Hayward Lakes Outdoor Report 2-20-24

Steve Suman

A few cold nights of 0-6 degrees reminded us winter remains ‑ it IS February ‑ but this week offers another warm-up, with some highs in the mid-40s. Unfortunately, these warmer temperatures and no precipitation in the forecast coincide with the Birkie race week. Cooler temperatures return for a few days, but then near 50 degrees next Monday. These are great for some outdoor activities and for Birkie spectators, but for the skiers, not so much!

American Birkebeiner week is this week, February 21-25. Visit www.birkie.com for the most recent updates and changes for the events.

Start making summer plans now by viewing the Hayward Lakes 2024 Vacation Guide online or request a copy at https://haywardlakes.com/order-vacation-guide.

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

“A few inches of snow fell in the Quiet Lakes’ area Wednesday night into Thursday,” says Greg at Happy Hooker, “but not enough for any kind of recreation. Bitter cold temperatures Friday and Saturday nights helped keep the ‘good’ ice we have in a great spot. While there is a big warm-up on the way in the 15-day forecast, subfreezing low temperatures should maintain good ice for a while.

“Ice reports vary, especially on lakes with moving water. For example, in some spots, Moose Lake has almost 12 inches of ice, but other spots only 4 inches. Most lakes report a consistent 6-10 inches, with some spots nearly a foot. Still, as always, anglers should check the ice every time.

“Fishing is good to great, with anglers doing well on all species. Some anglers are doing well on species such as walleye and bass, with others doing well on northern pike and panfish.

“Nothing has changed in the way of tactics, as anglers are still catching predator fish mainly on tip-ups and panfish on mostly small offerings.

“Within a few hours the other day, an angler friend caught a walleye, northern pike, and musky on the same tip-up set-up with walleye suckers, set on a shallow to deep edge transition. The walleye might have come from deeper water and grabbed the easy meal; the pike and musky were probably cruising shallower water in search of baitfish. The point is that the transition is the key, and anglers can apply it to any lake.

“Nearly all panfish reports, no matter the species, say the fish are relating to deeper water. For crappies, look in 20 feet more or less; for bluegills in 10-12 feet; and for perch on the deep transition or in the basin in 12-20 feet or so. Small spoons and jigs tipped with minnow heads or tail sections, waxies, and plastics are icing some nice panfish.”

Jarrett at Hayward Bait says the ice has stiffened with cold weather back in the mix.

“Most area waterbodies have 5-11 inches of ice, but all lake ice reports differ despite the cold weather. We have not lost much ice over the past week, but we have not piled it on either. Make sure you take a spud bar, float suit, and a fishing buddy, and be safe on the ice!

“Walleye fishing is slow, with successful anglers catching them at dawn and dusk. Jigging spoons with minnow heads and tip-ups with bait set a foot or so off bottom, near structure, are the key. Many fish are coming from 10-25 feet, with tip-ups and jigging working equally well.

“Northern pike fishing remains solid, with live bait and dead bait working equally well, and tip-ups the go-to. Fish are in 10-25 feet, depending on the food location. Panfish or food sources nearby will always lead to good numbers of pike.

“Crappies are in main lake basins in 15-35 feet. Most fish are suspending in that range and electronics are necessary. Small jigs, spoons, and rattlebaits are working well.

“Bluegills are in 8-20 feet, depending on the lake. Many roam the bottom looking for food. Anglers are catching fish with waxies on jigs, as well as with small spoons.

“Perch will start moving onto mudflats to prepare for spawn. Dead-sticks with minnows work well, and pounding baits on the mud will attract fish.

“Gamefish season closes March 3, the last day to target walleye, northern pike, and bass on most waterbodies. Take advantage of the good ice we now have and do some fishing! March 1 is the first official day that you can purchase 2024 fishing licenses.”

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the diet overlap among predatory gamefish.

“The diet of predatory fish is always a topic of interest for anglers, though for varying reasons. Anglers chasing a predatory fish such as muskellunge might want to understand the fish’s diet to better target it with their angling presentation. Other anglers might have concerns about predatory fish eating too many of the other fish they want to target, such as panfish and trout, etc.

“Fish biologists have their own set of interests in understanding the diets of fish, which can lead to better stocking strategies, harvest regulations, or habitat enhancements. As a result, biologists frequently conduct diet studies for popular predatory fish such as muskellunge, walleye, northern pike, and bass.

“A recent study from Minnesota adds to our understanding of the diets of these species, indicating where they do or do not overlap. Researchers captured predatory fish from 10 lakes in Minnesota and essentially pumped their stomachs to determine what the fish had been eating.

“Muskellunge consumed the widest range of prey, while pike and walleye diets were predominantly yellow perch. Largemouth bass consumed fish such as perch, but also consumed more invertebrates such as crayfish and insect larvae.

“There was some degree of diet overlap among all four species. Muskellunge and largemouth bass had diets that were most different from one another, while pike and walleye were relatively more similar. These patterns largely held true across different seasons as well.”

Lakewoods Resort is hosting its annual World’s Longest Weenie Roast Saturday, March 1-3, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., on Lake Namakagon. The event includes snowmobile racing, the Snow Outlaws World Finals, music, food, and fun, with the Tic Tac Toe sausage toss, snow golf, and more.

All proceeds of the World’s Longest Weenie Roast go to benefit local EMS: Great Divide Ambulance, Namakagon Volunteer Fire Department, and other community groups.

Visit the Lakewoods Resort website for more details, or call (715) 794-2561.


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 February 15 HLVCB snowmobile trail report says Sawyer County trails closed due to conditions that do not allow for snowmobiling in Sawyer County.

The ATV/UTV trails remain open in Sawyer County. If you venture out on an ATV/UTV, make sure you follow the ATV/UTV map, know the map legend, and visit the DNR ATV website to review rules and regulations. For information on ATV/UTV trail conditions and seasonal closures, visit https://haywardlakes.com/trails/atv-utv/trail-conditions.

American Birkebeiner week is this week, February 21-25. Visit www.birkie.com for the latest update on this year’s race events. Skiing any part of the Birkie Trail System December through March requires a Birkie Trail Ski Pass. An All-Access Snow Pass is required to ski on the snowmaking loop. For more information, call (715) 634-5025.

Fishing Report

Fishing remains good to very good for most species, ice conditions improved a bit in the past week, and most lakes report 3-10+ inches of ice. It is inconsistent, however, and extreme caution and checking as you go remains important.

Please note that Wisconsin’s general inland gamefish season closes March 3 (less than two weeks!)

The upcoming ice shack removal dates in March are as follows:

• Wisconsin-Minnesota boundary waters by March 1.

• Wisconsin-Michigan boundary waters by March 15.

• Lake Superior and inland waters north of Hwy 64 by March 16.

Anglers can use portable shelters after these dates, but must remove them daily when not occupied or in use.


Walleye action is slower and fair. Early morning and dusk into dark offer the best success. Find fish in 6-28 feet on weeds, weedlines, rock, and shallow to deep transitions to lake basins. The most effective baits include walleye suckers and shiners on tip-ups that suspend baits near bottom, jigs, jigging spoons, Jigging Raps, and other jigging baits.

Northern Pike:

Northern pike action is very good to excellent for various size fish. Pike are in 6-28 feet, on weeds, weedlines, weed edges, shallow to deep transitions, and wherever you find panfish and baitfish concentrations. Northern suckers, walleye suckers, and shiners on tip-ups, jigs, and jigging spoons, Jigging Raps, dead bait, and rattlebaits will do the trick.


Crappie fishing is good to very good for fish suspending in lake basins in 15-30 feet, and anglers are catching some slabs. Check the entire water column! Crappie minnows, minnow parts, waxies, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs, plain hooks, and spoons are producing good action, as are small jigging baits and rattlebaits.


Bluegill fishing is good to very good, with anglers finding schools of fish around weeds and near the bottom in 8-22 feet. Waxies, spikes, minnows and minnow parts, plastics, and Gulp! baits on jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks work well, with small spoons also productive.


Perch fishing is good as fish begin their move to mudflats to pre-stage before spawn begins. Find them in 10-25 feet from weeds to mudflats to in between. Minnows on dead-sticks and minnow heads and tails, waxies, and plastics on jigs and small spoons are working well. Pounding baits in the mud to stir up the bottom will attract fish.

Upcoming Events

Feb. 21-25: 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).

March 1: Remove ice shacks from Wisconsin-Minnesota boundary waters.

March 1-3: Lakewoods ResortWorld’s Longest Weenie Roast (715-794-2561).

March 3: General inland gamefish season closes.

March 8-10: WI Women Fish Crappie Weekend – at Deerfoot Lodge (715-462-3328).

March 9: Fat Bike Birkie (715-634-5025).

March 10: Daylight Saving Time begins at 2 a.m. (set clocks ahead one hour).

March 13: Hayward Bass Club planning meeting at Hayward Rod & Gun Club (405-227-1789).

March 15: Remove ice shacks from Wisconsin-Michigan boundary waters.

March 16: Remove ice shacks from Lake Superior and inland waters north of Highway 64.

March 20: Crow season closes.

March 24: Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies Inc. awards banquet at Ranch Supper Club (715-634-4543).

March 25: Full Worm Moon.

March 31: Annual hunting and fishing licenses expire.

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.