Hayward Lakes Outdoor Report 1-23-24

Steve Suman

The past week or so has provided winter temperatures ‑ and very strong winds over the weekend ‑ but with little to no snowfall. The forecast for this week shows a warming trend, with highs in the mid- to upper-30s, nearing 40 degrees on some days, nighttime lows in the upper 20s, and even a couple 30-degree nights! These temperatures will continue through the weekend and into next week. Precipitation chances are primarily Wednesday night through Thursday and for rain or a mix of a rain and snow.

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

“In the Quiet Lakes’ area, last week’s cold snap ended at the start of this week,” says Greg at Happy Hooker. “The forecast calls for high temperatures in the 30s and lows in the 20s most of the week, with not much for precipitation.

“The cold last week did make some significant ice. Reports said most lakes had at least 8 inches of good ice, with some spots close to 10 inches. Following this past weekend, we could now have 10-12 inches, and the warm-up this week should not hurt us too much. We will not make much ice during the warm up, but probably will not lose much, either.

“Crews have staked many if not most of the lake snowmobile trails.

“On a personal note, we fished the previous weekend and did well with suckers and shiners under tip-ups for walleye and northern pike. We missed a few jig fishing. Look for walleyes on the edges of flats that head into deep water.

“Crappies and bluegills were not a target, so we cannot verify if they are in basins or on shallow weeds and structure.

“With warm temperatures and good ice, this week will be busy with anglers getting out safely and comfortably.”

Jarrett at Hayward Bait says the cold weather has really helped ice building, and most small and mid-size lakes show 4-8 inches of thickness.

“This nice warm-up will offer some relief for all of the anglers who toughed it out during that massive cold stretch. Continue to use caution while traveling on the ice, as some areas on many of the larger lakes are not yet safe for machines.

“Walleyes remain in early winter patterns. Anglers report walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups in 5-15 feet work best, though some have success with jigging. With little snow on the ice until recently, the fish were super spooky.

“Northern pike fishing is very good, with fish hitting big suckers and shiners on tip-ups set over shallow weeds.

“Crappie anglers are fishing deeper water where the fish will stage for a good part of the winter. Catches are coming in 15-30 feet on jigs, live bait, and plastics. Fish are usually on the move, so go prepared to punch many holes!

“Bluegills are moving to deeper main lake structure such as weeds and cribs. Some fish remain in shallow weeds, but snow-covered ice will deplete the oxygen and most fish will leave the shallows for deeper water. Waxies and spikes on small jigs are working well, and try small spoons for bigger bluegills!”

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses survival of fish with hooks in them.

“Hook and line angling sometimes results in hooking a fish in a way that is not intended, often a fully swallowed hook. The conventional wisdom is to cut the line and let the fish work the hook out on its own, rather than trying to remove it and damage internal organs. A reader recently asked me to address this practice, wondering if a fish can really survive when a hook remains in it. Fortunately, there is considerable research on the topic from which we can draw.

“A study from Europe looked at hooked pike that retained lures, similar to a pike biting off your line. They found pike with a lure in its mouth behaved differently for the first hour or so, but then returned to business as usual. None of the pike that swam off with a hook still in them died.

“A study from Illinois looked at different hook removal techniques in bass, including leaving the hook embedded. None of the fish retaining a hook died during the experiment.

“These studies generally indicate that most fish can survive a hook left in them, if one makes other considerations for a fish’s health.

“We know from other studies that angling practices can play an important role in hooked fish survival. Some studies show factors such as water temperature, depth of capture, and live vs. artificial bait all influence mortality of released fish. While cutting the hook in instances where a fish swallows a bait can be best for that fish’s survival, it is ideal to avoid that situation altogether. Circle hooks, when fishing live bait, and artificial lures result in fish hooked less deeply.

“Adopting these methods might be most beneficial for catch and release anglers or those who expect to catch many fish not of legal, keep-able size. The decisions made by anglers about how they fish can play an important role in maintaining the quality of our fisheries.”

The DNR’s 2024 Public Access Lands Atlas is now available for purchase from the University of Wisconsin Bookstore for $104.95. The Atlas contains 441 maps covering statewide public lands, roads, and waterways. For more information, search “Public Access Lands Atlas” on the DNR website.

Hayward Wesleyan Church is hosting a sledding party at Hayward Town Forest Saturday, February 3, from 1-3 p.m. The event will provide fires, music, hot cocoa, s’mores, and a warming hut ‑ you provide your sleds and friends! The Hayward Town Forest is on County Hill Road, two miles west of Greenwood Cemetery.

For more information, visit Hayward Wesleyan Church or call (715) 634-4613.

Deerfoot Lodge & Resort will host its 12th Annual Freeze Your Buns Off Crappie Ice Fishing Contest Saturday and Sunday February 3-4, from 8 a.m. Saturday through 6 p.m. Sunday. The contest is open to all anglers, including first-timers. An adult must accompany any minors. The event offers randomly drawn door prizes (winners must be present), and a free fish fry lunch at noon Sunday. Contest officials will award the 50/50 raffle at 6 p.m. Saturday during cocktail hour and during the main awards ceremony. There are seven ward categories. The entry fee is $50 per individual and $80 for family. For more information, view the tournament poster, visit www.deerfootlodge.com, or call (715) 462-3328).

Wisconsin’s boat registration period runs for 3 years. This period begins April 1 of the year in which the DNR issues or renews the registration, and the registration expires March 31 of the third year after issuance or renewal.

For more information, search “boat registration and titling” on the DNR website.


Snowmobiles must have a current registration and display a valid snowmobile trail pass to operate on public snowmobile trails. You can renew registrations and order trail passes online or purchase trail passes from sales agents. Members of the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs (AWSC) can purchase trail passes at a discounted rate directly from www.awsc.org. You do not need to be a Wisconsin resident to be an AWSC member.

The January 22 HLVCB snowmobile trail report says Sawyer County land trails are open, but in poor condition, with marginal snow, ruts, and exposed rocks. A few groomers have been panning and laying the snow flat, but will not be out again until we receive more snow. You can check on and follow the groomer operations on the GTS app for the most up to date information.

Private property gates, specifically those that cross the swamps and waterways, are not open yet.

The cold weather has been helpful with lakes. Staked lakes include Moose, Nelson, Barker, Spider, Tiger Cat Flowage, Lost Land, and much of Chippewa Flowage (check the HLVCB snowmobile trail report for specifics). For your safety ‑ and the safety of others following your tracks ‑ Please do NOT ride on un-staked trails!

Fishing Report

The cold last week, combined with minimal snow cover, was great for making ice on the lakes, with some reports now indicating 8-10 inches on some lakes. Still, be wise and check as you go, especially this week and through the weekend, with high temperatures in the mid- to upper-30s (pushing 40 degrees) and possible rain. Most folks discourage vehicle traffic. Thin snow cover makes for easy walking, though it also makes ice grippers a good choice!


Walleye fishing is fair to very good, depending on the lake ‑ and the angler. Look for fish on the edges of weeds, weedlines, and flats in 4-18 feet. Lack of snow cover has fish themselves “on edge,” so lessening any noise and disturbance on top of the ice will improve success. Walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups are most productive, but some anglers report success jigging fatheads.

Northern Pike:

Northern pike fishing is good to very good around shallow to mid-depth weeds and weedlines, and near concentrations of baitfish and panfish. Tip-ups with large northern suckers, walleye suckers, and shiners are producing good catches of pike in assorted sizes.


Crappie fishing is good to very good, but fish continue to move and drilling numerous holes is necessary to stay with them. Some fish are around shallow weeds, weedlines, and other structure, while many are in deeper basins in 12 to more than 30 feet. Crappie minnows, fatheads, waxies, plastics, and Gulp! baits on jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks fished on tip-ups, tip-downs, and dead sticks work well, as do small spoons and rattlebaits.


Bluegill fishing is good in shallow green weeds and weedlines, and near/in deeper weeds and cribs. Waxies, spikes, small minnows, plastics and Gulp! baits on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks work great with or without floats, and try minnows and spoons for bigger bluegills.

Upcoming Events

Jan. 19: Crow season opened.

Jan. 25: Full Wolf Moon.

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

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

Feb. 3: Sledding party at Hayward Town Forest, 1-3 p.m., hosted by Hayward Wesleyan Church (715-634-4613).

Feb. 3-4: Deerfoot Lodge12th Annual Freeze Your Buns Off Crappie Ice Fishing Contest, $50 entry (715-462-3328).

Feb. 6: DNR public listening session for Nelson Lake fishery plan, Lenroot Town Hall, 6:30 p.m. (715-634-7429).

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. 17: Let’s Go Ice Fishing! event, Hayward Lake Boat Landing, 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m. (715-483-3300).

Feb. 21-24: 50th Annual Slumberland American Birkebeiner (715-634-5025).

Feb. 24: Full Snow Moon.

Feb. 29: Leap Year!

Feb. 29: Seasons close: Cottontail rabbit; Squirrel (gray and fox).

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.