By: Steve Suman
Waterfowlers should appreciate this week’s weather predictions (though perhaps not the warm temperatures), as the forecast shows “chances” for rain nearly every day. If we avoid some of the rain days, which is possible, it should be a very comfortable week for outdoor activities. The “good” days are growing shorter – enjoy each and every hour of them!
“Musky action continues to improve as water temperatures drop. Deeper weeds and drop-offs are producing most of the fish, with mid-sized bucktails best, though topwaters in early morning are taking some fish.
“Walleye action is still best late in the day into dark. Fish jigs and minnows in 6-10 feet along rock and gravel areas or from the dock. Daytime anglers report success trolling crankbaits over humps and deeper weeds. Walleye anglers are catching some smallmouth bass in the same areas.
“Fish remain active on various mid-lake structures including, sunken islands, lumber, rock piles, points, bars, and near inlet/outlet areas. Casting shorelines continues to produce northern pike and largemouth bass.
“Crappies and bluegills are in deeper weeds. Use small minnows, leaf worms, and plastics under bobbers, with the best bite in mid- to late-afternoon hours.”
Mike at Jenk’s says the Chippewa Flowage is down about 2.5 feet and the water temperature is in the low to mid 60s.
“Musky fishing is solid, with the sucker bite getting better every day, and bucktails and rubber baits also effective. With the warmer temperatures this week, trolling could be productive as well.
“The walleye bite is still somewhat slow. Fish are biting, but difficult to find, and in very inconsistent patterns. Crawlers and medium to large walleye minnows are the best bets, with Flicker Shads a solid choice for trolling. Try different approaches and tactics, and work a variety of spots until you find them.
“Northern pike finally turned on in/on shallow weed beds. There is considerable pike action on Tinsel Tail spinnerbaits, particularly in pink, silver, and gold, and on weedless spoons.
“Crappie fishing picked up around the cribs and brush piles. Crappie minnows are the bait of choice, as always, but Gulp! Alive Minnows and Crappie Scrubs are also effective.”
Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says fall fishing is good on Chequamegon Bay and nearby streams.
“Steelhead, coho, and brown trout are staging in shallower water at the river mouths. Trollers report success on Scatter Raps and Psycho Minnows on Dipsey Divers, leadcore line, and flatlining. Apostle Islands and flats anglers report lake trout success with Flutter Spoons and Spin-N-Glos in deeper water.
“With trout and salmon moving toward the streams, brown trout are in the Sioux River and Fish Creek. Anglers are catching fish on smaller stickbaits and spinners, but some are switching to yarn, spawn, and flies. Fly-fishers are casting large, minnow-pattern streamers.
“Walleye fishing is strong on the Bay. Anglers are trolling crawler harnesses and stickbaits – look for mudlines – and ripping Jigging Raps and similar baits in 10-30 feet.
“Smallmouth bass anglers report great fishing on the breakwall, rock pile, and tip of Long Island. Shoreline anglers should try inside the Ashland marina breakwall and off the Washburn coal dock.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses storm fronts and fish activity.
“When it comes to some of the conventional wisdom about what factors lead to better fishing, I am always skeptical. This might be the result of being a fisheries biologist and seeing unexplainable fish behavior on an almost daily basis.
“One thing anglers believe that I have never really bought into is fish activity before storm fronts. A recent experience, however, might bring me around to their point of view.
“On Thursday, September 5, a series of big storms blew through the Hayward area, but cleared in time for us to complete a night electrofishing survey on Spider Lake. We always get a fair number of muskies during this survey, and results from past years are remarkably consistent.
“In 2018, we captured 13 muskies, 14 in 2017, 10 in 2016, 12 in 2015, and 14 in 2014, for a five-year average of 12.6 fish per year. In 2019, shocking immediately after the storm front, we captured 24 muskies, with most visibly stuffed full of food that consisted of panfish, from what we could tell.
“The location where we captured most of the muskies was interesting as well. The fish were in water shallower than what we typically see during these surveys, and hanging in open patches of weed beds, perhaps a comfortable place to hang out and digest the day’s feast.
“The entire survey crew noted that there was ‘definitely something going on’ with these muskies and I was forced to acknowledge – reluctantly – that the day’s storms likely played a role.”
Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies Inc. will host its 42nd Annual Fall Musky Tournament Friday through Sunday, October 4-6. The contest offers more than $30,000 in prizes, trophies to the first 10 places, and every entrant is eligible for the Grand Prize drawing for a 2019 Lund 1725 Pro Guide tiller boat, ShoreLand’r trailer, and 60hp Mercury motor. (You must attend the Sunday drawing at Flat Creek Inn and Suites to win.) The adult entry fee is $90 ($100 after Sept. 19) and $25 for youth 16 and younger. The tournament will accept no mail-in entries postmarked after Sept. 18. Register in person at Jenk’s (715-462-3055) or in person and by phone or fax at Hayward Bait (715-634-2921) until 11 p.m. October 3. For more information, visit www.muskiesinc-hayward.org, or call (715) 634-2921 or 634-4543.
The Hayward Area High School Bass Team is holding a benefit bass tournament on Tiger Cat Flowage Sunday, September 22, with Black Iron Bar and Grill as tournament headquarters. Proceeds will help with equipment and state travel expenses for high school anglers from Sawyer, Washburn, and Bayfield counties. The entry fee is $100/team, limited to 30 teams/boats. For more information, email Will Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (715) 699-6356.
The 35th Annual Hayward Fall Festival is this Saturday, Sept. 21, on Main Street. The event includes arts and crafts booths, food vendors, games, live music, entertainment, Relay for Life Run/Walk, contests including scarecrow design, pumpkin decorating, weenie drags, hula hoop, and more. For more information, visit www.haywardareachamber.com or call (715) 634-4801.
Musky action is good and improving, with anglers catching fish on deeper weeds and drop-offs, but do not overlook shallow weeds adjacent to deeper water “escape” areas! Bucktails, Bull Dawgs and similar rubber baits, jerkbaits, and topwaters all produce catches, as do sucker fishing and trolling big stickbaits.
Walleye fishing is fair to good, though very difficult to pattern, with best action in late afternoon into after dark. Fish are scattered from shallow to deep in various locations including weed beds, wood, gravel, rock, points, and bars. Best baits include walleye suckers, leeches, crawlers, crankbaits, and trolled Flicker Shads. Experiment!
Northern pike action is good to very good. Pike are holding around shallow to mid-depth weeds, weed beds, and similar habitat, including brush, bogs, and cribs, and near panfish concentrations. Effective baits include minnows, swim baits, spinners, spinnerbaits, and spoons.
Largemouth bass fishing remains good to very good on shallow to deeper weeds, weed edges, points, bars, brush, shorelines, and cribs. The most productive baits include plastics, swim baits, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and topwaters.
Smallmouth bass anglers in general are either not fishing or not talking. Look for fish in the same areas and habitat as those holding walleye, including mid-depth to deeper gravel, rock, weeds, cribs, and flats. Top baits include crawlers, minnows, and plastics.
Crappie fishing is improving as we move into fall weather. Fish can be holding in weeds, both deep and shallow, on cribs, bogs, and brush, suspending over deeper water, and on the move. Find them and try to stick with them! Baits of choice include crappie minnows, worms, plastics, Crappie Scrubs, and Gulp! baits, fished with or without bobbers.
Bluegill fishing is fair to good in and near deeper weeds, bush, bogs, and cribs. Waxies, worms, leaf worms, crawler chunks, plastics, and Gulp! baits will all tempt them. For bigger bluegills, use small minnows in deeper water.
Sept. 21: Woodcock season opens.
Sept. 21: 35th Annual Hayward Fall Festival (715-634-8662).
Sept. 22: Hayward Area High School Bass Team benefit bass tournament on Tiger Cat Flowage (715-699-6356).
Sept. 27-28: Cable Area Fall Fest (715-798-3833).
Sept. 29: Trout season closes on rivers flowing into Lake Superior (see regs).
Oct. 5: 41st Annual Stone Lake Cranberry Festival (715-865-3378).