Hayward Lakes Outdoor Report 11-28-23

Steve Suman

As predicted (surprise!), the temperatures changed significantly this past week, with lows in the teens and a Monday night low of 4 degrees. However, this week will bring some highs in the mid- to even upper-30s, though the downward slide continues as winter arrives. Currently, the forecast indicates the only snow chances are Saturday night and Sunday.

“In the Quiet Lakes’ area, cold nights are starting to ice over on some shallow bays and standing water,” says Greg at Happy Hooker, “but it will still be a while before we can set foot on it.

“Water temperatures are now around 36-38 degrees and some anglers are still getting out and fishing open water on the bigger lakes. There are few anglers, however, and many anxious for the transition to start ice fishing.

“Musky fishing is still good and anglers willing to go out are doing well on most of the lakes, with some reporting multiple fish days and lots of action in a short time. They are catching most of their fish on suckers fished off points, deep weed bed edges, and mid-lake structure.

“Walleyes are pushing shallower for first ice. Look for fish on shallow points, mid-lake humps, and shallow water adjacent to lake basins.

“Crappies, too, are pushing shallower for first ice. The best bet is with live bait, fished under bobbers or on tight-lined jigs next to the boat.

“Bluegill and perch are in and around shallow weeds, and waxies and plastics either jigged or fished under bobbers should work well.

“It was somewhat quiet in the woods for gun season. Hunters took a few does and small bucks, but there were few reports of ‘giants’ of the woods.”

Jarrett at Hayward Bait says ice starting to form on the smaller lakes will bring an end to open water fishing.

“Musky anglers are still on the water, but with suckers now mostly unavailable, they are trolling or working big plastics slowly. Fish should be shallow, as their food moves to remaining weed beds. Big baits are the ticket as fish look for a meal that sustains them for a few days.

“Walleyes remain in deeper water during the day, moving to shallower weed edges and alleyways during evening feeding hours. Fishing shallow requires silence, as fish become very spooky. Walleye suckers, small shiners, or freshly caught crappie/bluegill fry can be the key to putting walleye on the ice.

“Northern pike are shallow, but anglers can still take them using aggressive methods with jerkbaits and rattlebaits. Target shallow bays and backwater weed edges during the day.

“Crappies roam basins in 15-35 feet, depending on lake structure. Some fish hold on shallow weed edges until major ice forms. Crappie minnows on lightly set tips-ups, tip-downs, I Fish Pros, and dead sticks are effective during early ice, a situation calling for stealth.

“Bluegills are on any shallow weed growth, and waxies on small jigs work all winter. Try 1/64- or 1/32-ounce spoons for bigger fish. Bigger baits select bigger fish, cutting down on bait-stealing dinks!”

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses northern pike losing their teeth in different seasons.

“Some time ago, I asked about fishing rumors or myths that people have heard and a friendly reader reminded me of an interesting rumor concerning northern pike. The myth, and it is a myth, is that pike lose their teeth at certain times of the year and do not feed again until they grow back.

“Interestingly, there is disagreement about when this happens. Some anglers say late summer and some say late winter ‑ and I suspect this corresponds with whenever an individual angler has a harder time catching pike!

“In fact, pike do not lose their teeth, at least not all at once. Most fish teeth do not ‘fall out,’ like human teeth. It is true that individual teeth can break or wear down, but these replace individually, not in a large batch.

“Nature lovers might already know that a famous group of fish, sharks, lose enough teeth regularly that they have new rows of teeth on-deck and ready to move in as replacements. Pike and our local freshwater fish do not have anything quite so sophisticated, but they have a means to make sure their mouth always has enough sharp pokey things in it to keep their prey trapped when they strike.

“There are periods of the year when pike are easier, or more difficult, to catch, but they have nothing to do with shedding teeth.

“Late summer can be a down period for fishing for many species because there is a great volume of natural prey available. Periods of extremely warm water temperature, such as in summer, or low oxygen, typically in winter, can also change fish behavior, leading to less feeding.

“Many thanks to the reader who submitted this interesting and likely widespread rumor. If you hear a fishing rumor or myth that might be interest, send it to Max.Wolter@wisconsin.gov.”

The DNR has released the preliminary harvest results for the 2023 bear season, which was well below the recent annual average of approximately 4,000 bears. Hunters harvested 2,922 bears during the 2023 season, the lowest bear harvest since 2008, and a marked decrease from the 4,009 bears last year. The decline was statewide, as the bear harvest fell short of all management zone targets.

Statewide hunter success dropped to 23 percent, down from the recent 5-year average of 32 percent. Success rates in individual zones varied from about 60 percent in Zone A to about 5 percent in zones E and F.

According to DNR large carnivore specialist Randy Johnson, almost all of the anecdotal reports he heard from bear hunters mentioned the incredible abundance of acorns and other natural foods in the woods. This typically results in less effective baits and reduced hunter success rates.

Zones A and D are the primary zones in the Hayward area. Johnson says Zone A showed hunter success at 59 percent. Zone D experienced well below average harvest and hunter success, likely due to recent management actions to reduce area bear populations and the abundance of natural foods.

The application deadline for a 2024 bear hunting season license or preference point is December 10. Permit applicants must apply at least once during any three consecutive years to retain accumulated preference points.

For more information, search “bear hunting” on the DNR website.

Fall turkey hunters have registered 3,163 turkeys in the state as of November 21. The fall season in zones 6 and 7 closed Nov. 17.The fall season in zones 1-5 closes January 7. As of November 21, hunter harvest in zones 4, 6, and 7 is as follows:

  • Zone 4: 507
  • Zone 6: 276
  • Zone 7: 143

Bonus authorizations ($10/residents; $15/nonresidents) are still available in zones 1, 3, and 4 at one per person, per day, until the zone sells out or the season ends. Review the fall turkey hunting regulations and shooting hours in the Fall 2023-Spring 2024 Combined Hunting Regulations.

The application deadline for spring turkey authorizations is December 10.

The Sawyer County deer harvest total for this season, as of November 21, is 1,401 deer, including 972 antlered and 429 antlerless. These totals include:

  • Nine-day gun: 776 (573 antlered, 203 antlerless)
  • Archery: 176 deer (114 antlered, 62 antlerless)
  • Crossbow: 418 deer (273 antlered, 145 antlerless)
  • Youth Deer Hunt (Oct. 7-8): 31 deer (12 antlered, 19 antlerless)

Deer hunting continues with muzzleloader deer season Nov. 27-Dec. 6; four-day antlerless-only deer hunt Dec. 7-10; and an antlerless-only holiday hunt in select Farmland (Zone 2) counties Dec. 24-Jan. 1.

Archery and crossbow seasons run through Jan. 7, with an extended archery season Jan. 8-31 in metro sub-units and counties.

Fishing Report

Temperatures turned cold (4 degrees Monday night), so this is likely the end of open water fishing reports for this season, though big lakes could remain open a bit longer. Best for anglers to wait for “SAFE” ice (relatively speaking).


Musky anglers are still fishing, having good success on most lakes, and are reporting multi-fish days and periods of heavy action. Most are fishing suckers (if they can find them) on weed beds, deep weed edges, points, and mid-lake structure. Fish are looking for a big meal so this is the time to use big baits, live or artificial.


Walleyes are shallow, feeding on weeds, weedlines, weed edges, humps, and points with deep water nearby. Fish deeper water during the day, but fishing shallower in the evening into after dark offers the best success. It pays great dividends to be covert! Walleye suckers, small shiners, and fatheads will all tempt hungry walleyes.

Northern Pike:

Northern pike are on their pre-winter feed in the shallows chasing baitfish, panfish, and small gamefish. Look for them in and around shallow weeds, weedlines, weed edges, and in bays. Spinnerbaits, rattlebaits, and jerkbaits can pull in pike, but it is difficult to beat live bait such as northern and walleye suckers, and fatheads on jigs or under bobbers.


Crappies are either around shallows weeds or in lake basins in depths to more than 30 feet. Shallow fish are flighty and require a quiet approach. Crappie minnows and other live bait on jigs and/or under slip bobbers are catching fish, but other presentations will do the job for ice anglers ‑ once we have safe ice!


Bluegill and perch are in and near shallow weeds and weedlines or main lake cribs, rock, wood, and other structure. Waxies, spikes, small minnows, plastics, and Gulp! baits on jigs or plain hooks, fished with or without bobbers will work well for anglers willing to give it a go!

Upcoming Events

Nov. 18-Jan. 7: Turkey season open in Zones 1-5.

Nov. 21: Duck season closed in North Zone (see regs).

Nov. 26: Traditional nine-day gun deer season closed.

Nov. 27-Dec. 6: Muzzleloader deer season.

Nov. 29: Mourning dove season closes.

Nov. 29: DNR public meeting on Lake Superior fishery management, Ashland, Public Library, 6 p.m. (715-331-9036).

Nov. 30: Walleye season closes on the Chippewa Flowage and Chippewa River downstream to Arpin Dam.

Dec. 7-10: Four-day antlerless-only deer hunt (see regs).

Dec. 10: Application deadline: Spring turkey; Black bear.

Dec. 14-22: Elk season reopens in Clam Lake Elk Management Zone.

Dec. 16: Goose season closes in Northern Zone.

Dec. 21: Winter Solstice – first day of winter (day with the fewest hours of sunlight ‑ but days begin to grow longer!)

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

Dec. 25: Christmas Day.

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

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

Dec. 26: Full Cold Moon.

Dec. 31: Musky season closes.

Jan. 1: New Year’s Day 2024.

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

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.