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Hayward Lakes Area Outdoor Report

Steve Suman

Sunshine and temperatures in the 40s (some recorded 50s!) last weekend brought thoughts of spring. This week’s forecast, with single-digit lows, 20-degree highs, and snow, should quickly bring back the reality of winter.

“The bite is good for all species,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “with panfish leading the way now that anglers can get on deeper parts of the lakes.

“Walleye anglers are catching some nice fish in 6-12 feet over weed edges and drop-offs with golden shiners and medium suckers on tip-ups. Early and late in the day is best, with some mid-day action on cloudy days. Northern action is good for both size and numbers along weed edges and in weed bed pockets in less than 8 feet.

Panfish anglers are catching crappie, bluegill, and perch in the same general locations, most associated with large weed beds/mud flats in 10-18 feet. Use tiny jigs with crappie minnows, waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! Minnows.”

At Hayward Bait, Sonya, Kelly, and Bob say ice thickness varies from 6-12 inches on most lakes, with some slush. Snowmobile and ATV/UTV travel is fine, but stay on previously made trails and they do not recommend vehicle travel.

“Walleye anglers are catching fish in 10 feet and deeper on suckers, shiners, and Jigging Raps. Northern are taking shiners and suckers over structure and in weeds in 10-15 feet.

“The panfish bite is decent in the weeds in 15-30 feet on minnows, rosie reds, waxies, spikes, and plastics. Catch perch in 10-20 feet on fatheads, rosie reds, waxies, spikes, and jigging spoons.”

Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says there is good and bad news from Chequamegon Bay.

“The bad news is we lost all ice from Bodin’s north. The good news is the Bay proper has about 12 inches on the Ashland side and 8-10 inches on the Washburn side. The bite is good for brown trout, splake, and whitefish off Washburn and in the channel on the Ashland side. Second landing is producing limits of nice perch and some walleyes. Travel is by snowmobile, ATV/UTV, or on foot.”

Ice conditions continue to be quite variable, says DNR fisheries biologist Skip Sommerfeldt.

“Ice thickness ranges from 8-10 inches, with 4-6 inches of snow on top, and there are numerous reports of slush. Fishing success is more sporadic than in the past weeks, so check with local bait shops to learn the hot spots and target those action lakes.

“Walleye action is erratic, with a very finicky bite. Fish 5-8 feet on mud/sand flats, 20 minutes before dark, with large fatheads or small sucker minnows. If you do not meet all those conditions, you may not catch many walleyes. Northern fishing offers decent mid-day action on shiners or suckers near weed beds. Many shallow, weedy pike lakes are showing lower oxygen levels near bottom, so fish closer to the surface where there are often higher oxygen levels.

“Panfish action slowed last week. Crappies are taking small finesse plastics fished several feet off bottom in deeper water; keeper bluegills are a bit tough to find; and perch are hitting small fatheads in 5-10 feet.”

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses tiger muskies as trout controls.

“In Wisconsin, tiger muskellunge are the naturally occurring cross between a pike and a musky. In the western U.S., however, biologists see them something completely different: a mercenary in the fight to control invasive and introduced species.

“Brook trout and lake trout, both native to Wisconsin, are not native to states like Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. Introduction and spread of these species can be devastating for native trout and eradication of these introduced species can be very difficult.

“Stocking tiger muskellunge has become a common strategy because they are voracious predators of trout and also sterile, which makes them even more appealing. If they successfully eat all introduced trout in a lake, you simply wait for the tiger muskellunge to die off naturally and then restock the lake with native trout.

“Studies have found this strategy to be fairly effective at reducing abundance of introduced trout, even achieving total eradication in some cases, and on top of that, it creates some pretty big tiger muskies!”

The DNR is hosting a public information meeting Tuesday, February 9, from 6-9 p.m., at the Hayward Veteran’s Center, to gather public feedback on a new, 10-year panfish plan to improve panfish opportunities for anglers. The plan includes restoring size structure, improving habitat, and panfish research. Wisconsin anglers target panfish more than any other group of fish. According to DNR fisheries biologist and panfish team leader Max Wolter, the plan pays extra attention to improving and protecting habitat and discusses the use of predators in managing panfish. For more information, search “panfish plan” on the DNR website.

The 20th annual Walleyes for Northwest Wisconsin Family Fishing Event is Saturday February 13, from 8 a.m. through 2 p.m., on Lac Courte Oreilles. Register at the public boat landing off Highway K. The event offers thousands of dollars in raffle, adult, and youth fishing prizes awarded through drawings. Event buttons and raffle tickets are available at Hayward Bait, Outdoor Creations, Hayward Home Center, and Stone Lake Bait. Buttons cost $5 for adults and $1 for youth 13-17 years old. Youth 12 years and younger receive free entry thanks to Retreat Home Furniture sponsorship. Tickets for Grand Prize raffles cost $5 each or five/$20 and you need not be present to win. A pre-event raffle ticket bundle ($130 value) costs $75 and is limited to 200 bundles. For more information, visit or contact Hayward Bait (715) 634-2921.

Flambeau River State Forest is hosting its 24 Annual Candlelight Ski Saturday, February 6, from 6-9 p.m., at the Flambeau Hills Trail Head on County Hwy W, 15 miles east of Winter. This is a casual, family-type outing. Crews will groom and track a 1.8-kilometer trail loop winding through the heart of the forest and illuminate it with more than 600 candles. The trail is open to skiers, hikers, and snowshoers during this event. Forest staff will provide picnic tables, hot dogs, chili, snacks, desserts, and spiced tea, a large barbecue grill for people wishing to cook their own food, and build and maintain large warming fires throughout the night. For more information, call (715) 332-5271.



The Hayward Power Sports snowmobile trail for February 1 says Sawyer County trails are in poor to fair condition, but are open and rideable. Bare spots exist on trails in open areas, but forest trails still have snow. Lake ice thickness and trails are good, but use caution, as there are reports of ice heaves. Please stay on marked trails.

The February 1 HLVCB trail report says with the warm temperatures and traffic this past weekend, the majority of trails in northern Sawyer County are in fair to poor condition. Trails in open areas have bare spots; trails in the woods are still snow covered and rideable. Crews groomed Tuscobia Trail and the spur trails are rideable, but not groomed. All major lake trails are frozen, staked, and have good ice thickness. Stay on marked trails and watch for ice heaves.

The Namakagon Trail Groomers January 28 report says there is a trail re-route on Trail 90 to Clam Lake in which you will go down Trail 85 and back to Trail 90.

The January 27 Cable Area snowmobile trails report says groomers are hard at work and trails are in fair condition, with about a base of 2-4 inches. When Trail 90 closes due to logging, a suggested re-route is Trail FR191 to trail 80.

The Runamuk Rides report for January 27 says Sawyer and Bayfield counties had light snowfall (up to one inch) about every other day last week and the forecast says more snow is on the way. The base and trails are holding up well, with the heaviest base in northern Sawyer and Southern Bayfield counties, including the Hayward and Cable areas.




Walleye action is fair to good, though inconsistent, with best success in low light hours early, late, after dark, and on overcast days. You will find walleyes as shallow as 5 feet out to more than 20 feet, around drop-offs, mud/sand flats, and weed edges. The most productive baits include walleye suckers, shiners, and large fatheads on tip-ups, and Jigging Raps.

Northern Pike:

Northern pike fishing is fair to very good, offers all day action and anglers are icing some very nice fish. You will find the pike around weeds and other structure, and schools of panfish, in 8-15 feet. Northern suckers and shiners on tip-ups work well fished a few feet below the surface.


Crappie action is fair to very good. Look for fish in 10-30 feet around mud flats, weeds, and other structure. Be sure to check the ENTIRE water column! Best bait choices include crappie minnows, rosy reds, waxies, plastics, tube jigs, and Gulp! Minnows on small jigs or plain hooks.



Bluegill fishing is fair to good for small to medium size fish. Look for weeds and other structure in 8 feet and deeper water, with top bait choices waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on plain hooks and small jigs. Downsizing will often increase success.


Perch fishing is good to very good in 5-20 feet in/on weeds/structure and mud flats. Bait choices include crappie minnows, small fatheads, rosy reds, waxies, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs or plain hooks, and jigging spoons.

Upcoming Events

Jan. 31: Seasons closed: Ruffed grouse (Northern Zone); Bobcat hunting/trapping (Period 2); Squirrel.

Feb. 4: Relic Riders Ride to Lunch (715-634-4608; 520-8220).

Feb. 6: Flambeau River State Forest Candlelight Ski (715-332-5271).

Feb. 6: Relic Riders - 10th Annual Johnson Memorial vintage snowmobile ride (715-634-4608; 520-8220).

Feb. 6-7: Deerfoot Lodge - Freeze Your Buns Off crappie ice fishing tournament (715-462-3328).

Feb. 9: DNR Public meeting on new 10-year panfish management plan; 6-9 p.m., Hayward Veteran’s Center.

Feb. 11: Relic Riders Ride to Lunch (715-634-4608; 520-8220).

Feb. 13: Walleyes for Northwest Wisconsin - 20th Annual Family Ice Fishing Event.

Feb. 18: Relic Riders Ride to Lunch (715-634-4608; 520-8220).

Feb. 18-21: American Birkebeiner (715-634-5025).

Feb. 26-27: Lakewoods - World's Longest Weenie Roast (715-794-2561).

March 5: Game fish season closes on inland waters (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. 

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