Closing In On Christmas 2018

Third Week of December

In last week’s blog I talked about how our winter weather here in northern Wisconsin hasn’t been very ‘winter like’. Well, that trend has continued right on into the third week of December. In fact, where we were seeing daytime temps in the mid to upper 30’s last week, we’re now seeing daytime temps in the low to mid 40’s.

We’ve gone from having a few inches of snow to a very patchy snow cover. Our daytime temps are far above normal as well.

Of course this continuing trend of warmer than normal temperatures, along with a rapidly disappearing snow cover, hasn’t done much to improve late season deer hunting conditions around home. And the last time I checked, the weather in the part of Iowa where I’ll be muzzle loader hunting was even worse. By worse I mean absolutely no snow cover and daytime temps in the mid to upper 50’s. Ideally, it would be nice to see at least several inches of snow and daytime temps in the 20’s. I’ve killed some giant Iowa bucks under those very conditions.

A snow cover and cold temperatures played a huge role in my taking this big Iowa buck during a past late muzzle loader season.

So enough about what’s not right with the weather, because now I’d like to talk about what is right with it. In a nutshell, the lack of snow and warmer than normal temps has made it possible for us to spend a lot of time outdoors. And that’s a luxury we’re not often afforded this time of year. So Jake and I are making the best of it. Jake has been busy doing some filming and editing work for a couple different productions companies, while I decided to dig out my ice fishing equipment and get geared up.

I’ve been threatening to get out on a couple area lakes to try for some panfish for a while now. But one thing or another seemed to always come up and kept me from making my first trip onto the ice. Heck, I even skipped out on an invitation from my good friend Brody Moreland to join him and a buddy for a day of fishing on a lake about an hour north of my hometown. And as usually happens when I don’t follow through on an invitation from Brody, he and his buddy got into some giant crappies. They also managed to land a good sized northern pike on a light panfish jigging pole. Trust me when I say that it takes some skill, a bit of finesse and a whole lot of luck to accomplish that feat!

My buddy Brody Moreland poses with a two man catch of crappies. The northern pike was their bonus fish of the day.

Of course, after looking at the photos he sent me of their day’s bag of fish I just had to call Brody and pick his brain about where, when and how they caught them. The first words out of his mouth told me all I really needed to know. “I talked to our buddy Jeff Evans  and asked for some advice,” Brody said. “So that eliminated a bunch of guesswork.”

For those who don’t know, Jeff Evans is a full time Wisconsin fishing guide in the Hayward Lakes area. I’ve fished with Jeff many times over the 16 years I’ve known him and can personally attest to his innate abilities to find and catch fish–regardless of the targeted species or time of year. He typically fishes right up until the first bits of ice start appearing around the shores of our lakes in late fall. Jeff has learned that places that are holding fish this time of year will often times continue to hold fish through the winter months.

Our buddy Jeff Evans specializes in catching multiple species of fish, including giant crappies. His shared knowledge always proves to be a big help.

So the plan turned out to be relatively basic and easy to employ. Search out deep water basins, those with 30 to 40 feet of depth, and then use our electronics to check for fish. This is exactly the approach Brody used, and also the exact approach I used on an area lake just a couple days ago. (I couldn’t let Brody get one up on me so early in the season!)

I didn’t leave my house until 10:30 in the morning. But from the beginning I hadn’t planned on being on the ice at first light. Nor had I planned on fishing until the end of daylight. Past experiences had shown me that I could expect to catch just as many crappies during midday as any other time. And catch them I did. Thankfully, I’ve fished this particular body of water pretty much throughout my entire adult life. So I knew exactly where to begin. In fact, when I dropped the transducer from my locator down the very first hole I drilled it showed a depth just shy of 40 feet. It also showed a “wall” of fish that stretched all the way up to 30 feet. Bingo!

It doesn’t take long to get a limit of fish when they’re stacked up and just waiting to bite your bait!

Without going into too much detail, I ended up getting my ten fish limit of crappies in a little over an hour. (And I was still marking active fish on my Hummingbird when I started rounding up my gear to head home.) As I sit here writing this those crappies have been reduced to fillets and are chilling in the fridge. They’ll be getting dropped into 350 degree oil in just a few hours. I honestly don’t know what’s better, the catching or the eating. So let’s just call it a toss up.

Before ending this blog I’d like to add that, when it comes right down to it, our recent stretch of unseasonably warm weather actually is a bit of a blessing. There’s no doubt that deer numbers in our area are down from recent years. That being said, the deer herd needs every break it can get. The fact that they’re able to move about without stressing themselves in the least, coupled with the fact that they have easy access to a bunch of different food items, means more deer should survive. And we desperately need for that to happen in our area.

A lack of snow and warmer than normal December temps should give our deer herd a jump start on surviving the winter months.

More later….