December 19, 2016
Hayward Lakes Area Outdoor Report
This week’s forecast mentions snow on a few days – as well as chances for a winter storm that could affect Christmas weekend – but the temperatures should be MUCH milder than in the past week (so they say), though with strong winds. The recent snow and cold set the mood for winter recreation, but it is early in the season, so use caution if any of your favorite activities include venturing onto ice cover.
“Yes, it IS cold here in the North Woods,” says Pat at Happy Hooker. “And yes, we do have snow and we do have ice on the lakes, too. Unfortunately, at the time of this report, there is not enough safe ice to support fishing other than around the edges, nor is there quite enough snow to support snowmobiling. However, if the forecast for continuing cold and 6-10 inches of snow hold true, then both activities are very much possible by Christmas weekend. At present, conditions are best for cross-country skiers and snowshoers.
“Although the trails are open, crews (again, at the time of this report) have not yet groomed the trails and they have not yet staked the lake trails for traffic. The marsh and swamp areas are still soft and will be that way until we get some traffic over them to firm them up for riding.
“Anyone attempting any of these outdoor activities should use caution and be safe rather than sorry – and be patient. The time for good, safe ice and riding will come soon enough.
“We wish all readers and friends a safe and Merry Christmas!”
“There are reports of up to 4-6 inches on the bays and on smaller lakes – that should just keep getting better – and people were getting out as of last Thursday. Thickness can vary greatly, so use all precautions. Always fish with friends, always chip your way out onto new ice, and always have ice picks for getting out in case you should fall through the ice.
“Most early ice anglers are targeting walleyes and using walleye suckers and medium shiners on tip-ups. Jigging with small spoons, Jigging Rapalas, or Rippin’ Raps can work as well. Focus on the edges of shallow bars and weed beds.
“Pike action can be great this time of year. Try fishing large shiners or suckers under tip-ups on weed edges in 5-15 feet. Panfish fishing should be good as well and small tungsten jigs tipped with waxies, spikes, or plastics should get the job done. Search deeper water for suspended crappies and try weed edges and flats for bluegills.
“Late season archery and crossbow hunters are taking some nice bucks.”
Mike at Jenk’s says reports indicate the ice depth on the Chippewa Flowage is approximately four inches.
“Keep in mind that may or may not be uniform across the entire lake, as various factors, including current, determine ice thickness. Word is that crews will stake the lake trails just before Christmas. As always, exercise caution when out on the ice.
“There are not a lot of fishing reports as of yet, but anglers fishing northern pike through the ice report some success fishing the west end of the lake with shiner.
“Some anglers are fishing for crappies and panfish on the early ice in front of Dun Rovin Lodge, with crappie minnows on ice jigs the bait of choice.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses seasonal panfish harvest percentages.
“Now that deer season is in the rear view mirror, many outdoor enthusiasts are looking ahead to ice fishing. While walleye and northern pike are popular targets in winter, bluegills are the goal of many anglers.
“Most anglers targeting panfish in winter are looking to harvest fish, leading to the common assumption that the most harvest of bluegill is during ice fishing. However, a DNR creel data study shows that may not be the case.
“In Wisconsin, early winter (December-January) accounts for 13 percent of the bluegill harvest and late winter (February-April) accounts for only 10 percent. Angler harvest is highest – about 38 percent – during the two months in early summer (May-June) when bluegills spawn. Mid-summer (July-August) harvest remains high, with 27 percent of the harvest, and fall (September-November) accounts for about 12 percent of bluegill harvest.
“These numbers may surprise anglers who know how good panfish fishing can be through the ice. However, the largest driver of total harvest is not fish catching efficiency, but the amount of overall effort – and the number of anglers on Wisconsin lakes is considerably higher in the summer months than during ice season.”
The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board (NRB) has approved an emergency rule to amend Lake Superior lake trout harvest limits for the 2016-17 recreational season Dec. 1 through Sept. 30, 2017. Under the rule, in area WI-2 east of Bark Point, anglers may harvest two lake trout per day, with a 15-inch minimum and only one more than 25 inches. West of Bark Point (area WI-1), the three-fish daily bag limit remains, with a 15-inch minimum and only one more than 25 inches. Even if the recreational season closes east of Bark Point, anglers may continue to harvest up to three lake trout per day west of Bark Point. Anglers can take up to two (WI-2) or three (WI-1) lake trout per day and up to five other trout. For more information, search “Lake Superior fisheries management” on the DNR website.
The December 19 HLVCB trail report says snowmobile season is off to a great start with most trails open, though the wetlands and lakes are not yet ready. Crews are packing the swamps, gates will open for trails that go through private land, and they could start staking some lakes this week. There is approximately 8 inches of snow on the ground – a bit more in southern Sawyer County – and Seeley Hills area trails are open and in good shape.
The December 16 Cable area trail report says winter is off to a very promising start. Bayfield County trails were not yet open (as of this pre-weekend report) and they are waiting for more snow and for swamps to freeze before they can use grooming equipment. Though the lakes have frozen over and there is a solid 5 inches of snow cover, it will take time to get ice depths safe enough for trails over the deep parts of lakes.
The Lakewoods trail report for December 15 says the gates are open, but you ride at your own risk. Groomers are not yet grooming, as the six inches of snow cover is very fluffy. Lakes and swamp areas are not ready for travel, but following the new snow, trail conditions should improve this week.
Interest in ice fishing continues to build in direct relation to the increasing ice thickness – it is still relatively new ice – and as a result, reports remain somewhat scarce. The DNR reminds anglers and other winter recreationists that ice is never “safe” and they should check with local bait shops, fishing clubs, ice anglers, and snowmobile clubs for the most current ice conditions before going on the ice. For more information, search “ice safety” on the DNR website.
Dec. 25: Bobcat hunting/trapping Period 1 season closes.
Dec. 26: Bobcat hunting/trapping Period 2 north of Hwy. 64 opens.
Dec. 29: Northwest Relic Riders “Ride to Lunch” (715-416-2097).
Dec. 31: Seasons close: Pheasant; Turkey (zones 1-5); Hungarian partridge; Fisher trapping; Frog.
Jan. 2: Early catch-and-release only trout season opens statewide (see regs).
Jan. 8: Archery and crossbow deer seasons close.
Jan. 18: Winter 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.