rough start to the week, with snow, freezing rain, and a possible “significant” accumulation of ice. A return to colder temperatures after Monday should address the ice issue, though snow chances at this time do not include much for accumulation. Be safe, dress for the conditions, and enjoy winter in the North Woods!
“Brutally cold temperatures and wind chills caused us to hunker down last week,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “and shelters were an absolute necessity. Being mobile when it is so cold is certainly a challenge!
“Ice conditions are at last where they should be at this time, but as always, use caution, especially if you drive a car or truck on the ice. A few accidents last week remind us no ice is safe.
“The cold impacted the fish last week, with most lethargic and action hit and miss, making downsizing lures and jigging cadence and presentations very important. The best bite is at dusk and dawn.
“Tip-ups are taking a few northern pike, bass, and an occasional walleye, but mostly during those low light periods, with the best depth 15-25 feet.
“Some panfish are coming off deeper transition areas for anglers using small Forage Minnows tipped with small minnows and waxies. Watch your electronics closely. If you are marking fish and they abruptly disappear, it is very likely a predator fish is near!”
Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says the extreme cold, along with calm winds, allowed a lot of ice to form and anglers are now fishing everywhere from the Bay to points far north.
“Anglers are starting to venture into new lake trout and whitefish territory and report great fishing. With manageable temperatures in the forecast, conditions should also be great.
“For whitefish, bigger Williams Spoons tipped with small plastics are working well, as are gold Kastmasters and blade baits. Look for fish in 60 feet and deeper and keep moving to find active schools of fish.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the warmest water in ice-covered lakes.
“There is an odd little quirk in the molecular structure of water and it plays a huge role in the existence of fish in freshwater lakes in cold parts of the world.
“Unlike nearly all other substances, water becomes less dense in its solid (frozen) form and ice floats on top of water instead of sinking to the bottom. If ice was more dense than liquid water, our lakes would likely freeze from bottom to top as ice accumulated during winter, freezing out any fish that might be in the lake. To some extent, once ice covers a lake, it actually buffers the water below from the colder air temperature.
“Another odd characteristic of water may help anglers find fish in the winter.
“Water is most dense at 39.2F (4C), meaning the warmest water in the lake during winter is always towards the bottom. Fish will often preferentially seek out that slightly warmer water, leaving only in pursuit of food higher in the water column or if oxygen near the bottom gets low.
“In lakes with good oxygen, fish can hang out in that relatively consistent band of 39F water all winter long – and that actually does not sound too bad when compared to air temperatures we recently experienced this winter!”
The Hayward DNR fisheries team will host the 2019 Sawyer County Fisheries Forum this Thursday, February 7, starting at 6 p.m., at Hayward High School Auditorium.
“This meeting continues an annual event to present information on DNR fisheries projects, discuss local fisheries issues, and provide anglers a chance to bring issues to the DNR,” says DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter.
Wolter will offer a presentation on work the fisheries crew did throughout the past year, including updates on the LCO pike removal project, Namekagon River fish surveys, creation of fishing trails on the Chippewa Flowage, and more, along with a number of short videos highlighting the projects.
During a portion of the meeting, people will be able to visit different stations to discuss topics of special interest, including, surveys, stocking, habitat projects, fishing opportunities for youth, regulations, and law enforcement.
“This new format offers people a better opportunity to share what is on their minds and how we can improve their fishing experiences. If you are interested in fishing in the Hayward area, this is absolutely the place to be Feb. 7!”
SNOWMOBILE TRAIL REPORT
Snowmobilers should 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 4 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Washburn County says all trails are open at this time, with a base of 1-5 inches of ice and snow, and fair to poor conditions vary throughout the county.
The February 4 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Rusk County says rain decimated the snow cover, causing trail closure. Please stay off all trails until further notice – and only eight weekends left until trails close!
The February 1 Travel Wisconsin trail report for the Clam Lake area says all trails in the Clam Lake area have fresh snow, are groomed, in good condition, and with a base of 6-10 inches. Ashland County trails are open except the closed section from Marengo north to the east end of Ashland.
The January 31 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Bayfield County says trails are groomed and in good condition, with a base of 4-12 inches. Trail conditions remain variable, with hard bases and icy conditions. Use caution and be aware of maintenance equipment on the trail, as grooming can occur at any time, day and night. Please stay on the trails!
The January 30 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Park Falls/Phillips area says trails are open, groomed and in good condition, with a base of 6-10 inches. Some trail areas have small rocks on the surface, as snow is quite thin. There are no bare spots and all swamps are frozen.
The January 29 Hayward Power Sports trail report says fresh snow last week topped off the nice flat base. Groomers report trails are laying down very nice, making for smooth trails and very good conditions. On Trail 9 from Blueberry Oasis to Couderay, there is a marked washout area about 1.5 miles north of Atherton Road.
The January 29 Cable area trail report says the Namakagon Trail Groomers report a base of 3-5 inches and trails are in good condition throughout the area – and we expect new snow. Remember that groomers can be grooming day and night and have the right-of-way.
Walleye fishing is fair, with best success in early morning and late afternoon into night in shallower, weedy areas. During the day, look for fish in deeper water in holes and on flats. To get their interest, try tip-ups with walleye suckers or fatheads on jigs and jigging spoons.
Northern pike action is good to very good and it is an all day bite. Use tip-ups with northern suckers and shiners, setting up in, over, and on the edges of shallow to mid-depth weed cover.
Crappie fishing is good in depths from 15-25 feet, especially in holes and near deeper weed edges. Crappie minnows, waxies, plastics, and jigging spoons are the top bait choices – and search the entire water column!
Bluegill fishing is fair to good, with fish primarily around weeds and in transitions areas in 12-28 feet. Jigs tipped with waxies, spikes, and plastics are working well, but try small minnows for bigger ‘gills.
Feb. 7: Sawyer County Fisheries Forum, Hayward High School Auditorium; 6 p.m.
Feb. 9: Copper Falls State Park Candlelight Ski/Snowshoe event (715-274-5123).
Feb. 9: Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing season opens.
Feb. 15: Seasons close: Fox (red, gray) trapping/hunting; Raccoon trapping/hunting; Coyote trapping.
Feb. 16: Brule River State Forest Candlelight Ski and Snowshoe event (715-372-5678).
Feb. 16: Drummond Sno Jacks Bar Stool Races (715-739-6645).
Feb. 20: Anglers must remove ice fishing shelters from Wisconsin-Iowa boundary waters.
Feb. 21-24: 45th American Birkebeiner Cross Country Ski Race (715-634-5025).
Feb. 23: Pattison State Park Winterfest and Candlelight Hike (715-399-3111).
Feb. 24: Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing season closes (closes earlier if spearers reach harvest caps).
Feb. 28: Cottontail rabbit season closes in northern and southern zones.