March 27, 2017
Hayward Lakes Area Outdoor Report
The Hayward area started this week with mild weather and it appears (according to current forecasts) that the entire week (or most parts of it) will be mild and sunny. That said, this time of year the North Woods always faces the prospect of lingering winter surprises and seldom does winter go “gentle into that good night” without taking some cheap shots during its departure!
“It is time to put away ice fishing gear and start preparing for open water season,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “High winds pushed the ice up onto the shorelines of the Quiet Lakes and you actually have to step over it to get on the lake. Who knows what the ice thickness is on the lakes now? The forecast calls for more rain and rising temperatures this week, so this is a good time to think about open water season and prepare for the May 6 gamefish opener.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses length limit exemptions for bass tournaments.
“In 2016, the DNR changed smallmouth bass regulations for several lakes in the Hayward area to an 18-inch minimum length limit and one fish daily bag limit. The goal is to protect and enhance our tremendous smallmouth bass populations.
“On paper, a vast majority of anglers support that concept; however, there is a significant complication in that these regulations can seriously impact catch-and-release oriented bass tournaments. Bass anglers understandably have mixed feelings about the more restrictive regulations, particularly since there are proposals to apply similar regulations to more area lakes.
“One potential solution, used in other states, is to allow temporary length limit exemptions for tournament events, provided the event is exclusively catch-and-release. A study of tournaments in Connecticut demonstrated that length limit exemptions are a viable option to minimize total mortality of bass, while still allowing competitive fishing events.
“The key to success for length limit exemptions is that tournaments must practice the best possible handling practices for the fish, thereby minimizing tournament associated mortality.”
Starting May 6, the DNR is offering a new live release record fish program, recognized by length only, to provide anglers with the satisfaction of accomplishing both a state record and a successful live release. The program requires anglers to submit several photos taken from different perspectives. Photos must include one with the fish on its side and a measuring device beside it with the length number clearly visible, and one showing the angler with the fish. Fisheries biologists will identify the species from the photos and if unable to make a conclusive identification, will not consider the record claim. The program is honor-based and does not require witnesses. For more information, search “live release records” on the DNR website.
The DNR is looking for volunteers for the Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey, the longest running amphibian calling survey in North America. Typically, more than 100 Wisconsin citizens record frog calling activity at night throughout the state’s mosaic of rivers, lakes, and wetlands. Volunteers survey three nights a year – in early spring, late spring, and early summer – making 10 stops per night (five minutes per site), documenting species calling and relative abundance of each species. For more information, check available survey routes on the website http://wiatri.net/inventory/FrogToadSurvey.
Last week, the DNR started selling 105,464 leftover spring turkey permits over the counter. Any remaining tags went on sale Saturday March 25 and hunters can purchase one extra tag per day until the zone and period sells out or the season closes. As of Monday March 27, zones 6 and 7 had no permits available; Zone 4 had 2,776 permits for Period E, May 17-23 and 4,976 permits for Period F, May 24-30. Leftover permits cost $10/residents and $15/non-residents. For more information, search “leftover spring turkey permits” on the DNR website.
Youth hunters ages 12-15 who have completed hunter education and accompanied by an adult over the age of 18 may hunt during the 2017 Youth Turkey Hunt April 15-16. Under the Mentored Hunting Program, turkey hunters ages 10-11 may participate in the 2017 youth turkey hunt without first completing hunter education, as long as they do so with a qualified adult mentor and follow program rules. Search “mentored hunting” on the DNR website for more information.
Flambeau River State Forest in Sawyer County is the new home for 28 Kentucky elk. The DNR elk program staff is taking special precautions to make sure these elk become accustomed to their new surroundings, holding them in a 7-acre holding pen to satisfy quarantine and animal health testing requirements. Staff closed the area surrounding the holding pen to the public during this period to minimize human disturbance. Once released into the wild, the elk will join with the current Clam Lake herd that resides primarily in Ashland, Price, and Sawyer counties. The Kentucky elk will provide a boost to herd growth and introduce new genetics. For more information, search “elk” on the DNR website.
In Flambeau River State Forest, lake ice is extremely dangerous and Forest staff encourage visitors to use extreme caution. Cross-country ski and snowmobile trails closed for the season and ATV/UTV trails open May 15. Hiking trails are open throughout the Forest and this is the perfect time for hiking. Camping season starts soon – Lake of the Pines Campground opens April 15 and Connors Lake Campground opens May 25, the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend. All Connors Lake Campground campsites are reservable, and many Lake of the Pines Campsites are reservable, by registering at www.reserveamerica.com or calling (888) 947-2757. In addition to the campgrounds, Flambeau River State Forest operates and maintains 14 river sites on the North Fork of the Flambeau River. The sites have up to three camping units at each site and include a picnic table, fire ring, and toilet facilities.
This will wind up ice fishing reports – few, if any people are fishing with the quickly disintegrating ice conditions. Use common sense and err on the side of caution and safety. This is a great time to work on the boat, organize open water tackle, repair, replace, and upgrade equipment, purchase new fishing licenses (old licenses expire March 31) – do the things you know you will not have (or take/make) the time to do once the weather changes to spring/summer season!
March 25: Trout season opened on some sections of Lake Superior tributaries.
April 15-16: Youth turkey hunt.
April 15-July 31: Illegal to allow unleashed dogs to run on DNR lands and FWPAs (see regs for exceptions).
April 19-25: Period A spring turkey season.
April 26-May 2: Period B spring turkey season.
April 30: Seasons close: Beaver and otter trapping in North Zone.
May 3-9: Period C spring turkey season.
May 5: Early catch and release trout season closes.
May 10-16: Period D spring turkey season.
May 17-23: Period E spring turkey season.
May 24-30: Period F spring turkey season.
May 27: Muskellunge season opens north of State Highway 10.