Hayward Lakes Outdoor Report 11-22-22

Steve Suman

The forecast for this week looks especially good considering the previous week, with a high near 40 degrees on Thanksgiving Day. Look for highs in the low to upper 30s and teens to low 20s for lows the remainder of the week.

Enjoy a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

“Early ice is one of the best bites of the year on the Quiet Lakes,” says Greg at Happy Hooker, “but to those wanting to get on the ice, I cannot stress enough ‑ check every few steps! Ice is never ‘safe,’ so do not treat it as such!

“Musky fishing through the ice is not legal, though the season remains open through December 31. However, Anglers might get some incidental musky action on tip-ups when targeting early walleye and northern pike.

“Walleyes will move shallow and hit walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups, most times right off where docks and piers are in summer. Eases the mind to know you can be on a good bite without too much risk of wandering onto thin ice.

“Northern pike action is always good and a lot of fun through the ice. Whether hammer-handle pike are crushing jigging pole set-ups or big gators are hitting tip-ups, catching pike in winter is a blast. Early ice will see pike on weedline edges and structure in shallow bays. Tip-ups with walleye suckers and big shiners will have flags going off like crazy.

“Largemouth and smallmouth bass anglers do not generally target either species through the ice, but anglers do catch quite a few largemouth on tip-ups throughout the season. Smallmouth occasionally hit some walleye presentations after ice season is well underway, but it is not very common.

“Panfish anglers can catch crappie, bluegill, and perch in shallow water during early ice. The exception is crappies that could still be in basins, though some lakes can hold them shallow as well. Waxies and plastics on small jigs is a great choice for early ice, as weeds are still dying and fish are scattered throughout the water column. Small spoons jigged aggressively can work well, as the fish have not seen much fishing pressure in the last month or so.”

Jarrett at Hayward Bait says the bite slowed for committed musky anglers who are still fishing in this cold weather.

“Many small bodies of water are beginning to lock up and anglers who do get out are mainly trolling. At this time of year, the bigger the presentation the better, as fish will move only on baits worth expending their energy. Look for fish primarily in 10-20 feet. In deep, clear lakes with whitefish or cisco, muskies will suspend under the ever-moving schools.

“Walleyes will be on the move into shallow, structure-filled bays during early ice, but will sit in adjacent deeper water during daylight hours. During prime time, fish move onto shallow flats to feed on small bluegill and perch. For best success, have your tip-ups ready and keep all noise to a minimum!

“Northern pike are on the same structure as walleyes, which could be weeds, logs, stumps, etc., or anything that draws baitfish. Early ice is fast upon us and flags will soon be flying!

“Crappie and bluegill will move to what is left of green weeds for the season’s last bite on remaining structure, unless the lake holds cribs. After the last of the weeds die off, fish will move to basins to feed. Waxies and plastics on small jigs work well during early ice.”

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses longnose gar in the Hayward area.

“Every year or two, I receive an email from an absolutely flabbergasted angler who caught a gar in the Hayward area. Sometimes the angler is amazed at the catch, and sometimes the angler does not even know what it is.

“It is rare to catch a gar in northern Wisconsin for two big reasons: these fish are rare, and they are hard to catch, even when trying to catch them. In northern Wisconsin, the longnose gar exists only in two areas: one in a cluster of lakes in southern Rusk and northern Chippewa County, and the other the Hayward area.

“Hayward area lakes with gar include LCO, Grindstone, Whitefish, Sissabagama, and Sand.

“Anglers can catch gar on a variety of traditional fishing presentations, including artificial lures and live bait. However, coaxing a gar to bite and then successfully hooking one can be a challenge.

“Gar often feed very high in the water column, within inches of a lake’s surface. Very few anglers present baits in where gar might encounter them, though a gar might hit a topwater bait if presented slowly. Anglers seldom hook a gar that strikes, as gar have narrow, bony mouths and it can be difficult to embed a hook.

“Anglers who manage to catch gar find themselves in possession of a very tasty fish, with firm flesh described as a mix between fish and pork chop. The eggs are highly poisonous to humans and other animals, however, so no gar caviar!”

The DNR is urging ATV/UTV riders and passengers to wear helmets and seatbelts while riding. So far this year, 19 people have died in ATV/UTV crashes in Wisconsin, and most were not wearing seat belts or helmets. Helmets and seatbelts dramatically reduce the chance of serious injury, especially in single vehicle crashes.

Wisconsin law requires ATV and UTV operators born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, who are at least 12 years old for ATV and at least 16 years old for UTV, to complete an ATV safety certification course to operate in Wisconsin (exception: on private property owned by operator’s immediate family).

For more information, search “ATV/UTV riding” on the DNR website.

Fall turkey season in zones 6 and 7 closed Nov. 18. As of Nov. 15, hunter harvest in zones 4, 6, and 7 is as follows:

Zone 4: 473; Zone 6: 289; Zone 7: 142.

The fall season runs through Jan. 8 in zones 1-5. For hunters interested, MANY bonus authorizations ($10/residents; $15/nonresidents) are still available in zones 1-4 at one per person, per day, until the zone sells out or season ends.

The Sawyer County deer harvest total, as of November 15 (does not include nine-day gun deer season), is 853 deer, including 547 antlered and 306 antlerless. These totals include:

  • Archery: 242 deer (160 antlered, 82 antlerless)
  • Crossbow: 557 deer (361 antlered, 196 antlerless)
  • Youth Deer Hunt Oct. 8-9: 54 deer (26 antlered, 28 antlerless)

The nine-day gun deer season runs through November 27, but additional seasons follow, including muzzleloader deer season Nov. 28-Dec. 7; four-day antlerless-only deer hunt Dec. 8-11; and antlerless-only Holiday Hunt open only in select Zone 2 farmland counties Dec. 25-Jan. 1.

First ice calls for extreme caution and the DNR provides excellent information regarding safety on the ice, whether you are fishing, snowmobiling, ATV/UTV riding, cross-country skiing, or just enjoying a winter day. Before you go, review the information on how to know when it is okay to go, what to do if you break through the ice, and more.

There really is no such thing as 100-percent safe ice. You cannot judge the strength of ice by one factor such as its appearance, age, thickness, temperature, or if snow covers the ice. Based on a combination of several factors, ice strength can vary from waterbody to waterbody and it can vary in different areas of the same waterbody.

Local bait shops, fishing clubs, and resorts serving winter recreationists often have the most up-to-date information on ice thickness on local lakes and rivers, as well as on areas that are especially dangerous.

Make sure to carry basic safety gear, including ice claws/picks, cellphone in waterproof bag/case, life jacket, and length of rope.

For more information, visit “ice safety” on the DNR website.

Fishing Report

Ice is forming on the lakes, but this is a recent development and it is very much early, NEW ice requiring extreme caution. The DNR offers considerable information on ice safety ‑ see a small part of it above and the complete article on the DNR website.

The following reports primarily pertain to early ice fishing once ice is thick enough for foot travel. A warm-up is in the forecast for this week and that could greatly affect any current ice thickness. Be patient, as well as safe ‑ most of the season lies ahead!


Muskie fishing season on open water continues through December 31, but it is illegal to fish for them using ice as a platform. Some anglers continue their quest on what open water remains, with most trolling big baits in 8-25 feet. Look for fish following schools of whitefish and cisco on lakes that contain them.


Walleyes move to shallower flats and bays with structure at first ice to feed in low light hours, but hold in nearby deep water during the day. Move in stealth mode ‑ announcing your arrival is counter-productive. Walleye suckers and fatheads under tip-ups or on jigs, and jigging baits, are effective presentations.

Northern Pike:

Northern pike fishing is good, with fish in shallow bays and near weeds, weedlines, wood, and other structure, as well as baitfish and panfish concentrations. Suckers, shiners, and minnows on tip-ups, and jigging baits, will do the trick.

Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass:

Bass species are not generally a prime focus for ice anglers. Catches seem to have increased in the past few years, with most on sucker minnows and shiners on tip-ups set over shallow weeds ‑ whether intentional or incidental.


Crappies will be around green weeds, cribs, and in deep basins, dispersed throughout the water column ‑ so check it from top to bottom. Crappie minnows, waxies, spikes, plastic, and Gulp! baits on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks are effective, as are small jigging spoons.

Bluegill and Perch:

Bluegill and perch are in all parts of the water column, and from shallow bays to deep basins. Waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks work well.

Upcoming Events

Nov. 17: Crow season closed.

Nov. 18: Turkey season closed in zones 6-7.

Nov. 19-27: Traditional nine-day gun deer season (see regs).

Nov. 22: Duck season closes in North Zone (see regs).

Nov. 24: Thanksgiving Day.

Nov. 28-Dec. 7: Muzzleloader deer season.

Nov. 29: Mourning dove season closes.

Dec. 7: Full Cold Moon.

Dec. 8-11: Four-day antlerless-only deer hunt (see regs).

Dec. 10: Application deadline for bear and spring turkey season permits.

Dec. 16: Goose season closes in North Zone.

Dec. 21: Winter Solstice ‑ first day of winter!

Dec. 24-Jan. 1: Antlerless-only Holiday Hunt ‑ open only in select Zone 2 farmland counties (see regs).

Dec. 25: Christmas Day.

Dec. 25: Period 1 Bobcat hunting and trapping season closes.

Dec. 26: Period 2 Bobcat hunting and trapping season opens.

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.