Outdoor Report

February 29, 2016

Hayward Lakes Area Outdoor Report

Steve Suman

Following a beautiful, sunny Saturday with a high in the 50s and a colder, windy Sunday, this week will be more winter-like until the weekend – when the highs (so “they” say) will be in the upper 30s to mid-40s.

“Ice conditions are still good,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “but there are also slushy areas. We do not recommend driving vehicles on the ice.

“Walleye fishing is best around sunset. The prime spots vary, from 12-20 feet and deeper in some lakes to on top of shallower structure on other lakes. Use shiners or sucker minnows on tip-ups or jig small spoons and Swedish Pimples tipped with minnow heads. If you are planning a walleye trip, game fish season ends March 6. Northern action is best around green weeds and is consistent all day until sunset on shiners and sucker minnows.

“Crappies are feeding in deeper weeds and suspending off bottom in deep holes. Use crappie minnows, waxies, spikes, and small plastics. Bluegills are feeding in the weeds or suspending in deeper water in lakes without much weed cover. Waxies work best. Perch are taking waxies and wigglers on deep mud flats.”

Sonya and Bob at Hayward Bait say ice conditions remain consistent and ice thickness ranges from 10-14 inches on most lakes, but they are still advising anglers to use extreme caution.

“Walleye anglers are catching fish in 15-20 feet on shiners, suckers, and fatheads. Northern pike are in 7-10 feet, in weed beds, and shiners and suckers produce the best success.

“Crappies are in deep water, suspending as much as halfway up from the bottom, and taking crappie minnows, waxies, spikes, and plastics. Bluegills and perch are in 8-12 feet, biting on waxies, spikes, mousies, plastics, crappie minnows, and rosy reds.

“Game fish season closes March 6, but crappie and panfish season remains open. The lakes will soon start to melt and when the water starts rushing into the holes, panfish fishing will go wild!”

Ice conditions firmed up with some colder nights, says DNR fisheries biologist Skip Sommerfeldt, and most lakes now have 10-14 inches of double-layered ice.

“There is hard crust of 3-6 inches of ice on top, a water/slush layer several inches thick, and a solid lower layer of ice. The double-layered ice and areas of surface slush continue to limit most ice travel to ATVs and snowmobiles.

“Walleye action is spotty, with best success in the early morning and late afternoon hours. Fish medium suckers on mud flats or near breaklines in 6-12 feet. Northern pike action is fair in shallower water during mid-day hours for anglers fishing large golden shiners on and over weed beds in 3-6 feet.

“Panfish continue the relatively consistent trend. Crappies are suspending a few feet off bottom in deep water, perch are on mid-depth mud flats, and small fatheads work for both.”

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses bluegill spawning oddities.

“Bluegills have some of the most interesting spawning behaviors of all freshwater fish. Anglers and lake enthusiasts alike are typically aware of bluegill spawning colonies that appear as a honeycomb of saucer shaped nests. A single male bluegill guards each nest, hoping to attract females to come and lay their eggs.

“Studies show that the location of colonies is not random. Bluegills prefer to build nesting colonies in areas with some gravel, though they will also spawn on sand or even in muck.

“The typical depth for colonies is less than 3 feet, but depth varies with water clarity and bluegills build nests deeper in clear lakes. The deepest nests documented in a study were 19 feet deep in an extremely clear Pennsylvania lake.

“In Wisconsin, bluegills may spawn several times throughout the summer, starting in May, and occasionally continuing until August.”

During March, the County Deer Advisory Councils (CDAC) will review deer population data, 2015 harvest results, assess winter severity, and other information to develop preliminary antlerless quota and permit level recommendations for public and private lands. Each CDAC meeting is open to the public. Councils will accept public comments prior to forming preliminary and final recommendations. The Sawyer County CDAC meeting is March 14, from 6-8 p.m., at the Hayward DNR Service Center. For more information, visit theCDAC page on the DNR website.

Flambeau River State Forest is hosting an event Saturday March 5, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. to celebrate Aldo Leopold Weekend. View a screening of Learning from the Land, a video chronicling Leopold’s life using various passages from A Sand County Almanac; readings from Sand County Almanac; a short walk along the Flambeau River; and refreshments. For more information, contact Ron Weber (715) 353-2993.


The February 29 Hayward Power Sports trail report says Sawyer County trails are open, with trails in the northern part of the county and in the woods in fair condition, and trails in open areas containing large, scattered bare spots. Tuscobia Trail and southern trails need snow. Crews pulled the stakes on Crane Lake and Lake Hayward due to open water. All other lakes have slush and rough spots – please stay on the staked trails. With warmer temperatures and changing conditions, please check lake conditions with local businesses before traveling on the lakes.

The February 24 Runamuk Rides trail report says trail conditions range from fair to good. On Sunday, trails from Hayward northwest towards Barnes and east to Clam Lake were quite good. The northern one-third of Sawyer County, southern one-third of Bayfield County, and western Ashland County were great. Snow thinned outside that area. In the forest, trails conditions are good, but exposed trails along highways are fair, with scattered bare dirt and ice spots. Lakes are open to snowmobiles, but travel only across staked lakes and stay close to the stakes. Snow cover is gone on a few lakes so any riding is on ice.


Reminders: Game fish season closes March 6 on inland waters, however, panfish season remains open (see regulations for exceptions).

Due to questionable ice conditions on some lakes in some areas, the DNR is urging anglers to pull ice fishing shelters before removal deadlines. For waters north of Hwy 64, the deadline is March 13.


Walleye fishing is good, though inconsistent, with the best fishing in early morning and then again in late afternoon into dark. Concentrate on mud flats, breaklines, and structure in 5-23 feet of water. Baits of choice include walleye suckers, shiners, and fatheads on tip-ups, or jigging spoons and similar tipped with minnow heads.

Northern Pike:

Northern action is fair to good, with the bite running all day until dark. You will find fish in 3-12 feet around weeds, particularly green weeds, and schools of panfish. Shiners and sucker minnows on tip-ups works best. Use bigger baits in deeper water for larger pike.


Crappie fishing is good on most water and easier if you use a locator to… locate them. Fish are in deep water and suspending at various positions in the water column. Be sure to check the entire water column. The most productive baits include crappie minnows, fatheads, waxies, spikes, and plastics.


Bluegill action is improving, with fish holding in weeds in 7-14 feet and suspending over deeper water. Top baits include waxies, spikes, mousies, and plastics on small jigs and teardrops. Try small minnows for larger ‘gills.


Perch fishing is good on mid-depth to deep mud flats with waxies, wigglers, and fatheads.

Upcoming Events

Feb. 28: Seasons closed: Cottontail rabbit; Mink trapping.

March 4: 2016-17 hunting and fishing licenses go on sale.

March 5: Flambeau River State Forest Aldo Leopold Weekend celebration; 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (715-353-2993).

March 6: Game fish season closes on inland waters (see regs for exceptions).

March 6: Anglers must remove ice fishing shelters from inland waters south of Hwy 64.

March 13: Anglers must remove ice fishing shelters from inland waters north of Hwy 64.

March 14-24: County Deer Advisory Councils (CDAC) meetings.

March 18: NWTF Hunting Heritage BanquetHayward VFW (715-763-3381).

March 20: Winter crow season closes.

March 21-25: Remaining spring turkey permits on sale OTC.

March 26: Trout season opens on some Lake Superior tributaries.

March 31: 2015-16 Hunting/fishing licenses expire.

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