Hayward Lakes Outdoor Report 3-18-24

Steve Suman

Spring is set to begin (officially) Tuesday, March 19, but might change its arrival schedule with winter still showing a presence! The forecast for this week predicts lows ranging from 10 to 23 degrees and highs ranging from upper 20s to low 40s, which are near the norm for March. There are various chances for snow and flurries during this windy week, with Sunday possibly bringing some heavy snow ‑ the March average is about 11 inches. Whatever comes our way, we can be relatively sure it will be of short duration!

“It appears that all of the lakes in the Quiet Lakes area are now ice-free!” says Greg at Happy Hooker. “From the records we have here, this is the earliest ice-out since 1996 by at least two weeks.

“As great as that and the nice weather have been, it looks as if we are in for a stretch of cooler weather, with potential rain and snow that will last for a few days, though time will tell. Some anglers are pulling boats to the landings, so let the open water season begin! Of course, it is panfish only, with catch and release bass fishing until the May opener.

“Angler success reports are thin, but my guess is that crappie and panfish might be holding to cover, as there should be good weeds where they can hide. Little snow cover and thin ice all winter allowed light penetration and weeds could grow throughout the ice season. However, the water temperatures remain very cold.

“Early catch and release trout season is open through May 3. Water levels are very low in the rivers, streams, and creeks, so fish should be concentrating in fishable pockets of water. While fly fishing is the most popular way to target trout in rivers, anglers can do well with small inline spinners and small jigging minnows such as Mimic Minnows.”

Jarrett at Hayward Bait says that even with cold weather and a bit of snow, anglers are slowly making their way to their favorite lakes, as most are now free of ice.

“Crappies are biting on plastics and live bait in basins, according to some reports. Aside from the light crappie bite, other anglers are hitting the rivers for their first go at open water.

“For anglers fishing rivers, brown trout, suckers, and smallmouth bass are providing a good bite. Trout and bass action is mostly on spinners, while sucker success is with crawlers on bottom rigs.

“We are about a month and a half away from the May 4 inland gamefish opener, but in the meantime, there are plenty of other options to keep us busy!”

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses spring plans for the Hayward DNR fisheries team.

“March is usually just a prelude to spring for the Hayward DNR Fish Team, with the team using warming days to stretch out nets and check over boats. This year, it appears March will be much busier than usual!

“Lack of snow cover and thin ice will almost certainly lead to an early ‘ice-out’ date for area lakes, perhaps breaking records. Ice-out triggers a flurry of activity from DNR and tribal resource agency staff, ranging from surveying fish populations, collecting eggs for hatcheries, posting new angling regulation signs, and installing docks at boat landings.

“This year, the DNR Hayward Fish Team plans to survey Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO), Barber, Chippewa Flowage, Mud/Callahan, Indian, and Barker lakes. Target species will vary a bit from one lake to the next, but generally, our earliest survey efforts target walleye and northern pike, before we transition into surveying musky populations.

“Other DNR teams will conduct surveys on Whitefish and Grindstone lakes. Our research team will conduct fieldwork on Sand Lake and the Spider Chain.

“Some surveys will involve night electrofishing. Here are some general reminders about how to handle yourself if you are on the water at the same time as a fisheries crew:

  • Keep a safe distance from the buoys we place to mark nets.
  • Do not approach an electrofishing boat from your boat or a dock. Stay a safe distance and/or on shore.
  • Approaching us at the boat ramp or on the water during the day is generally okay. We are happy to answer questions and show people what we are catching when we are able to do so.

“Reports on our spring survey results usually become available by mid-summer.”

The DNR says now is the time to enroll in a hunter education course, as courses tend to fill up in the spring. Hunter education graduates receive a certificate accepted in every U.S. state, as well as Canada, and Mexico.

To purchase a hunting license, anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1973, must have hunter education certification unless hunting under the Mentored Hunting Law. The DNR offers multiple hunter education course formats and locations, so hunters can choose the best option for how and where they would like to learn. Course options include a traditional course, internet and field day, and online only (18 years and older).

Visit Go Wild to search for upcoming courses in your area.

For more information on hunter education classes, search “hunter education” on the DNR website.

Sales of bonus spring turkey harvest authorizations began at 10 a.m. Monday, March 18, through license sales locations and the Online Licensing Center. Each turkey management zone has a designated sales date. Sales begin at 10 a.m. and run through midnight each day. Sales continue for five consecutive days, with customers able to purchase one harvest authorization per day.

Search “bonus spring turkey permits” on the DNR website for a list of permits available for zones and periods. (No bonus permits are available for Zone 6 that includes Sawyer County.) Check “bonus permit availability” on the DNR website to see the number of permits available, if any, in the various zones.

  • Zone 1 – Monday, March 18
  • Zone 2 – Tuesday, March 19
  • Zone 3 – Wednesday, March 20
  • Zone 4 – Thursday, March 21
  • Zone 5 – Friday, March 22
  • Zone 6 – (no permits available)
  • Zone 7 – Friday, March 22

All remaining authorizations for all zones go on sale Saturday, March 23, starting at 10 a.m., on a first-come, first-served basis. Cost is $10 for residents and $15 for nonresidents. Please note you must have or purchase a spring turkey license and stamp at the time of purchase. Sales continue at one per person per day until sold out or the season ends.

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

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

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

The Hayward Veterans Community Center is hosting a Fundraiser for Fallen Veterans this Saturday, March 23, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. This event is to raise funds for the renovation of the graves of 256 veterans at Greenwood Cemetery, at a cost of more than $43,000. This will be a fun social event with a raffle, coffee, sweet treats, and a hot dog lunch. Join the event to support our veterans in this amazing project. For more information, call (715) 634-2558.


The DNR requires trail passes for non-residents; Wisconsin residents must display their registration sticker. State law requires riders to run headlights at all times when operating. Follow the ATV/UTV map, know the map legend, check the HLVCB ATV/UTV trail conditions report and Sawyer County Snowmobile & ATV Alliance report for closures, and visit the DNR ATV website to review rules and regulations.

According to the Sawyer County Snowmobile & ATV Alliance report as of March 18, all county land ATV/UTV trails are now under spring closure (dark green areas on the map), as are Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest trails (light green areas). Roads and routes marked legal for ATV/UTV riding are open. Each township has its own set of ordinances on open town roads. If you are uncertain, make sure to check with the township.

Tuscobia (Trail 10) is open to ride, with the exception of Trail 11/9-Mile Loop. National forest trails open May 1; County trails open May 15. This might change due to the early spring. Check back for updates!

For specific questions, contact Cathy LaReau at cathy@sawyercountytrails.com or call (715) 558-8966.

Fishing Report

The ice is gone, but cold temperatures and snow are still in play, even with spring starting Tuesday. Gamefish season closed, but options remain available for anglers, including panfish, catch and release for bass and trout, and sucker fishing. This is an excellent time to organize and prepare tackle, nets, boats, and other gear and equipment, and to purchase your new 2024-25 license before the May 4 fishing opener (that is only slightly more than six weeks out!)

Early catch and release season for inland trout continues until May 3 on select waters. Anglers must use artificials only, immediately release any trout they catch, and should practice responsible catch and release. For more information, visit the DNR’s trout fishing webpage and Guide to Wisconsin’s Trout Fishing Regulations.

Wisconsin’s general inland gamefish season closed Sunday, March 3. The 2024 gamefish season opens May 4. The 2023-24 annual fishing and hunting licenses expire March 31; 2024-25 licenses are now available.

Upcoming Events

March 18-23: Bonus spring turkey authorizations on sale.

March 19: First day of spring (vernal equinox).

March 20: Crow season closes.

March 23: Fundraiser for Fallen Veterans at Hayward Veterans Community Center, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (715-634-2558).

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

March 25: Full Worm Moon.

March 25: Good Friday.

March 31: Annual hunting and fishing licenses expire (New licenses now available and immediately valid.)

March 31: Some boat registrations expire ‑ is your registration current?

March 31: Easter Sunday.

April 1: Panfish limit changes take effect on Moose, Osprey, and Island lakes.

April 8-13: DNR annual Spring Hearing at Winter High School.

April 13-14: Spring Youth Turkey Hunt.

April 15: Seasons close: Mink and muskrat trapping in North Zone.

April 15: Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame opens for the season (715-634-4440).

April 23: Full Pink Moon.

April 30: Trapping seasons close: Beaver (Northwest Zone); Otter (North Zone).

May 3: Early inland trout catch and release season closes.

May 4: General inland gamefish season opener (715-634-7429).

May 9-11: Treeland Challenge bass and walleye release tournament (715-462-3874).

Spring Turkey Season Dates

Spring turkey season is six, seven-day periods running Wednesday through the following Tuesday, in seven zones.

Youth Hunt: April 13-14

Period A: April 17-23

Period B: April 24-30

Period C: May 1-7

Period D: May 8-14

Period E: May 15-21

Period F: May 22-28

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.