Early Summer is the Season for Sight Fishing in Hayward

By: Matt Wolter, DNR Fisheries Biologist

One of the really special aspects to early summer fishing is how visual it can be. There’s something very thrilling about seeing a school of big crappie, or a chunky cruising smallmouth bass and then trying to tempt them to bite. Situations where you can see the fish are also highly engaging for young anglers. Just knowing there’s a big pike within casting distance will get those little hearts pumping!

The Hayward area offer some incredible multi-species sight fishing opportunities, with the prime time being in May and June. There’s some biology behind why this time of year is so good for seeing fish. A species-by-species progression of spawning begins shortly after the ice goes out. This brings fish into shallow water to seek out ideal spawning habitat and mates. Oftentimes, fish will hang around in the shallows for several weeks after spawning to feed. It’s a fortunate coincidence that the water is typically clearest at this time of the year as well, making it even easier to see fish.

Look for calm sunny days for the best sight fishing opportunities. Polarized sunglasses are a must. Fish can be spooky in some cases, so it may be necessary to cruise through and scout an area, and then back off to make longer casts to where fish are holding. Presentation of baits is always important, but that gets heightened when fishing clear water. Finesse-style baits are often a good bet for bass, while fast moving “slash baits” can fool pike and musky. Panfish can be taken on live bait, but flies are another great option that can add a whole new dimension to your arsenal.

The Hayward area offers some excellent sight fishing opportunities on the clearer lakes. Grindstone, Lac Courte Oreilles, and Sand Lake offer awesome opportunities for smallmouth bass. Round, Sissabagama, and many of the smaller lakes in the area are worth a look for panfish. Rising trout are another great sight-fishing opportunity, with some phenomenal May and June hatches leading to consistent brown trout bites on the Namekagon River. Spider Lake and the Tiger Cat Chain, among many others, are a lot of fun for clear water musky action. Keep your eyes peeled on the water for those follows!