November 28, 2016
Hayward Lakes Area Outdoor Report
Unseasonably mild temperatures continue in the North Woods this week, but the forecast shows mixes of rain and/or snow possible every day through Friday. There is still plenty of outdoor recreation available to those with an interest, but ice fishing and snow sports remain on hold.
“Though not thick enough to walk on, ice covers the shallow bays on most lakes, ice has begun forming on the lakes, and there is not a lot of fishing activity,” says Pat at Happy Hooker. “With luck, we will get time to build good ice before it snows, allowing ice fishing without slush and snow machine use all winter. Whatever happens, we are at the beginning of winter.
“For last gasp musky anglers, this is the best time for trophy fish. On small lakes, fish could be very active as they generally go on quite a feeding binge before ice builds. Suckers – if you can find them – are great for big fish action, and slow moving artificials such as Suicks, Eddie Baits, and Bull Dawgs are a must this time of year.
“Walleye fishing is fairly slow, with the colder weather increasing action, but decreasing the number of anglers. Jigs and minnows work best, with fish hitting in and on the edges of deeper drop-offs and deeper holes. The fish are generally schooling tightly when they are in this pattern.
“Crappie anglers report action, some of it very good, for fish schooling on the edges of deeper holes and on mud flats.
“Gun deer season reports thus far were not favorable, with hunters seeing a lot of small bucks, spikes, and forks, but big bucks elusive. Maybe muzzleloader season will be more productive. Leave the little ones and let them grow.”
“Ice has started to form on some small lakes, but there are still a few hardy anglers getting on the water. Most are chasing big muskies, with some trolling large crankbaits along steep breaks and points. Focus on deeper water, 15-35 feet, along those breaks, watch for baitfish on the electronics, and then thoroughly work those areas. In those same locations, you can have success fishing large suckers on quick-set rigs and vertical jigging.
“Walleyes are biting for those who are fishing for them. Use jigs with walleye suckers or slowly “crawl in” large swimbaits, targeting rock bars and cribs in deeper water.
“Some crappie anglers report good success. Search deep basin wintering areas for schools of suspending fish, with crappie minnows your best bet.
“Hunters have harvested some nice bucks, especially during opening weekend, but it was a little slower in the woods during the last few days of the season.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses musky PIT tagging on area lakes.
“Frequent readers of this column have previously read about the importance of PIT (passive integrated transponder) tags in muskellunge management. These tags allow fisheries biologists to track individual fish through time, which leads to detailed information about growth, movement, survival, and total population. However, it is only possible to gather information from the tags when there are many of them in use.
“The DNR Hayward fish team, as well as DNR researchers and hatchery staff, have focused on PIT tagging over the past few years and now all adult muskies captured in DNR surveys receive a tag.
“This tagging effort is finally reaching a critical level on many lakes and we estimate that nearly half of the muskies in Lost Land, Teal, Spider Chain, Barber, and Lac Courte Oreilles have tags. By having a high proportion of tagged fish, DNR crews are likely to get a fair number of recaptured fish each time they are on the water.
“Each recapture yields useful information about the fish and the population that can help in the management of our fisheries.”
During opening weekend of Wisconsin’s nine-day gun deer hunt, nearly 600,000 hunters headed into the outdoors. The DNR reports selling 575,363 gun deer licenses as of opening morning. During opening weekend, hunters using the GameReg system registered 64,311 bucks and 115,640 deer in total, compared to 120,276 in 2015. For current registrations, search “weekly totals” on the DNR website.
The DNR is asking deer hunters to fill out a Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey, encouraging them to record all hunting activity, even if no wildlife sightings occur during a hunt. The survey lets DNR staff know which types of animals hunters see (or do not see) in the wild so staff can better track population changes and improve management decisions, especially for animals that are very hard to monitor. Hunters can fill out tally sheets electronically or print the sheets from the survey website. At the end of each year – the current survey period ends January 2017 – survey participants receive a personalized summary of all recorded wildlife. For more information, search “deer hunter wildlife” on the DNR website.
The nine-day gun deer season ended this past Sunday, but deer hunting opportunities continue. Muzzleloader season runs through Dec. 7 and archery and crossbow seasons run through Jan. 8.
People can cut their own Christmas trees from Flambeau River, Brule River, Black River, Governor Knowles, Northern Highland-American Legion, and Peshtigo River state forests if they visit the property headquarters and obtain a DNR permit (for a nominal fee). Visitors should know a few basics before heading into the woods to harvest their trees, such as the forests allow no harvest within 100 feet or visual distance of roads, trails, and water, or from campgrounds and day-use areas. Many county forests also allow non-commercial harvest of Christmas trees. For more information, search “Christmas tree” on the DNR website.
Open water fishing is slowly coming to an end for this year, but it certainly stretched out longer than most anticipated. At this time, primary interest is in muskies (the season ends Nov. 30), walleyes, and crappies. Managed trout lakes remain open through end of gamefish season that closes in March.
Late season is “the” time for trophy muskies, but anglers have to deal with challenging conditions. Target deep breaks, points, and drop-offs in 12-35 feet and deeper, especially around baitfish. Suckers on quick-strike rigs are the preference, but tough to find, and many anglers are casting large Suicks, Eddie Baits, and Bull Dawgs, as well as trolling large crankbaits.
Walleye action is slow, but finally improving, just as the ice is forming. Concentrate efforts in/on/on the edges of deep holes, drop-offs, rock bars, and cribs. Jigs with walleye suckers are the go-to bait, though some anglers fishing those same areas are having success slowly fishing large swimbaits.
Crappie anglers – those who are on the water –report good success. Search for suspending fish in and on the edges of deep basins, holes, and mud flats. Crappie minnows work best, but plastics and Gulp! baits are also producing fish.
Nov. 28-Dec. 7: Muzzleloader deer season (see regs).
Nov. 29: Mourning dove season closes.
Nov. 30: Seasons close: Muskellunge; Turtle.
Dec. 1: Lake trout season on Lake Superior opens.
Dec. 7: Seasons close: Muzzleloader deer; Bobwhite quail.
Dec. 7: Northwest Relic Riders Kick-off Ride (715 416-2097).
Dec. 8-11: Statewide antlerless-only deer hunt (see regs).
Dec. 16: Seasons close: Canada goose in north zone and Horicon zone period 2.
Dec. 24-Jan. 1: Antlerless-only Holiday Hunt (see regs).
Dec. 25: Bobcat hunting/trapping period 1 season closes.
Dec. 26: Bobcat hunting/trapping Period 2 north of Hwy. 64 opens.
Dec. 31: Seasons close: Pheasant; Turkey; Hungarian partridge; Fisher trapping; Frog.
Jan. 3: Hayward Lakes Chapter Muskies, Inc. business meeting (715-634-4543).
Jan. 8: Archery and crossbow deer seasons close.