Hayward Lakes Outdoor Report 3-5-24

Steve Suman

This will be another week of “mixed” weather, with high temperatures of 49 degrees, lows 20- to 21-degree, and a few chances for rain and/or snow ‑ and even some sunshine on a few days! For reference, March averages are high 41 degrees, low 15 degrees ‑ and 11 inches of snow. It is only two weeks until the Spring Equinox!

Daylight Saving Time begins at 2 a.m. this Sunday, March 10. Set your clocks ahead one hour ‑ yes, you lose one hour of sleep ‑ so go to bed early! Technically, you do not lose that hour ‑ it is just “on loan” until November!

“Temperatures in the Quiet Lakes’ area drop off this week,” says Greg at Happy Hooker, “but they will stay well above freezing during the day and slightly under freezing at night.

“Ice conditions are changing every day and we hear most of the flowage lakes and big lakes have big areas of open water. The smaller landlocked lakes are holding up well, with most reporting around 5-8 inches of ice. Anglers heading out from now until ice-out should be sure to check ice constantly when traveling to spots.

“Fishing slowed a bit from earlier in the ice season. Do not know if it is due to less angling pressure or the fish moving around and setting up on spawning spots.

“Flowing water near creek and river inlets will stir up baitfish and keep good oxygen in those areas. With no snow cover, shallow water bottoms are getting good light penetration, promoting vegetation growth.

“Panfish are all over right now and most likely setting up in shallower water as they start to transition to spawning areas. Do not venture too far out into the basins, as the ice is too unpredictable. Working jigs with waxies in and around weeds should produce some panfish in a safe manner!

“Now is a great time for people who own a cabin or lake house to get projects done before open water season. There is no remaining snow cover, so you can easily take care of all the outside projects, which will give everyone the opportunity to enjoy their summer playing, not working!”

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses results from the Nelson Lake survey.

“On February 6, the DNR held a meeting to hear from people about the Nelson Lake fishery. We were very pleased to host nearly 50 people at the Lenroot Town Hall for what ended up being a 1.5-hour discussion. A questionnaire filled out by meeting attendees had a matching version available online for two weeks following the meeting.

“The February 6 conversation and the online survey results provided us some important indications about what people want to see for the future of the Nelson Lake fishery. We received 229 responses to the survey that included a healthy mix of property owners, resident and non-resident anglers, resort guests, resort owners, and fishing guides.

“The feedback from resort guests was particularly exciting, since this group of anglers is very important to the local economy, but we seldom capture their feedback in these efforts. We were able to compare some of our 2024 results with a similar feedback exercise in 2004.

“Our survey found that black crappie had risen to be the top species of interest for Nelson Lake anglers. Crappie supplanted walleye, which was the top species in 2004, but are now the second species of interest in 2024. Angler interest increased for largemouth bass and yellow perch, while bluegill fell a bit, but remained the number three species.

“We asked anglers some specific questions about different management issues facing Nelson Lake. When asked about pike harvest and regulations, very few anglers expressed support for the current regulation of 32-inch minimum length limit, 1 fish daily bag limit. Most anglers wanted to see additional harvest opportunities for pike.

“We asked the angling community if it wanted a continued management emphasis such as time, stocking resources, etc., on walleye, or if the focus should shift to other species, given the relative lack of success in restoring walleye over the last 30 years.

“Anglers split on this question, with about 45 percent saying to continue a walleye-centric approach, 45 percent saying they would prefer to focus on other species such as panfish and bass, and 10 percent indicating interest in ‘new’ fishing opportunities in the lake. These results illustrate that our main management challenge of ‘what to do about the struggling walleye,’ persists.

“Other results, however, point to some straightforward direction and immediate actions. For example, in response to the results, new pike regulations that align better with angler preferences are under proposal. Other regulation and management strategy changes might follow.

“We thank all who offered their feedback on these issues and consider it a very productive exercise!”

Downtown Hayward will host its Shamrock Shuffle Saturday, March 16, from 11:45 a.m.-1:30 p.m., with a fun 5k run or walk and 1k run in Hayward, and kids races from 11:45 a.m.-noon. Participants can sign up as an individual or as a team. Register at https://raceroster.com/events/2024/81492/shamrock-shuffle. Early registration and packet pick-up with t-shirt is Friday, March 15, from 12-6 p.m. at Riverbrook Bike & Ski on Main St., or at 9 a.m. Saturday morning, March 16, before the race. The morning of the race packet pick up is at TNT Sports Bar on Main St. beginning at 10 a.m. The pet friendly event includes cookie awards, age class awards, best costume, and best dog costume. For more information, visit downtownhaywardwi.com or call (715-634-0437).

Hayward Bass Club will hold its spring planning meeting Wednesday, March 13, starting at 7 p.m., at Hayward Rod & Gun Club on County Hwy B three miles east of Hayward. Club members will select lakes to fish this summer and begin organizing teams and divisions. The club welcomes new members and invites interested anglers to attend this meeting. For more information, email haywardbassclub@gmail.com, visit the HBC website, or call (405) 227-1789.

The Fat Bike Birkie is this Saturday, March 9, in Cable. Riders can choose from three different events: Big Fat 47K, Half Fat 21K, and Fun Fat 10K Tour. Organizers are considering alternative courses due to lack of natural snow. For more information, visit www.birkie.com/bike/events/fat-bike-birkie or call (715) 634-5025.


The current HLVCB snowmobile trail report says Sawyer County trails closed due to conditions that do not allow for snowmobiling. Please stay off the lakes, as ice thickness varies greatly and is not safe for motorized traffic. Barring heavy snow (it could happen!), this is the final trail report for the season.

The HLVCB ATV/UTV trail conditions report says Sawyer County ATV/UTV trails remain open and this is a great time to ride. Visit the trail conditions report for a list of places where you can ride and current closures. Sawyer County allows side-by-side use on all ATV trails.

Note: The Sawyer County Snowmobile & ATV Alliance reports the Chequamegon National Forest is in conversation about a possible early spring trail closure to ATV/UTV traffic (normally begins March 15). The closure is not official until they announce it in a press release. Please follow U.S. Forest Service – Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest for updates. For specific questions, contact Cathy LaReau at cathy@sawyercountytrails.com or (715) 558-8966.

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 for closures, and visit the DNR ATV website to review rules and regulations.

The March 3 Birkie Trail conditions report says the crews decided to call a wrap on grooming for this season due to fast-deteriorating trail conditions. Trails will remain open for skiing at user discretion, but they ask that skiers remain vigilant and ski within comfort levels. The Fat Bike Birkie is this weekend, March 9, and crews will do the prep work for it, but any grooming will not extend beyond the race needs.

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

Anglers continue to ice fish and action is fair to good, but ice conditions are changing quickly with the warmer weather ‑ and the conditions at this time last year do not apply! Thin ice is thin ice, regardless of the calendar! While there is still fishable ice in many area, do use extreme caution when traveling on it ‑ both directions!

Anglers should be aware that:

Wisconsin’s general inland gamefish season closed Sunday, March 3. The 2025 gamefish season opens May 4.

The 2023-24 annual fishing and hunting licenses expire March 31. The 2024-25 licenses are now available for purchase through Go Wild or license sales locations statewide.

Ice shack removal dates include March 1 for WI-MN boundary waters; March 15 for WI-MI boundary waters; and March 16 for Lake Superior and inland waters north of Hwy. 64.

The Hayward Bass Club spring planning meeting is Wednesday, March 13, 7 p.m., at Hayward Rod & Gun Club.


Crappie fishing is good, with fish still spread from shallow to mid-depths and deeper (do not go there!) weeds and weedlines, often suspending, so check the entire water column! Baits of choice include crappie minnows, fatheads, waxies, spikes, Gulp! baits, and plastics on small jigs, plain hooks, and spoons.

Bluegill fishing is good to very good around shallow to mid-depth weeds, weedlines, and other cover. Best baits include waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs, teardrops, plain hooks, and spoons.

Perch fishing is fair to good. Find them on shallow to mid-depth weeds and weedlines, as well as on mudflats. Crappie minnows, fatheads, rosy reds, minnow pieces, waxies, spikes, and plastics on small jigs and spoons all work.

Upcoming Events

Feb. 29: Seasons closed: Cottontail rabbit; Squirrel (gray and fox).

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

March 3: General inland gamefish season closed.

March 8-10: Canceled – 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 16: Shamrock Shuffle in downtown Hayward (715-634-0437).

March 19: Spring equinox ‑ first day of spring!

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.