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Hayward Lakes Area Outdoor Report

January 4, 2021

Steve Suman


Mild temperatures continue this week, with lows in the teens and highs in the 30s. This is great weather for recreation, but not for improving ice fishing, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing conditions. Before you go, check the ice and trail conditions so you go prepared.


“Ice fishing season is off to a good start on the Quiet Lakes,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “and we look forward to angler success continuing. Following the good early bite, anglers are now trying new techniques and doing their best to separate themselves from what other anglers are doing.

“Lakes in the North Woods continue to provide some nice catches of walleye, northern pike, bass, and panfish. Tip-ups set just off weed edges and drop-offs are working well.

“Conditions are changing and it is time anglers downsize their baits. Rather than using bigger shiners and sucker minnows, switch to walleye-size suckers, smaller shiners, and fatheads.

“The panfish bite is good for anglers setting up over shallower vegetation. It is now important to start fishing away from crowds and community fishing holes. The best baits are small tungsten and Marmooska jigs. If you do not have these jigs, try small hooks with crappie minnows or soft plastics tipped with a couple waxies.”


Trent at Hayward Bait says temperatures are comfortable to be on the lakes, but have caused slush that is not helping ice conditions.

“Some lakes, such as Lac Courte Oreilles, Round, and Grindstone, had open water recently. Others, such as Nelson, average about 10 inches. Be cautious and check ice carefully before taking out snowmobiles or ATVs.

“Walleyes are on/near drop-offs, humps, and bars in 15 feet. Walleye suckers and medium shiners on tip-ups, and lipless crankbaits, all work well.

“Northern pike are around vegetation and wood structure in 8-12 feet, near deeper water, and taking large shiners and northern suckers on tip-ups.

“Largemouth bass are in 10-15 feet, hitting live bait on tip-ups and panfish baits jigged on drop-offs and muck flats.

“Crappies are on drop-offs and ledges in 15-20 feet, and in 25 feet in lake basins. Try Acme jigs and Kender K-Rips tipped with waxies and crappie minnows, and fatheads on tip-ups.

“Bluegills are on drop-offs, points, and muck flats in 15-20 feet. Use lead and tungsten jigs tipped with waxies and spikes – and small spoons will hook bigger fish.

“Perch are on muck flats, sandy spots, and humps, tight to bottom, as deep as 20 feet. Use Snyder spoons, Skandia jigs, and other jigs tipped with waxies or spikes.”


Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says fishing has begun on Chequamegon Bay, with 8-9 inches of ice on the Ashland side and less on the Washburn side.

“Anglers are starting to take sleds on the Ashland side and report catches of trout, walleye, northern pike, and perch. Washburn anglers report catches of brown trout, splake, and whitefish.”


This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses ice fishing and electronics.

“Fishing technology has advanced by leaps and bounds over the past few years. Without a doubt, electronics such as underwater cameras, flashers, side-scan, and 3D sonar, make fishing more fun for many anglers. However, does using fishing technology actually make anglers more effective?

“To try to answer this question, I was fortunate to join with some very bright Wisconsin DNR colleagues.

“We focused on ice fishing, given how prevalent electronics use has become during the hard water period, and selected 11 lakes throughout northern Wisconsin that were part of creel surveys. We had creel clerks ask anglers additional questions about whether they used electronics such as GPS or smartphones to find their spots, and if they used electronics such as underwater cameras and flashers to assist them while fishing.

“We then looked at catch and harvest rates between anglers using technology and those who did not use it. Panfish species were our main interest and those results are the focus here.

“The creel clerks found nearly 80 percent of panfish anglers used some type of electronics while fishing, with about 40 percent using electronics to find their fishing spot.

“Anglers who used electronics to target perch and bluegill had significantly higher catch and harvest rates than those not using electronics. Results for crappie were less conclusive due to data variability, but indicated higher efficiency for those using technology.

“Electronics appeared to be particularly effective in improving success for bluegill anglers. Catch rates for those using electronics were more than 200 percent higher than for those fishing without electronics.

“These results tell us a lot about a fishing landscape where anglers are evolving at a rapid rate.”


The DNR is hosting a virtual public meeting Tuesday, January 12, from 6:30-8:30 p.m., to discuss updates to the Wisconsin Walleye Management Plan, a document outlining all aspects of DNR walleye management. Meeting participation requires pre-registration. For more information, contact Max Wolter at (715) 634-7429. An online survey form is available at


As of December 29, the DNR’s statewide deer harvest total for all season is 325,155 deer (155,684 antlered, 169,471 antlerless). The adjusted statewide total for the 2020 nine-day gun season is 190,615, including 86,060 bucks and 104,555 antlerless deer. An extended archery and crossbow season is open Jan. 4-31 in select farmland zone units.

The Sawyer County deer harvest totals for all deer seasons as of December 29 are as follows:

  • Nine-day gun season: 1,724 deer (877 bucks, 847 antlerless)
  • Archery: 437 deer (253 antlered, 184 antlerless)
  • Crossbow: 862 deer (544 antlered, 318 antlerless)
  • Muzzleloader season: 69 deer (35 antlered, 34 antlerless)
  • Four-day December antlerless-only season: 65 deer (antlerless)
  • October Youth Deer Hunt: 79 deer (33 antlered, 46 antlerless)
  • Total for all seasons is 3,236 (1,742 antlered, 1,494 antlerless)


The January 3 Birkie Trail conditions report says the crew groomed the loops at Birkie Trail Head, but need more snow before grooming again. The best skiing is north of OO. Skiing at Birkie Trailhead is open from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Do not ski outside these hours, as groomers might be on the trail. Skiing any part of the Birkie Trail System December through March requires a Birkie Trail Ski Pass.



Snowmobiles must have a current registration and display a valid snowmobile trail pass to operate on public snowmobile trails. You can renew registrations and order trail passes online. Members of the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs (AWSC) can purchase trail passes at a discounted rate directly from You do not need to be a Wisconsin resident to be an AWSCmember.

While riding Sawyer County trails this winter, make sure to stop and “Snap a Selfie” with any AWSC signs you see along the way. Posting photos with #sledsawyer2020 on Facebook or Instagram enters you in a March drawing and you could win up to $500! Enter as often as you want! The contest runs through Feb. 28.


The January 4 HLVCB trail report says some Sawyer County trails are open, groomed, and in fair condition, with a base of 6-8 inches. Many trails lead to staked lakes and areas not on lakes. Trail 18 from Tiger Cat to Callahan remains closed. On staked lakes, stick to the marked trails for your own safety – and that of potential rescuers!


The December 30 Travel Wisconsin snowmobile trail report for the Cable area says trails are open and in fair condition, with a base of 1-8 inches. Some areas are rocky and swamps are not fully set. Lake Namakagon has open water areas near bridges and thin ice near shorelines, so always be aware of your surroundings!



Mild temperatures and some snowfall are not helping ice building. Anyone going on the ice should use great caution and go prepared to deal with slush conditions.

Early inland catch-and-release trout season opened January 2 (check the regulations), and musky season closed statewide December 31.

Free Ice Fishing Weekend is January 16-17 statewide when the DNR waives all fishing license requirements, though other regulations remain in force. If you are new to fishing or have not purchased a fishing license in 10 years, check the “First-time buyer - Welcome back” resident license for only $5.

On Saturday, January 16, Northland Area Builders Association (NABA) will host its Annual Ice Fishing Event on Nelson Lake and Elk Country ATV Club will host its Annual Ice Fishing Contest on Upper Clam Lake. See the events calendar below for contact information.



Walleye fishing is good to “too good,” with some anglers catching numerous fish longer than the size limit. Look for walleyes on weeds, weed edges, bars, humps, and drop-offs in 10-18 feet, depending on the lake and time. Baits and presentations providing the most success include walleye suckers, shiners, and fatheads under tip-ups, with jigging spoons and lipless crankbaits also grabbing the attention of walleye.


Northern Pike:

Northern pike action is good to very good in 6-20 feet, in, on, and over weeds, weed edges, wood, drop-offs, and other structure. Top baits of interest include northern and walleye suckers, shiners, and fatheads under tip-ups. If action is slow, try downsizing baits.


Largemouth Bass:

Anglers continue to make good catches of largemouth bass on weed edges, muck flats, and drop-offs in 8-18 feet. Most bass catches are with live bait on tip-ups set for walleye and northern pike or while jigging for panfish.



Crappie action is good to very good, with fish in main lake basins and on weeds, drop-offs, and ledges in 6-25 feet. Best baits include crappie minnows, fatheads, waxies, and plastics on plain hooks, small jigs, and jigging spoons, and fatheads under tip-ups.



Bluegill fishing is fair to good on weeds, drop-offs, ledges, points, and muck flats in 6-22 feet. Waxies, spikes, small minnows, and plastics tipped on small jigs and spoons are effective offerings.



Perch anglers are finding fish near the bottom on weeds, humps, sand, and muck flats in 8-22 feet. The most productive baits include crappie minnows, waxies, spikes, and plastics tipped on plain hooks, jigs, and jigging spoons.


Upcoming Events

Dec. 26-Jan. 31Bobcat season Period 2 opened (see regs).

Dec. 31Musky season closed statewide.

Jan. 2Early inland catch and release trout season opened (see regs).

Jan. 3Seasons ClosedArchery/crossbow deerFall turkey in zones 1-5Ruffed grouse (Zone A)PheasantHungarian partridgeFisher trapping.

Jan. 4-31Extended archery/crossbow season in valid farmland units (see regs).

Jan. 12DNR walleye management plan virtual meeting; 6:30-8:30 p.m. Requires pre-registration. Contact Max Wolter (715-634-7429).

Jan. 16-17Free Ice Fishing Weekend statewide – no fishing license requirement!

Jan. 16Northland Area Builders Association (NABA) Annual Ice Fishing Event, Nelson Lake (715-558-2097).

Jan. 16Elk Country ATV Club – Annual Ice fishing contest, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. (715-794-2298).

Jan. 16-24International Snowmobile Safety Week.

Jan. 25Crow season opens.

Jan. 302021 Seeley Hills Classic (715-634-5025).

Jan. 31Seasons CloseSquirrelBobcat Period 2.


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


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