Excerpts from the March 20, 2017 Hayward Lakes Area Outdoor Report by Steve Suman:
Assorted forecasts for this week are as inconsistent as the current weather patterns, but it appears this week will be sunny through mid-week, with cool/cold temperatures, followed by a storm front moving in Wednesday evening. Subject to change at any time! Some forecasts show sunny, milder weather for the weekend – let’s go with that version!
“Beware the ‘ice’ of March,” says Pat at Happy Hooker.... This is the time of year when ice conditions start to deteriorate rapidly and anglers should use extreme caution. From here on, cars and trucks are a no-go on the ice. If ice conditions are still stable, ATVs should be the only vehicle traffic, and very soon, as shorelines start opening up, it will be only walking... The Quiet Lakes and surrounding area lakes continue to offer the best opportunities for good action for anglers frequenting popular panfish fishing spots... Crappie anglers are catching some nice fish on small minnows under floats and while jigging, with the middle to lower parts of the water column ideal for suspending fish. This also holds true for bluegills, with anglers using small jigs and mini-spoons tipped with larvae or waxies for the best success. If you mark fish on the graph, but cannot get them to bite, it is a good idea to move to other locations in search of more aggressive schools... As angling pressure slows, it is a good time to plan ahead for open water season, inspecting, repairing, and/or replacing equipment, cleaning out the tackle boxes, and throwing out all the ‘bad stuff’ accumulated over the years. To avoid the last minute rush, purchase your new fishing license for the 2017 season. Old licenses expire March 31... In a quick check of new regulations, it appears nothing changed for the Quiet Lakes. Walleye limits remain the same, but be aware of the sizes you can keep and the sizes you must release. Daily panfish limits remain the same at 25 panfish, but only 10 of one species. Largemouth bass opens with the new season and anglers can keep any size.”
Annie at Hayward Bait says ice conditions are changing and anglers should use extra caution, particularly when traveling around shorelines and heavily used boat landings... Panfish fishing is good in early spring spots, weeds, and on soft bottom areas in 15-25 feet, especially in early morning and evening hours during insect hatches... For crappies, tip small jigs and spoons with crappie minnows and rosy reds. For bluegills, tip jigs with waxies and spikes. Fish perch on mud flats in 12-30 feet, using waxies, spikes, and minnows on rattle spoons, and on Jigging Raps.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses spring plans for the Hayward DNR Fish Team... “Ice-out is not too far away and the Hayward DNR Fish Team is planning for another busy spring, hoping to accomplish a variety of objectives... The first stop will likely be Musky Bay on Lac Courte Oreilles where we will execute a controlled pike removal, with the goal to increase musky abundance and improve overall pike size. The team will relocate some removed pike to nearby waters and donate some of the fish to local food pantries... The fish team will conduct walleye population estimates on Big Chetac, Nelson, and Blueberry lakes, collecting data that will enlighten us on the success of previous years of extended growth walleye stocking. On the west side of the Chippewa Flowage, the team will check on crappies and insert PIT tags into muskellunge... Following the initial round of netting surveys for walleye, pike, musky, and crappie, we will return to all of these lakes to conduct electrofishing surveys that primarily target bass and bluegill... Reports detailing our survey results are typically available by mid-summer.”
Ice conditions are changing quickly and it is imperative that anglers – and everyone else – use extreme caution when recreating on the ice. This is especially true around shorelines and heavily used areas such as landings. No matter how good the fishing, do not take unnecessary chances – if you do not catch the fish through the ice, they will still be there during open water season!
Crappie: Crappie fishing is good and getting better on soft bottoms and near weeds in 15-25 feet. The most productive baits include small jigs and spoons tipped with crappie minnows, rosy reds, waxies, plastics, and Gulp! baits. Be sure to look at the entire water column for fish suspending at various levels within it.
Bluegill: Bluegill fishing is fair to good and can be very good once you locate active fish. Look for fish around weeds and on soft bottom flats in 12-22 feet. Top baits include small jigs tipped with waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits. As with crappies, check the entire water column.
Perch: Perch action is good around weeds and on mud flats in depths from 10-30 feet. Use small spoons and jigging baits tipped with waxies, spikes, minnows, and minnow pieces