Hayward Lakes Outdoor Report 5-2-23

Steve Suman

Not a day too soon, it appears true spring weather will finally arrive in the North Woods just in time for the general inland fishing season opener! The much welcome change will occur almost overnight, and though there is a chance of rain for the weekend, there is also a chance of near-perfect fishing weather, with high temperatures in the mid- to upper 70s! It has been a long-time coming, testing the patience of nearly everyone. Get your plans in order and be ready to go!

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

“It was another gloomy weekend on the Quiet Lakes in the North Woods,” says Greg at Happy Hooker. “While hopes are not high, starting Tuesday of this week it looks as if it will get nice and stay that way, with temperatures in the 60s during the day and above freezing every night.

“The weather the past few weeks has not helped the lakes, as most of the big, deep lakes are still locked up with a decent amount of ice. It seems as if the only lakes open are those with river systems or the very small, shallow lakes. Still hopeful that all lakes will be open for the Saturday opener, but think it might be May 8 or 9 for some of them.

“There was very little fishing pressure this winter and no fishing pressure for the last month, and once the lakes open the bite should be excellent ‑ fish should be jumping into the boat!

“Anglers should go through their favorite gear and stock up this week, and go through the boats one last time to get ready for an excellent open water fishing season.

“We are not hearing much from turkey hunters, but we see and hear birds nearly every day, so they are active.”

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the importance of continued pike improvement projects.

“Some anglers are surprised to hear that northern pike are not a native species in most lakes throughout the Hayward area. Pike introduction into most area lakes occurred at different points in the 20th century, typically via unauthorized transfer from another waterbody.

“Pike have impacted musky populations on many of our most popular lakes and fish management has struggled with how to respond to this challenge. Musky stocking is now a widespread practice, including many lakes where stocking was historically unnecessary.

“Pike removals have proven potential. A removal project on LCO resulted in better pike size and improved muskellunge stocking and reproductive success.

“There have been attempts to generate large pike removal efforts on other lakes by utilizing anglers. In most cases, angling represents the best possible means to remove large numbers of pike while putting the fish to good use (such as great eating!) These programs have often operated under the name of ‘Pike Improvement Projects’ (PIP), since one of the goals is to improve the size of pike in the lake while also benefitting musky.

“The original PIP was organized in 2019 on the Chippewa Flowage, which has an abundant northern pike population with generally poor size. The PIP efforts in 2019, 2021, and 2022 have seen large numbers of pike harvested, but all have fallen short of our goals. The DNR plans to stock muskies in the Chippewa Flowage in fall 2023, meaning this year’s Chippewa Flowage PIP has elevated importance. Removing more pike before musky stocking will likely improve stocking success and help shift the balance between the two species.

“A PIP is in progress on Tiger Cat Flowage, where in recent years we have observed small pike in shocking amounts. The pike introduction in Tiger Cat is more recent than many other area lakes, and the hope is that the PIP will help keep them in check. This might be very difficult in a waterbody in which a large percentage of the habitat is very well suited for pike. Angling harvest represents the best means to remove large numbers of pike, and we encourage anglers to remove even very small pike.

“Lastly, a PIP on the Spider Chain is hoping to keep that waterbody an ‘action’ musky fishery. While initial efforts look positive, anglers need to stay diligent and perhaps increase their harvest efforts for it to be successful.

“If you fish one of these three lakes in 2023, please consider keeping the pike you catch. In all cases, there is a five fish daily bag limit and no size restrictions. It is illegal to kill pike ‑ or any fish ‑ and leave them in the lake or on the shoreline. Anglers must take the fish home to eat, give away, or use parts for garden compost.

“Pike are excellent to eat, whether baked, fried, or pickled, and there are numerous online diagrams and videos showing how to clean pike and avoid bones.”

Fire season is here and spring is the most critical fire season in Wisconsin. During the first week of April, the DNR responded to nearly 100 wildfires that burned more than 3,000 acres. Shortly after the snow disappears, a dry spring or even a few days between rains can leave grasses, pine needles, and leaf litter very dry, creating hazardous conditions.

Warmer temperatures, low humidity, and windy days, coupled with many landowners conducting spring clean-ups around their properties by burning yard waste, lead to the majority of wildfires. Be fire smart. Fire danger and burning restrictions change every day. For the most current fire situation and information, check current fire danger, wildfire reports, and burning restrictions on the DNR website.

Spring’s warmer weather and more sunlight sparks the desire to spend more time outdoors ‑ but also sparks an increase in thunderstorms and threats of lightning. It is important to stay aware of the forecast and know what to do if you hear thunder or see lightning.

According to National Weather Service Storm Data, over the last 30 years, the U.S. has averaged more than 40 reported lightning fatalities per year. People might think golfers account for the greatest number of lightning deaths, but this is a myth. A National Lightning Safety Council report shows that beach activities, camping, and fishing each account for more lightning fatalities than golf.

For more information, visit the National Lightning Safety Council website.

Hayward Chapter-Fishing Has No Boundaries will host its 36th Annual event May 19-20 at Lake Chippewa Campground on the Chippewa Flowage. Hundreds of volunteers will gather to assist 120-150 anglers with various disabilities to enjoy this unique fishing experience during the two-day event. Community involvement is outstanding, with individuals and business owners donating all watercraft used for the event. People interested in volunteering their time or watercraft should contact the chapter office. For more information, visit the Hayward Chapter-Fishing Has No Boundaries website or call (715) 634-3185.

Wisconsin’s 2023 spring turkey season is open and bonus harvest authorizations are still available for purchase for zones 1, 3, and 4. The spring season includes six, seven-day periods running Wednesday through the following Tuesday. Hunters should review the spring turkey hunting regulations in the fall 2022-spring 2023 combined hunting regulations. Turkey harvest registration is mandatory and hunters must register their turkey by 5 p.m. the day after recovery. Do so at gamereg.wi.gov or by calling (844) 426-3734, and use the number on the paper or electronic harvest authorization. Registering your turkey harvest remains a critical component of wildlife population management.

The DNR’s free Hunt Wild mobile app provides public lands maps, rules, regulations, and shooting hours. Through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the public has access to nearly 40,000 acres of private land through the Voluntary Public Access-Habitat Incentive Program and the Turkey Hunter Access Program. Select state parks allow spring turkey hunting during the two-day youth hunt and the first two periods of the regular season. For more information, visit the state park hunting webpage.

The DNR offers turkey hunters a “first harvest or experience certificate” to commemorate the experience and honor that special moment. The DNR also offers these certificates for deer, bear, bobcat, fisher, and otter. Hunters who would like to receive a first harvest or experience certificate should visit the First Harvest or Experience webpage on the DNR website. The DNR will send a printable certificate to your email address. For more information, search “turkey hunting” on the DNR website.

The Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame will host a memorial service May 5 for the late well-known and respected local guide Terry Peterson. The service runs from 12 noon to 2 p.m. and is open to the public. For more information, visit www.terrypetersonff.com or call the Hall at (715) 634-4440.

Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies Inc. welcomes the public to its club meeting Tuesday, May 2, at Flat Creek Lodge in Hayward. A general business meeting starts at 7 p.m. Following the business meeting, featured guest and speaker DNR fisheries biologist Nate Thomas, who works in Bayfield County, will discuss the musky lakes in his county. The meeting is open to everyone. Admission is free and anyone interested in becoming a new member of Muskies, Inc. can purchase a half-price membership at the meeting. For more information, call Mike Persson (715) 634-4543.

Fishing Report

Wisconsin’s general inland fishing season opens this Saturday, May 6. Before hitting the water, review the current regulations, as well as check for any rule changes for waters you plan to fish. Renew fishing licenses and boat registrations (some expired April 1). Check over boats, batteries, trailers, and equipment, fishing tackle, and make sure to locate rain gear ‑ just in case the low percentage rain chances are in error. Do not overlook some small, simple, seemingly trivial item and allow it spoil your opening day outing!

Upcoming Events

April 1: Boat registration renewals due for some boat owners.

April 30: Otter hunting/trapping season closed in North Zone.

May 2: Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies Inc. general business meeting, 7 p.m., Flat Creek Lodge (715-634-4543).

May 5: Full Flower Moon.

May 5: Early catch-and-release trout season closes (see regs).

May 5: Memorial service for Terry Peterson at Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, 12-2 p.m. (715-634-4440).

May 5: Fundraiser for Terry Peterson Shues Pond Memorial project at Angler’s Haven Resort, 3-7 p.m. (715-634-2757).

May 6: General inland fishing season opener (see regs).

May 19-20: FHNB event at the Lake Chippewa Campground on the Chippewa Flowage (715-634-3185).

May 27: Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum Heritage Day Celebration, Spooner (715-635-2479).

Through May 31: Applications accepted for 2023 elk season.

Spring Turkey Season Dates

Spring turkey season is six seven-day periods, Wednesday through the following Tuesday, in the seven zones open for hunting in 2023. Season dates are as follows:

Period B: April 26-May 2

Period C: May 3-9

Period D: May 10-16

Period E: May 17-23

Period F: May 24-30

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.