December 12, 2016
Hayward Lakes Area Outdoor Report
THIS should be an interesting week! Cloudy, partly cloudy, and clear skies combine with snow showers, sub-zero low temperatures, and daily highs reaching double-digits – on some days. All this with the first day of winter, December 21, still nine days away! On a positive note (depending on your perspective), the first day of winter is the shortest day of the year, which means each day from Dec. 21 on we will see more daylight! For more information on the winter solstice, check The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
“Open water anglers have retired their boats until next spring,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “gun deer seasons ended and hunters departed, snow covers the ground, and ice is forming on the lakes. Snowplows, snow blowers, and shovels scrapping sidewalks and driveways are now the sounds of the North Woods.
“The weather has changed significantly, from the 40 and 50 degree temperatures of just a few weeks ago to the 20s and teens for daytime highs and teens and single digits at night. The long range forecast calls for sub-zero nights this week, as well as more snow, and we could be ice fishing and snowmobiling by Christmas, if not before. We are well ahead of the weather at this time last year, when it was still in the 40s and raining.
“Whatever your favorite winter outdoor activity, it is time to prepare for it. Check your ice fishing equipment and make any necessary repairs or replacements, fire up your snowmobile before hitting the trails to ensure it is running correctly, wax the skis, and get snowshoes ready for hiking in the woods.”
“As of Saturday December 10, some anglers are getting on the ice. They report up to 3-4 inches on smaller lakes and the bays and this should keep getting better. Please use all precautions, as ice thickness can vary greatly. Always fish with friends and always chip your way out onto new ice. It is also always a good idea to have ice picks to help pull yourself out if you should fall through the ice.
“Most early ice anglers are targeting walleyes with walleye suckers and medium shiners on tip-ups. Focus on bar and weed bed edges in various depths. Jigging small spoons, Jigging Raps, and Rippin’ Raps can work as well. Pike fishing can be great this time of year. Try fishing weed edges in 5-15 feet with large shiners under tip-ups.
“Panfish fishing should also be good and small tungsten jigs tipped with waxies, spikes, or plastics should get the job done. Search deeper water for suspending crappies and try weed edges and flats for bluegills.
“Be safe and enjoy the great ice fishing!”
Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland Chequamegon Bay says ice is starting to develop along the shoreline.
“We are starting to get ice, but high winds in the forecast will probably mess it up, so we are waiting not patiently for safe ice somewhere!”
According to DNR fisheries biologist Skip Sommerfeldt, mild, late fall weather kept most lakes and flowages free of ice cover (at the time of this writing).
“A few smaller, shallower lakes developed some ice, but nothing close to thick enough for ice travel. Single-digit low temperatures predicted for this week may allow some good first-ice to form.
“Most early-season anglers wait for a solid 3-4 inches of ice before venturing out and that may still be a week or so away. This month’s words of advice: Better safe than sorry!
(Note: Skip Sommerfeldt retired Dec. 9 and this is his final official fishing report as a DNR fisheries biologist. We thank Skip for his many contributions and wish him all the best in retirement!)
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses musky population trends shown by long-term results of two local tournaments.
“When possible, the DNR likes to look at results from fishing tournaments as an extra source of information on fish populations. Tournaments that have run for many years on the same waterbodies, with the same rules and number of anglers, can indicate whether fishing quality is trending upward or downward.
“Two Hayward area tournaments provide useful data on the Chippewa Flowage musky population. The Chippewa Flowage Musky Hunt takes place in September each year and the October Hayward Lakes Chapter of Muskies Inc. tournament includes the Chippewa Flowage. Interestingly, the results from these two tournaments mirror each other.
“Beginning in 1999 and the start of the Musky Hunt, the number of muskies caught from the Chip in each event has shown an increasing trend, with the size increasing as well. The average size increased from about 38 inches in 1999 to now more than 40 inches for both tournaments. The biggest fish caught in each event has increased as well, from an average of 42-45 inches to now about 50 inches.
“Tournament results do not tell us everything we need to know about fish populations, but when we see trends from two separate events heading in the same direction, it gives us confidence that the patterns are real.”
Additional deer hunts offer deer hunters more hunting opportunities in December and January. All deer hunters with valid antlerless tags for the county and land type they are hunting are encouraged to take advantage of these additional opportunities. The antlerless-only holiday hunt runs Dec. 24 to Jan. 1 in 13 counties. Hunters may use any legal firearm, crossbow, or archery equipment during these hunts and fill any unused antlerless tags in the proper deer management zone, county, and land type. Any unit not offering the holiday hunt is open for archery and crossbow hunting and hunters may take bucks. Archery and crossbow season remains open through Jan. 8 statewide and through Jan. 31 in the metro sub-units. All hunters except waterfowl hunters must wear blaze orange clothing during any open firearm deer hunt. For more information, search “DMU” on the DNR website.
The Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey will remain active until all deer seasons end and DNR wildlife managers encourage hunters to submit reports of what they saw during their time in the field. This information provides valuable data used to improve population estimates for Wisconsin’s deer herd and other species. For more information, search “deer hunter wildlife” on the DNR website.
In Flambeau River State Forest, white spruce and balsam fir grow throughout the forest and people are coming in for $5 Christmas tree cutting permits. For information, call (715) 332-5271.
In Brule River State Forest, people who would like to cut a Christmas tree or collect boughs from Brule River State Forest can obtain $5 Forest Product permits from the Brule DNR Headquarters. For information, call (715) 372-5678.
Ice fishing conditions (conditions that are as “safe” as they can be) are coming, but it will still take some time, even with the current cold temperatures. If you decide to go, stick with shallow bays and/or smaller lakes, go prepared, use every safety precaution, and do not take unnecessary risks. Reports on specific species will begin when anglers can get on (and return from!) the ice and target their favorite fish.
Dec. 16: Seasons close: Canada goose in North Zone and Horicon Zone period 2.
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 (zones 1-5); Hungarian partridge; Fisher trapping; Frog.
Jan. 8: Archery and crossbow deer seasons close.
Jan. 18: Crow season opens.
Jan. 21: Elk Country ATV Club’s 9th annual ice fishing contest, Upper Clam Lake (715-794-2298; 681 -0581).
Jan. 31: Seasons close: Grouse in North Zone; Bobcat Period 2; Squirrel.