Hayward Lakes Outdoor Report 1-2-24

Steve Suman

The forecast for this week indicates a few chances for snow, sunshine on a day or two, highs around the January average of 23 degrees, and lows somewhat above the -1 degree average. A lack of snow and unsafe ice conditions have put a damper on snow sport activities so far this winter, but winter is finally starting to show itself. Keep in mind that “technically” winter is officially less than two weeks old!

Happy New Year!

Travelers can check current road conditions at 511wi.gov for Wisconsin and 511mn.org for Minnesota.

“The new year looks to bring some colder weather to the Quiet Lakes’ area,” says Greg at Happy Hooker, “and that should help make some ice. It looks like high temperatures around freezing or just below, with low temperatures well below freezing. Though a long way out, the 15-day forecast shows measurable snow January 8-9.

“The ice conditions on sizeable lakes are dire at best, with lots of open water around our area. Anglers need to give this weather a solid week or two to start making some good ice before they even think about trying to fish.”

Jarrett at Hayward Bait says current ice conditions are ‘less than ideal,’ and what remains following the rain period is not easily accessible. Many anglers are wading to get to the ice or planking there.

“All we need is some cold weather, and a good deal of freezing temperatures ahead of us and lack of snow in the forecast (knock on wood) should quickly improve these ice conditions.

“Walleyes remain shallow and mostly in the early winter bite pattern. Sunlight is still able to penetrate the depths due to the lack of snow on the ice, keeping weed growth healthy, and most minnows and fry are hiding in the remaining weed beds. Walleyes in shallow water are ultra-spooky, so to maximize your chances, make sure to keep quiet and a good distance away from any lines you set.

“Northern pike fishing is solid. Most fish are in 4-10 feet, and anglers are doing well with suckers and shiners on tip-ups. Do not be afraid to try big dead baits ‑ big baits catch big fish. Remember that using baits greater than 8 inches require a quick-strike rig to be legal.

“Crappies moved into the basins and will remain there through the winter. Unfortunately, unless you are an otter, ice conditions are not yet favorable to get over deep waters. Those fish will still be there for the taking, however, as soon as the lake ice is solid. Good baits include small rattle baits, spoons, and tungsten jigs tipped with plastics.

“Bluegills are in the shallows, roaming what remains of this year’s weed beds. Small plastics, waxies, and spikes on small jigs are getting the job done.”

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses a place to learn about all things lakes.

“We love our lakes because of some of the simple pleasures they provide, such as swimming, floating in a boat, and fishing, of course. Lakes are also incredibly complex ecosystems. No two lakes are the same, and no lake stays the same from one year to the next. In addition, we do not fully understand human impacts on lakes.

“We are fortunate to have great researchers in Wisconsin and neighboring states that are always advancing our understanding of lakes and their fisheries. Many people are keenly interested in learning about lakes, as well as what they can do to help them. Communicating all of the complex research findings can be a big challenge.

“The Midwest Glacial Lakes Partnership is a collection of resource experts spanning nine Great Lakes area states. Their mission ‘is to work together to protect, rehabilitate, and enhance sustainable fish habitats in glacial lakes of the Midwest for the use and enjoyment of current and future generations.’

“The partnership offers many great resources, including grants for agencies and groups working on lake habitats. It offers a fantastic series of webinars (recorded presentations) from experts across the Midwest. A plethora of topics of great interest to anyone who loves and wants to protect lakes includes wake, habitat projects, climate change, and invasive species. Online webinars are free and available at https://midwestglaciallakes.org/resources/webinars.”

“Winter can be long, but it provides time to learn and plan for the summer.”

The DNR’s 2024 Keep Wildlife Wild poster contest is now open. Students in grades four through six enrolled in public, private, parochial, or home schools in Wisconsin are eligible. The contest’s goal is to create a poster that teaches the importance of enjoying and observing wildlife in the wild, not keeping wildlife in homes or as pets.

During spring and summer, the frequency of human and wildlife encounters increases, especially those involving young wild animals. While most encounters are harmless, there are times when well-intentioned people disrupt wildlife because they mistake a lone baby animal for an orphan.

The DNR encourages students to learn how they can help keep wild animals in Wisconsin safe and healthy by visiting Keep Wildlife Wild. Judging will take place in February, and the DNR will notify winners by email in March.

For more information, search “2024 Keep Wildlife Wild poster contest” on the DNR website.

The Sawyer County deer harvest total for this season, as of December 26, is 2,095 deer, including 1,373 antlered and 722 antlerless. These season totals include:

  • Nine-day gun: 1,369 deer (934 antlered, 435 antlerless)
  • Archery: 186 deer (118 antlered, 68 antlerless)
  • Crossbow: 442 deer (288 antlered, 154 antlerless)
  • Youth Deer Hunt (Oct. 7-8): 31 deer (12 antlered, 19 antlerless)
  • Muzzleloader: 52 deer (21 antlered, 31 antlerless)
  • December antlerless-only 15: deer (15 antlerless)

An antlerless-only holiday hunt ran Dec. 24-Jan. 1 in select Farmland (Zone 2) counties.

Archery and crossbow seasons run through Jan. 7, with an extended archery season open Jan. 8-31 in select counties and metro areas (does not include Sawyer County or bordering counties).

This is the final summary for this year’s deer hunting season.

The DNR reminds anglers that early catch and release season for inland trout opens January 6. On designated inland waters, using artificial tackle only, anglers can target any of Wisconsin’s four inland trout species from Jan. 6 through May 3. Anglers must release any trout immediately. Check the current trout fishing regulations for more information.

Anglers need a 2023-24 fishing license and an inland trout stamp, good until March 31, purchased through Go Wild or an authorized license agent. As of April 1, anglers need a 2024-25 license and inland trout stamp.

Tips on releasing your catch are available on the DNR website.

The DNR is accepting award nominations for the 2023 Hunter Education Instructor of the Year, Hunter Education Group of the Year, and Archery Education Instructor of the Year. The deadline to a submit nomination is February 15.

Those eligible for nomination include current hunter and archery education instructors and hunter education groups that have significantly advanced hunter safety on a voluntary basis through extraordinary service. The extraordinary service can come in various forms, including recruiting new instructors, students, or hunters, and the volume of courses taught or involvement in other activities in their community related to hunter education.

To nominate an individual or group, visit https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/Volunteer/InstructorForms on the DNR website.

Pat’s Landing Resort will host its 12th Annual Pat’s Landing Tipper Tourney January 6, from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. The registration fee is $20 per entrant. Register at Pat’s Landing Bar & Grill prior to event. Based on availability, day of event registration before 10 a.m. is possible.

There are prizes for longest largemouth bass, longest and shortest northern pike, door prizes, and random cash prizes for which entrants receive one ticket for every fish they register. Awarding of all prizes will take place at Pat’s Landing Bar & Grill once entrants have registered and recorded all fish. Entrants must be present to win.

For more information, visit 12th Annual Pat’s Landing Tipper Tourney or call (715) 945-2511.

Fishing Report

Ice conditions improved somewhat from last week, and upcoming cold weather, with the current forecast showing little to no significant snowfall in the near future, should help build more ice. Until then, be safe ‑ and patient!

Musky season closed December 31 and early catch and release season for inland trout opens January 6.


Walleye fishing is fair good as fish are still on shallow weedlines and flats in depths to 12 feet. Lack of snow cover and thin ice allows sunlight to reach the weeds, enabling them to continue to growing while providing good cover for baitfish and panfish. Best fishing is in early morning and in late evening into dark. Use a stealth approach. Top baits include walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups, and fatheads on jigs.

Northern Pike:

Northern pike fishing is good to very good in depths to 12 feet around weeds, weedlines, and panfish and baitfish concentrations. Northern suckers, walleye suckers, and shiners on tip-ups and dead sticks work well. Use bigger baits for trophy pike, but remember it is illegal to fish with a minnow 8 inches or longer unless using a quick-strike rig or non-offset circle hook.


Crappie fishing is good for the fish that remain on shallow weeds and weedlines. Basins hold some fish, but they are not currently accessible due to poor or non-existent ice conditions. Productive bait options include crappie minnows, waxies, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs, teardrops, plain hooks, small spoons, and rattle baits. Jigging rods, tip-ups, tip-downs, and deadsticking all work, too.


Bluegill fishing is good, and fortunately for anglers, the fish are in/on shallow weeds and weedlines. Bait offerings include waxies, spikes, mousies, minnows, plastics, and Gulp! baits fished on small jigs, teardrops, spoons, and plain hooks, with or without bobbers.

Upcoming Events

Dec. 24-Jan. 1: Antlerless-only holiday hunt in select Farmland (Zone 2) counties.

Dec. 31: Musky season closed.

Jan. 1: New Year’s Day 2024.

Jan. 6: Early catch-and-release trout season opens (see regs).

Jan. 6: Pat’s Landing 12th Annual Tipper Tourney (715-945-2511).

Jan. 7: Archery and crossbow deer season closes.

Jan. 7: Seasons close: Ruffed grouse in Zone A; Pheasant; Hungarian partridge; Fisher trapping; Turkey (Zones 1-5).

Jan. 13: Seeley Hills Classic (715-634-5025).

Jan. 8-31: Extended archery season in select counties and metro areas (does not include Sawyer/bordering counties).

Jan. 19: Crow season opens.

Jan. 20-21: Free Fishing Weekend.

Jan. 20: NABA Ice Fishing Event on Nelson Lake (715-296-7881).

Jan. 25: Full Wolf Moon.

Jan. 31: Bobcat hunting and trapping season Period 2 closes.

Feb. 3-4: Deerfoot Lodge Freeze Your Buns Off Crappie Ice Fishing Contest (715-462-3328).

Feb. 10: Annual Hayward Lions Pre-Birkie cross-country ski race (715-634-5025).

Feb. 15: Seasons close: Coyote trapping; Fox hunting/trapping; Raccoon hunting/trapping.

Feb. 24: 50th Annual Slumberland American Birkebeiner (715-634-5025).

Feb. 24: Full Snow Moon.

Feb. 29: Seasons close: Cottontail rabbit; Squirrel.

For more information on area events and activities, visit the Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau and Hayward Area Chamber of Commerce websites, view the Calendar of Events, or call (715) 634-8662 or 800-724-2992.