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Hayward Lakes Area Outdoor Report

August 17, 2020

Steve Suman


The forecast shows a hit-and-miss week for sunshine and possible rain showers, but with no expectations of severe storms. Most daily highs are in the mid-70s to low 60s, so great weather –again – for outdoor recreation. While it might be difficult to believe (perhaps even more difficult to accept), we are already into the second half of August!


“We are now in the dog days of summer,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “and some waters of the Quiet Lakes are already starting to show some signs of turnover.

“This can be a tough time of year to find fishing success and a time when you need to constantly change tactics or locations to find it.

“Many anglers describe some lakes as pea green – not the ideal waters to fish. Warm temperatures spur algae blooms causing the color.

“Musky anglers are frequenting the lakes, but fishing is slow, and the number one tip is just put in the time.

“The lakes have a decent trolling bite going on for walleye, with an occasional northern pike and largemouth bass. Work weedy areas in 10-20 feet, and time of day can play an important role as well. First and last light into after dark are the most productive times. Mid lake humps, deep weeds, and rocky areas are holding fish. Crawlers under slip bobbers are a good tactic, as is drift-jigging live bait. Work the bottom more than suspended areas of the water column.

“Panfish are still in and around reeds, cabbage, deep weed edges, and dock structures. Crappie minnows, leaf worms, and crawler pieces under bobbers all produce fish. Cubbies, Tattle-Tails, small grub tails, and one-inch Gulp! Minnows on small jig heads also work well.”


Ken at Hayward Bait says higher, cooler water is keeping many fish in the upper part of the water column.

“On main lake basins, follow the baitfish and work baits at the depth they contact structure. On lakes with ciscoes, trolling can be affective for walleyes, large northern pike, and big muskies.

“Musky hunters will have higher success at night or throwing smaller baits during the day. Understanding the predator-prey relationship on the waterbody you fish provides an advantage.

“Walleyes move shallow to feed during low light periods and with a falling barometer before a storm. Crankbaits work well, and fishing crawlers on Lindy style spinner rigs is a good choice (use a worm blower).

“Northern pike are hitting spinnerbaits and crankbaits on weedlines holding plentiful baitfish.

“Largemouth bass fishing is good on frog imitations in shallow weeds, and smallmouth bass fishing is a lot of fun on topwaters in 2-22 feet.

“Crappies are in main lake basins, suspending near humps and hard bottom ridges next to muck lines during insect hatches. Cribs and other structure are also good choices. Jigs with minnows and plastics work well for crappies at night.

“Sunfish are starting to use the same deeper structure as crappies, especially in areas with dying weeds. Crawlers work well. Spend the time to crank up weeds to inspect for healthiness and insect life.”


Jim and Cathy at Minnow Jim’s say Nelson Lake walleye anglers should troll the river channel with deep diving crankbaits, as well as with crawlers and minnows on harnesses.

“Northern pike and largemouth bass are very active and anglers have many lure options, such as surface plugs, propeller plugs, surface spoons, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, swim jigs, and scented plastics. Hit near, in, and along weed beds, docks, and swim platforms.

“Panfish action is steady near bogs, cribs, and tree sticks. Jig and bobber fish with your favorite live bait. Some scented baits are hard to find, so try a spray-on or oil scent on dressed jigs, or add spinners for flash and splash.”


Mike at Jenk’s says Chippewa Flowage is at full level, with the water temperature running 75-80 degrees.

“Musky fishing remains very strong and there are many action reports by anglers who are both casting and trolling. Several colors are over-performing – walleye colors, whites, and oranges are all very, very good – with mid-day the most productive time. Double-bladed bucktails and various trolling baits are the ticket.

“Walleyes are very quiet and action is still somewhat slow. Crawlers and minnows are the go-to live baits. Anglers are marking fish on graphs, but the fish are just not biting, though a few catches here and there.

“Northern pike are active, however fish are still on the smaller side. Tinsel Tails and Johnson Silver Minnow spoons are deadly in the weeds.

“Smallmouth bass fishing continues to be good, especially on Ned Rigs fished on stumps and rocks.

“Crappie anglers are marking fish around cribs and brush piles, but fishing is slow. This could be due to musky hyperactivity in the past few weeks. Best bet is to fish cribs and brush piles intermittently throughout the day and see if you can trigger some strikes.”


This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses two ways that fish learn about hooks.

“In the past, I have written a few times about how fish can ‘learn’ and become less susceptible to angling. A new study conducted by an international research team has increased our understanding of how fish respond to catching.

“The researchers looked at two different experiences fish might have with angling – one with the fish caught directly, and the other a fish seeing the catching of another nearby fish.

“The researchers used common carp as their study species. Despite a reputation as a ‘rough fish,’ studies show carp to be social and with a capacity to learn behaviors. Carp caught on hooks showed avoidance to hooks a few hours later. Other studies show caught carp still wary of hooks a full year later.

“Interestingly, carp observing the catching of another carp later showed an avoidance to hooks, which suggests that some fish do not need to experience direct catching to be wary of angling methods.

“Studies of this type involving other sportfish have been limited.

“Results such as these can potentially provide context to events anglers frequently observe.

“Have you ever had a day when you can catch only one or two fish at each spot, even though your electronics show more fish? Perhaps fish are more capable of learning from watching other fish around them than we previously thought. Have you ever cast repeatedly at the same fish, but unable to get it to bite? Maybe another angler caught that fish on a similar lure/bait and it learned to be wary of it.

“It might be time to give fish a little more credit for their intelligence!”


Sale of bonus unit-specific antlerless deer tags began Monday, Aug. 17, for the Northern and Central forest zones, and continues for other zones through Aug. 20. Hunters can purchase one permit per day until the unit sells out or hunting season ends. Bonus authorizations cost $12 for residents, $20 for nonresidents, and $5 for youth under age 12.


Sale of bonus fall turkey harvest authorizations began Saturday, August 15. Hunters can purchase one permit per day until the unit sells out or hunting season ends. Cost is $10 for residents and $15 for nonresidents. Hunters must also purchase/possess a fall turkey license and Wild Turkey Stamp.



Fishing is generally good for most species, but this is the start of a transition time. It is well worth a stop at your favorite bait and tackle shop to get the most current (daily!) information on fish locations and preferred baits. Store personnel talk with anglers all day, every day, and they really do want to help you catch fish!



Musky action reports vary greatly. Best thing an anger can do is get on the water and work the baits, whether trolling large stickbaits or casting medium size bucktails, swimbaits, and topwaters. Fish deeper water during the day and shallower cover during low light conditions.



Walleye action is good if you can find them, with fish dispersed across various depths and locations. Best fishing is in shallower water during low light hours. Fish weeds, humps, rock, and river channels out to about 25 feet. Leeches and crawlers under slip bobbers or on spinner harnesses, jigs and minnows, and trolled and cast crankbaits are all effective.


Northern Pike:

Northern pike fishing is very good to excellent around weeds, weedlines, weed edges, humps, and any areas holding good numbers of baitfish and panfish, in depths to more than 20 feet. Spinners, spinnerbaits, spoons, crankbaits, buzzbaits, and topwaters can do the trick, and trolling is also often effective. Go deeper with bigger baits for trophy pike.


Largemouth Bass:

Largemouth bass action is very good to excellent, with best success during low light and after dark. Work weeds, slop, lily pads, humps, stumps, rock, brush, and other structure out to 20 feet. Wacky worms, Texas rigs, Ned rigs, swim jigs, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, and topwaters all attract the attention of bass.


Smallmouth Bass:

Smallmouth bass action is good to very good for anglers fishing deep weeds, rocks, stumps, mid-lake humps, and other hard bottom areas out to 25 feet. Ned Rigs lead the way, with rigged worms, crayfish color crankbaits and plastics, live bait, and Whopper Ploppers/other topwaters also very productive.



Crappie fishing is slow, but consistent, though anglers have to hit the right time and place. Look for fish around mid-depth to deep weeds, weed edges, reeds, lake basins, bogs, brush, humps, muck, and cribs – and check the entire water column. Baits of choice include crappie minnows, leaf worms, crawler chunks, Tattle-Tails, plastics, and Gulp! baits.



Bluegill fishing is good to very good around weeds, weed edges, reeds, bogs, brush, and cribs. Traditional bluegill baits such as waxies, worms, crawler chunks, Cubbies, Tattle-Tails, plastics, and one-inch Gulp! Minnows fished on jigs and plain hooks with/without bobbers work well. Use small minnows for larger ‘gills and to avoid bait robbers.


Upcoming Events

Aug. 17-20: Available bonus antlerless harvest authorizations on sale (see DNR website for permit availability).

Aug. 25: Deadline to transfer Class A Bear License (see DNR website for restrictions).

Aug. 28-30: Musky Tale ResortPoor Man’s Fishing Event (715-462-3838).

Aug. 31: Bear dog training by pursuing bear closes (see regs).

Sept. 1: Seasons open: Mourning dove; Teal; Early goose in designated areas; Wild ginseng.

Sept. 4-6: 28th Annual Exeland Trout Fest (715-943-2242).

Sept. 5: Hook-and-line lake sturgeon season opens on designated waters (see regs).

Sept. 9: Black bear hunting season opens (see regs).

Sept. 9-12: Lake Chippewa Flowage Musky Hunt (filled).

Sept. 12: Seasons open: Archery and crossbow deer; Fall turkey; Ruffed grouse in Zone A; Cottontail rabbit in Northern Zone; Gray and fox squirrel; Fall crow (see regs).

Sept. 19-20: Youth Waterfowl Hunt (see regs).

Oct. 2-4: Hayward Chapter-Muskies Inc. 43rd annual fall tournament - Canceled - (715-634-4543).

Oct. 3-4: Musky Tale ResortCrappie Quest (715-462-3838).

Oct. 8-10: Treeland’s 5th Annual Musky Fly Fishing Championship. Limited to first 100 entries (715-462-3874).


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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