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Hayward Lakes Area Outdoor Report

May 21, 2018

Steve Suman

 This next week should be interesting. There are chances for showers starting mid-week and increasing for the weekend (some strong storms possible), followed by some very warm days through next Wednesday. However, it took a long time for spring/summer weather to arrive, so (mostly) no one will complain. Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend, but take time to remember the reason for the day – to honor those who died while serving in this country’s armed forces.


“Spring finally appeared in the North Woods,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “but up and down temperatures make it hard to figure out what to wear for the day, so layer up in the morning and take off as the day progresses.

“Walleye anglers are finding some fish by pitching jigs with live bait and plastics onto shallow mid-lake humps or deeper drop-offs.

“Largemouth bass harvest season began on opening day, there is no size limit, and we encourage largemouth harvest. Smallmouth bass season is catch and release only until June 16.

“Panfish are moving into their spawning colonies and will soon spawn. On most lakes, look toward 4-8 feet for crappies and you will not need electronics – you will see them along the shorelines. Slip bobbers with live bait or small plastics will work. In addition, northern pike and largemouth will follow them in and not be hard to catch.”


Guide Steve Genson at Hayward Bait says fishing is strong.

“Most anglers are targeting walleye and crappie, but warming weather is making fishing decent for most species.

“The walleye bite is less than 10 feet on most lakes, but should start to shift deeper. A variety of tactics will work, with jigs and minnows, crankbaits, and swimbaits all getting bites. Target shallow flats, points, and humps. Keep on the move, covering water.

“Northern pike action is picking up, with some nice fish getting active. Focus on shallow flats, find the food chain, and cast spinners, crankbaits, and swimbaits.

“Bass action is solid. Largemouth are shallow, around hard cover and emerging weeds. Jigs, stick worms, and jerkbaits will draw attention. Smallmouth are getting more active. Work jerkbaits and plastics over shallow gravel and rock, using erratic retrieves with many pauses.

“Crappie action is very good, with many fish moving shallow to spawn. Cast minnows, waxies, and small plastics tight to shoreline cover. Please exercise selective harvest. Bluegills should start moving shallow as well, and they prefer large, shallow sand flats and worms.

“Trout action is decent, with most streams giving up some fish. Spinners, flies, and crawlers will all work.”


Jim at Minnow Jim’s advises Nelson Lake walleye anglers to use minnows and leeches on jigs and cast stickbaits.

“We need some steady, warm weather for largemouth bass. For now, try casting spinnerbaits and larger plastics.

“Crappies are staging in 8 feet and anglers should jig or bobber fish minnows or Gulp! Alive, and cast small spinnerbaits.

“Bluegills are in the shallows, on their beds, and anglers are taking fish on waxies, worms, small leeches, and by fly-fishing.”


Mike at Jenk’s says the Chippewa Flowage water level is full, with water temperatures in the mid to high 50s.

“Walleye action slowed last week. Most success is in shallow stumpy areas and on rock bars. Minnows and leeches are effective, as are artificials, particularly plastic minnows, and many anglers report having more success with rattling jigs than with other methods.

“Northern pike are very active and if you target pike, focus on live bait. Artificials will work, but they are not as effective this time of year. Hit the weedy bays on the west side, including Daggett’s Bay, Squaw Bay, and James Slough.

“Crappies are spawning in the shallow bays and minnows, Mini-Mites, Crappie Scrubs, and Gulp! baits on slip bobbers are the way to go. Fish size is a mixed bag, with some anglers having luck only with smaller males, while other anglers are catching 12- to 14-inch females. Spots of choice include Hell’s Half Acre, Moss Creek, Moore’s Bay, and especially Sibley Bay.”


This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses 2018 winterkill.

“The never-ending winter of 2017-18 had psychological effects on the people of Wisconsin, but it had some biological effects on fish populations as well.

“Prolonged winters with ample snow cover can create winterkill conditions, particularly in shallow lakes. Winterkill is typically the result of low oxygen conditions that occur during the latter half of a long winter. Not surprisingly, several lakes in the Hayward area reported at least some amount of winterkill this year.

“Anglers reported seeing dead fish in North Lake in the Spider Chain, Helane, Green, Upper Twin, and Lake 27. Most of these kills appeared to be minor and did not affect the whole fish population, with Green Lake a potential exception.

“Fish kills are not uncommon in some lakes, and populations typically have the ability to rebound relatively quickly if a kill is not complete.

“Biologists and lake associations do have options to restock panfish, bass, and sometimes pike into winterkill lakes, in some situations, if the biologist feels it is appropriate.”


During Wisconsin’s Free Fun Weekend June 2-3, residents and visitors can – for free – fish, hike/bike state trails, ride public ATV trails, and enjoy admission to state parks and forests. The DNR waives license requirements for fishing any waters, including inland trout and Great Lakes trout and salmon fishing. However, size limits and restrictions on the species anglers can harvest still apply – be sure to check regulations. The DNR also waives all state trail pass fees on DNR-owned state trails; state park vehicle admission fees on DNR-owned properties; and ATV registration and trail pass fees. For more information, search “free fun” on the DNR website.


The Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum in Spooner is hosting its ninth annual Canoe and Wooden Boat Show May 26, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The event is part of Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Day at the museum, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The museum is marking the occasion with “Wisconsin’s Moving National Park,” a new annual display about the Namekagon River, a National Park System gem offering more than 200 miles of clean water rushing through a forested landscape. This FREE event includes museum tours, exhibit hall open house, ongoing activities in the canoe workshop, and live music, with food and beverages available in the beer garden. The main attraction is the wide array of antique canoes, boats, and canoe related materials on display, with collectors, builders, and canoeing enthusiasts bringing special items to display, discuss, sell, or trade. For more information, visit or call (715) 635-2479.




Walleye fishing is good to very good as post-spawn fish return to feeding. At this time, look for humps, flats, points, drop-offs, and weeds out to about 12 feet. Baits of choice include minnows, leeches, and plastics on jigs, as well as crankbaits, swim baits, and stickbaits.


Northern Pike: 

Northern pike action is improving and fish are feeding around shallow weeds, other cover – and panfish. Northern suckers, spinners, spinnerbaits, spoons, crankbaits, and swimbaits are all productive baits.


Largemouth Bass: 

Largemouth bass fishing is very good and will get even better as the water warms. Fish around weeds, wood, and other cover with jigs, plastics (worms, grubs), spinners, spinnerbaits, and jerkbaits.


Smallmouth Bass:

Smallmouth bass season in the Northern Bass Zone is catch and release only until June 16. Fishing is good on hard bottom areas with rock and gravel. Work plastics, swim jigs, and jerkbaits with irregular, halting retrieves.



Crappie fishing is good to very good as fish are staging and moving into shallow spawning areas, particularly along shorelines. Top offerings include crappie minnows, waxies, worms, tubes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs and plain hooks under slip bobbers.



Bluegill fishing is fair to good, with fish spawning in some waters. Look to the shallows, especially on sand. Best baits include waxies, worms, leeches, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs, teardrops, and small hooks, with/without slip bobbers.


Upcoming Events

May 16-22Period E spring turkey season.

May 23-24Fishing Has No Boundaries Kids Day at Nelson Lake.

May 23-29Period F spring turkey season.

May 25Flambeau River State Forest open house, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (715-332-5271).

May 26Muskellunge season opens north of Highway 10.

May 26Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum in Spooner hosting Canoe & Wooden Boat Show (715-635-2479).

June 2-3Free Fun Weekend. Free fishing, park/forest entry, DNR trails, ATV/UTV trails (see restrictions).

June 16: Northern zone smallmouth bass season goes from catch-and-release to daily bag limits (check regs).

June 22-2469th Annual Musky Festival (715-634-8662).

June 22-24Hayward Lions Fishing Contest (715-634-8662).

Through July 31: Illegal to allow unleashed dogs to run on DNR lands and FWPAs (see regs for exceptions).


For more information on area events and activities, visit the Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau website, view its Calendar of Events, or call 800-724-2992.