February 20, 2017
Hayward Lakes Area Outdoor Report
The combination of unseasonably warm weather and rain is making winter activities in the North Woods a challenge. It is affecting ice fishing, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing – especially this weekend’s American Birkebeiner, for which organizers are making a number of schedule changes. For the most current information, visit the Birkie website or call (715) 634-5025.
“Here we are in mid-February and it feels more like early spring,” says Pat at Happy Hooker. “With the sunshine and warmth, we are losing a lot of snow cover and making slush on the lakes. If you go fishing, wear waterproof boots!
“Walleye action is okay. Anglers are catching a few fish during the evening hours and at night with medium shiners on tip-ups set in 8-10 feet on the edges of weed beds and deep holes. The bigger lakes seem more productive. During the daytime, anglers are fishing deep water, jigging shiner and fathead parts. In the evening, they move to shallower weed edges and use tip-ups. The northern pike bite is still good all day on the deepest, greenest weeds you can find. Use shiners and northern suckers under tip-ups.
“Crappie anglers are finding fish in deep holes and electronics are a great aid in locating the fish. Search vertically – some days they will be way off the bottom. Use jigging rods with waxies and small minnows on small jigs. Bluegills are in weeds and provide good action for numbers of small fish. Perch are near bottom in deeper weeds and over mud flats, taking waxies and crappie minnows.”
Bob at Hayward Bait says ice conditions remain solid, travel is good on the lakes, and ice fishing is getting better.
“Walleyes are still active during ‘prime time’ hours, with anglers using spoons tipped with fatheads and setting tip-ups with shiners or walleye suckers. Northern pike fishing is good on tip-ups set along breaklines and weed edges.
“Bluegills are in deep basins and on deep weed and mud flats, depending on the lake, with waxies and spikes on tungsten jigs the most productive presentation.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the possible effects of early ice-out.
“An incredibly warm February has some area anglers thinking that open water may be right around the corner. While it might be nice to think about spring crappie fishing from a boat instead of an ice shack, there are some reasons to hope for a more normal ice-out date.
“In northern Wisconsin, many of our most popular species, such as walleye, musky, and perch, are tuned to a specific seasonal rhythm. When ice goes out and water temperatures get to a certain threshold, it is time for those fish to spawn.
“For decades, ice-out consistently happened in mid-April on most area lakes. In recent years, however, ice out has been much less predictable and that is a problem for fish that are tuned to spawn at a certain time. An early ice-out may mean the eggs have not fully developed when spawning season arrives and these smaller eggs have lower survival.
“A 2015 study in Lake Erie demonstrated this phenomenon in yellow perch, which had lower reproduction following short winters. This is just one way the effects of climate change are felt locally.”
Lakewoods Resort is hosting its annual World’s Longest Weenie Roast March 3-4 on Lake Namakagon. The event includes snowmobile speed runs, live music, Klement’s Racing Sausage, ice bowling, outlaw drags, games for kids (and those who are kids at heart), and a hot dog cookout that holds the world record for the longest line of hot dog cookers over one fire. Proceeds benefit local emergency services including the Great Divide Ambulance Service, Namakagon Volunteer Fire Department, First Responders, and other area charities and not-for-profits.
Northwest Relic Riders is holding its 16th annual “Uncle Mike’s vintage snowmobile ride” this Saturday, February 25. All sleds are welcome. The ride is approximately 55 miles long and begins at Uncle Mike’s Bar and Grille in Trego. For more information, call (715) 635-9042. (Considering the weather and trail conditions, it might be wise to call ahead for updates.)
SNOWMOBILE TRAIL REPORT
Note: Trail conditions can change quickly (especially this winter!), so check with local businesses for the most current ice and trail conditions, as well as trail closures.
The February 20 Hayward Power Sports trail report says that while it wishes to bring news of falling snow and freezing temperatures, Mother Nature has her own agenda and they have to go with the flow. Sawyer County trails are open, but not in good condition. Trails in the open and those exposed to the sun and elements are bare, brown, and covered in SNIRT (snow+dirt)! The lakes are very icy, with some areas unsafe. There are reports of clubs pulling lake trail stakes on the east and west sides of the Chippewa Flowage – and Lake Hayward opened up!
The February 20 HLVCB trail report says Sawyer County trails are open, though not in good condition. There is snow in the forecast at the end of the week and into the next two weeks and if we get a fair accumulation, the protected wooded trails still have a fair base. We will update at that time. Surrounding counties and areas – Ashland, Price, Rusk, Washburn, and the Clam Lake area – closed trails. Bayfield County trails remain open as of today.
The February 17 Namakagon Trail Groomers trail report says trails to Clam Lake are (were) currently in good to very good shape and there is hope the trails will hold up through the traffic and warm weather. It is unlikely groomers will groom until temperatures drop and snow falls again. Be safe on the trails and watch for other sleds and groomers that are out day and night!
Reminder: Gamefish season closes March 5 – only two weekends remain!
Walleye action continues to be fair to good, particularly on the larger lakes, and especially in evening hours into after dark. During the day, concentrate on deep holes and structure. In the evening, work the shallower (8-10 feet) edges of deep holes, weeds, and weedlines. Baits of choice include shiners and walleye suckers on tip-ups, and shiners and fatheads (or parts) on jigs and spoons.
Northern pike remain active and you can fish for them all day. Fish the edges of deep, green weeds and breaklines with shiners and northern suckers on tip-ups.
Crappie action is good to very good in deep water – once you locate the fish. Use electronics and check the entire water column, from top to bottom. Use small jigs tipped with crappie minnows, waxies, plastics, and Gulp! baits, downsizing tackle and line.
Bluegill fishing is good for smaller fish. Look for bluegills in deeper water areas such as weeds, lake basins, and mudflats. Top baits include waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small tungsten jigs and teardrops.
Look for perch close to the bottom around deep weeds and on mudflats. Crappie minnows, fatheads, and waxies on small jigs or plain hooks should get their interest.
Feb. 23-26: American Birkebeiner (715-634-5025).
Feb. 26: Seasons close: Cottontail rabbit; Mink trapping.
March 5: Game fish season closes.
March 5: Seasons close: Mink, muskrat trapping.
March 20: Leftover spring turkey permits on sale at 10 a.m. by zone, one zone per day.
April 30: Seasons close: Beaver and otter trapping in North Zone.