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Ice anglers hoping to score some of the finest fillets on the planet have just two more weekends before the two-month yellow perch closure begins.

Perch are both shallow and deep — and almost everywhere in between — but rarely in the size or quantity most fishermen are hoping for these days.

Some of the most consistent catches this winter have been coming from deep water, 40 to 60 feet or more, but few are making the effort in those areas.

A thaw that began Friday is expected to peak Monday and Tuesday, hopefully knocking back snow levels enough to allow easier access and travel. Colder air is scheduled to return by midweek.

While deep water has been working for some, the best late-ice perch fishing can sometimes be had in bays and harbors where spawn-minded fish begin to stage near the weed beds where they’ll lay eggs.

Three-inch or so shiners are a perch favorite off tip-ups, and small jigs with minnow pieces can work for active rods. Dawn and dusk can be the best times for bigger fish.

Meanwhile, whitefish action is still very good in most areas, with catches as shallow as five feet and as deep as 50 or more. Many anglers are jigging in 20 to 40 feet of water and doing well on multi-hook rigs tipped with minnow pieces, wax worms, Powerbait or Gulp.

Northern pike and walleyes are starting to stage off spawning creeks, something that’ll peak in the coming weeks as flows increase.

New license time

Fishing and hunting licenses for 2014-15 went on sale this week, and the DNR is again offering $5 licenses for first-time or decade-lapsed hunters and anglers.

The reduced-rate licenses are available for gun deer, junior gun deer, archery, junior archery, small game, junior small game, senior small game, trapping, spring turkey, fall turkey, Class B bear and annual fishing.

In addition, there is a recruiter bonus of a half-price license of your choice next year for those who introduce three or more beginners to the sport of hunting or fishing this year.

First-time buyers can reward recruiters by calling 1-888-936-7463 and giving your DNR customer number and your recruiter's customer number.

Under state law, 10- and 11-year-olds don’t qualify for the first-time buyers’ discount but need to participate in a mentored hunt under the mentoring license.

Wisconsin’s new license year begins April 1, with current 2013-14 licenses expiring March 31. New licenses are already on sale and can be purchased at any automated licensing issuance system agent, by phone at 1-877-945-4236 or online at http://dnr.wi.gov/permits.

The direct link to the first-time/lapsed hunting license website for more information is http://dnr.wi.gov/permits/firsttimebuyers.html; for first-time fishing licenses, check out http://dnr.wi.gov/permits/firstTimeBuyersFish.html.

Brutal winter

There’s little doubt deer and wild turkeys are dying in Wisconsin this winter. The only question is, how many?

While northern Wisconsin forests will see the greatest losses, there have already been some local reports of dead fawns and turkeys found by coyote hunters and loggers.

The DNR’s winter severity index — one point for every day with 18 inches of snow on the ground and one point for each day with a temperature below zero — has already surpassed 100 points in many northern areas, a very severe winter.

Meanwhile, Lake Michigan was icing over in dramatic fashion at midweek, though strong winds began to break and move thin ice Thursday and Friday.

The lake was listed as about 92 percent ice-covered Thursday morning, within a half percentage point of an all-time record. See the latest view from space at http://coastwatch.glerl.noaa.gov/webdata/cwops/html/modis/region_map.html.

Short shots

UW-Sea Grant has updated the popular “Fish of the Great Lakes” poster last published in 2000 and purchased by more than 10,000 people.

The 26.5-inch-by-38.5-inch poster features 35 popular species and numerous updates. Cost is $6, which includes shipping and handling. To order a copy, visit aqua.wisc.edu/publications.

• Many groups are eligible to apply for grants of up to $10,000 to promote hunter training, development and education programs for adults, females and families. Deadline to apply is June 2. Find out how at dnr.wi.gov/Aid/HunterRecruit.html.

• A statewide trail camera research project will involve citizens in 2015 after a limited pilot project this fall. Learn more at dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/research/citizenmonitoring.html.

• Taxpayers can help rare plants and animals and the habitat they depend on by donating to the Wisconsin Endangered Resources Fund when filing state taxes. Learn more at dnr.wi.gov/topic/endangeredresources/checkoff.html.

— Kevin Naze is a freelance outdoors writer. Call him at (920) 883-9792 or email wildtimes@wizunwired.net

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