The forecast calls for up to two inches of snow Monday night into Tuesday morning, with highs in the low 30s. Late in the week, highs rise to the mid-40s. Fall in the North Wood can be many things, but it is never boring!
“Late fall weather has arrived in the Quiet Lakes’ area,” says Greg at Happy Hooker, “and it looks to stay. The 15-day forecast shows temperatures below freezing at night and not warming above 40 degrees. Lakes hover around 50 degrees, though will drop quickly with sub-freezing lows.
“Musky fishing is good, with most fish coming on suckers, and will get even better as the water cools and fish look for bigger meals more frequently. Fish are relatively shallow, relating to deep weed edges and breaks off points. If the weather is not conducive to casting, trolling crankbaits is great option.
“Walleyes are in deep holes, with 20-25 feet a good starting point. Jigging big walleye suckers or minnows works, but blade baits and Jigging Rap baits get down to fish fast.
“Northern pike are not taking musky suckers, anglers say, so try smaller baits. Try working walleye suckers, small bucktails, and spinnerbaits in and around weeds.
“Crappies are in deep holes and schooling in the basins. Fishing schools with crappie minnows on jigs are catching numerous crappies, though it might require some weeding for nicer ones. Try 15-20 feet or in deep lake basins.
“Bluegills and perch are on shallow weeds with remaining oxygen. They are normally there for first ice and should be near there now. Try 5-8 feet with waxies and plastics on jigs or hooks under bobbers, and crappie minnows for bigger perch. Baits such as Northland’s Mimic Minnow can be great for aggressive fish.
“Archery deer season is in full swing and deer should get into rut in the next couple weeks. So far this season, we have heard of only one nice 8-point buck harvested. Having observed a couple nice bucks around my hunting area over the last month or so, I hope one of them slips up during rut and offers me a chance to let an arrow fly!”
Jarrett at Hayward Bait says fishing is slowing with the changing weather and this will continue for all but the hardcore anglers.
“Musky anglers are finding fish as shallow as 2-3 feet, with 8-12 feet the preferred depths. Most anglers are rigging suckers or casting big plastics such as a Bull Dawgs and jigging them boat side. Anglers cast and retrieve this time of year to pull muskies to the boat, where fish hit the sucker rather than the baits they are following.
“Walleye fishing remains slow. Cooling water will move many fish onto shallow weed flats or they will hang in adjacent deeper water until prime time. Fish begin to patrol shallow weeds at dusk, the main bite window. This will continue until about a week after ice-up, when most baitfish move out of the shallower bays. Fish these areas with walleye suckers on jigs or slip bobbers, making sure to cover water with jerkbaits while the bobber rigs are soaking.
“Northern pike are moving onto shallow weedlines and near baitfish and panfish following the remaining insects until ice-up. Live bait under slip bobbers, spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, and others are working well.
“Largemouth bass will move shallow for fall and early winter. Many frogs exit lakes for their winter homes and bass will ambush them along shorelines. Other bass will feed on young bluegills in weeds and lilies. Weeds will not last long, so target these fish while you can!
“Smallmouth bass are schooling in mid-depths, feeding on young baitfish. Plastics are still effective, but later in the year, big live bait such as walleye suckers work great to trigger fish.
“Crappies are in main lake basins and near weed edges and cribs. Live bait and plastics under floats or on jigs remain effective until ice up. Finding fish is tricky, but the bite is good.
“Bluegills are near weed edges, cribs, and similar structure.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the Hayward Chapter-Muskies Inc. fall tournament results.
“Our local chapter of Muskies Inc. hosted its annual fall tournament October 6-8. This event allows its anglers to fish a number of quality musky waters in this area over a three-day span. Anglers can register muskies greater than 34 inches, but must immediately release all fish they catch.
“We have continuous records from this event dating back to 1987, allowing us to track trends and patterns in tournament angling success. The event drew 508 anglers this year, the most since 2011. The most anglers to ever fish the event ‑ 710 ‑ was in 1988.
“This year, anglers caught 83 muskies that met the 34-inch minimum length for registration, the third highest total number caught in the tournament’s history. In 2010, 537 anglers caught 110 muskies, the most ever. The 2023 results were the fourth highest angler catch rate, which is the number of fish caught divided by number of anglers.
“Interestingly, the high catch of muskies achieved this year was with little contribution from some of the historic action lakes such as Tiger Cat Chain and Mud/Callahan that had contributed many fish in the early years of this event. Other lakes, such as the Chippewa Flowage, Namakagon, and Moose, picked up the slack this year.
“While the catch statistics were very good, the size statistics left plenty of room for growth. The largest fish registered was 47.5 inches. Average length and number of muskies greater than 40 inches were either right at or just above the long-term averages. However, several of these size-based metrics have been steadily increasing over time and we hope the 2023 results will represent just a hiccup in that pattern.
“The number of musky catches this year should encourage anglers. The DNR will be working on restoring catch rates in some of the historically high-density waters included in this event, while tracking growth rates and mortality, the two biggest factors influencing musky size on many lakes.
“Pulling off such a large tournament year after year is a major accomplishment for our Muskies Inc. Chapter, which puts all funds to good use on great conservation projects throughout our area. Kudos!”
The Sawyer County deer harvest total for this season, as of October 24, is 202 deer, including 91 antlered and 111 antlerless. These totals include:
- Archery: 47 deer (19 antlered, 28 antlerless)
- Crossbow:124 deer (60 antlered, 64 antlerless)
- Youth Deer Hunt Oct. 7-8: 31 deer (12 antlered, 19 antlerless)
Hunters donating deer through the DNR Deer Donation Program help put food on the table for families in need. You can donate any legally harvested deer. Just provide CWD samples, if required, contact a participating processor, and drop off the deer. Processors take care of the animal and make sure it finds its way to a food pantry shelf. If you are not a hunter or are unable to donate a deer, you can still help those in need with a financial contribution to the program.
For more information, visit dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/hunt/donation.html.
Fishing conditions are a bit less comfortable with the abrupt weather change, but fishing remains good for those who are still hitting the water. Be careful on the boat launches, particularly with frost and ice in early mornings, and wearing a PFD is a good idea with the colder water temperatures. Just in case. Habitat is changing, fish are in transition, and as always, you can get the most current information at your favorite bait shop.
Musky action is good to very good and fishing continues to get better as it gets colder. Look for fish from very shallow out to about 15 feet on weed edges, breaks, and points. Suckers are the go-to bait, and Bull Dawgs, crankbaits, and similar can get indecisive fish near to and hitting a live sucker. Trolled crankbaits and stickbaits are also effective.
Walleye fishing is slow, with evening into dark offering the best success. Fish are in deep holes, 18-30 feet, as well as along shallow weeds, weed edges, and flats with access to deep water. Walleye suckers and minnows on jigs, slip bobbers, and drop-shot rigs are productive, as are blade baits, jerkbaits, and Jigging Raps and similar baits.
Northern pike fishing is good to very good in around weeds, weed edges, and other cover, and near baitfish and panfish concentrations. Northern and walleye suckers on jigs, slip bobbers, and drop-shot rigs, and spinners, spinnerbaits, spoons, stickbaits, minnowbaits, and jerkbaits all work as aggressive pike plump up for winter.
Largemouth bass angler interest is now minimal, but active anglers continue to catch fish. Look for bass near baitfish and panfish in shallow to mid-depth weeds, brush and other structure, and along shorelines feeding on frogs headed to hibernation areas. Effective baits include walleye suckers and minnows on jigs and drop-shot rigs, and spinnerbaits.
Smallmouth bass action remains good to very good, with fish on mid-depth to deeper hard bottom areas. Walleye suckers, minnows, and plastics on jigs, drop-shot rigs, and Ned rigs will all do the job, as will crankbaits, swim jigs, jerkbaits, and gliders.
Crappie fishing is good to very good, though can take some sorting for bigger fish. The bite is very good if you can find the scattered fish and stay with them. Look for fish schooling in basins, and in/on mid-depth to deep holes, weed edges, and cribs. Crappie minnows, plastics, and Gulp! baits on jigs and/or under slip bobbers work well at this time.
Bluegill and perch fishing is fair to good. Find fish in/on shallow weeds, weed edges, cribs, and other cover. Bigger fish are a bit deeper on similar structure. Use waxies, worms, plastics, and Gulp! baits on jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks under bobbers, doing the same with crappie minnows for big perch, and Mimic Minnows work, too.
Oct. 28: Season opened: Raccoon hunting and trapping (nonresident).
Nov. 11: Veterans Day.
Nov. 11-17: Hayward Rod and Gun Club rifle site-in days, $6 per gun, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. (715-634-4912).
Nov. 16: Crow season closes.
Nov. 17: Turkey season closes in Zones 6-7.
Nov. 18-26: Traditional nine-day gun deer season.
Nov. 18-Jan. 7: Turkey season open in Zones 1-5.
Nov. 23: Thanksgiving Day.
Nov. 26: Full Beaver Moon.
Nov. 27-Dec. 6: Muzzleloader deer season.
Nov. 29: Mourning dove season closes.
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.