Hayward Lakes Outdoor Report 5-28-24

Steve Suman

Memorial Day weekend’s weather was mild, windy, and not as “wet” as predicted. This week’s forecast calls for sunshine, mild temperatures, and slight shower chances… so keep “Plan B” handy!

Quiet Lakes’ waters are in the low 60s and the bite is not easy,” says Greg at Happy Hooker. “Anglers currently report better luck on the warmer Chippewa Flowage.

“Muskies are in weedy bays where panfish are spawning. Starting small is not necessary. Muskies have already smacked fish anglers were playing, and if muskies eat 10-inch crappies and 15-inch walleyes, they will eat 9-inch crankbaits, Bull Dawgs, and Medussas. Vary blade retrieves, and pause twitchbaits, minnowbaits, and crankbaits.

“Walleyes are on shallower weeds and structure, and off deeper rocky points and structure. Minnowbaits are good, and walleye suckers and leeches work well.

“Northern pike are in weedy bays or big weed flats. They will hit musky baits, bass size crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and minnows on jigs or bobbers.

“Largemouth bass are in warming, north side bays that receive the most sun, hitting crappie minnows and fatheads under bobbers.

“Smallmouth bass are on sand-to-rock bottom transitions. Skirted jigs with trailers and deep crankbaits will trigger active fish, and try minnows or leeches on slip bobbers at dusk.

“Crappie action is sporadic and fish might not have spawned yet. They are not stacked shallow and anglers still find them in 6-9 feet. Crappie minnows work best.

“Bluegill and perch are around shallow weeds. Crawlers, minnows, and small artificials are all catching fish now.”

Jarrett at Hayward Bait says musky anglers are targeting fish from shallow to 15 feet.

“Anglers should use small jerkbaits, bucktails, plastics, and musky suckers.

“Walleye fishing is steady, with fish in 8-15 feet. During the day, use fatheads or extra-large leeches on slip bobbers. In the evening, switch to jerkbaits and crankbaits.

“Northern pike fishing is very good, with most anglers finding fish near shallow crappie and bluegill. Spinners, swimbaits, jerkbaits, fatheads, and walleye suckers work well. New pike regulations encourage harvest.

“Largemouth and smallmouth bass in 6-12 feet offer great jerkbait bites. Smallmouth are starting to move onto beds, so check gravel and rock flats to get kids on some fun fish. Give Rapala BX Minnows and Rapala Husky Jerks a chance. Some big fish are making their way in to spawn.

“Crappies are anywhere from spawning, within a few days of spawning, or have finished spawning on some dark waterbodies. Look for pencil reeds or standing vegetation near shorelines that extend into the water. Fish are often as shallow as 1 foot. Fatheads, crappie minnows, waxies, leaf worms, and plastics are all great go-to baits.

“Bluegills are moving shallow and will remain there for a couple weeks. They will roam in packs, visible near shorelines in clear water, or watch for topwater dimples formed by feeding fish.”

Mike at Jenk’s says the Chippewa Flowage is down less than one foot, with mid-60s water temperatures.

“Muskies are hanging around bluegills spawning in shallow weeds. Small baits are advantageous, such as Tinsel Tail spinners, crankbaits such as Grandmas, Jakes, Cranes, and SS Shads, and topwaters such as Googan Revolvers, Whopper Ploppers, and Cisco Kid Toppers.

“Walleyes remain in weeds in 8-15 feet, with many reports of fish in bigger schools. Electronics are critical to ensure that you are marking baitfish, and if not, move. Baits of choice are medium walleye suckers and jumbo leeches.

“Northern pike are chasing baitfish and bluegills in shallow weeds. Live bait, Tinsel Tails, crankbaits, and weedless spoons are the ticket.

“Largemouth bass are biting strong in shallow bays on the west side. For smallmouth, there is little to report, though one angler reported considerable luck on Ned Rigs.

“Crappies completed spawning and some anglers report catching 10-15 on the bogs at night. Crappie minnows, Bobby Garland plastics (especially imitation mayflies), Mini-Mites, and Gulp! Minnows are all solid for crappie.

“Bluegills are spawning in shallow weeds. Waxies and small worms on Voodoo Bugger and Marabou jigs are producing success.

“Perch anglers report success for 10- to 12-inch perch along shorelines with weeds and downed trees. Fish are hitting minnows and to a lesser extent worms.”

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses Barker Lake surprises.

“In spring 2023, the DNR Hayward Fish Team intended to perform a fish survey on Barker Lake, along the East Fork of the Chippewa River. However, at that time, the water was too high to survey the lake safely.

“To start spring 2024, the water was too low, but after some well-timed rains, the water levels were adequate to conduct a survey. In the first week of May, as water temperatures rose into the mid-50F-degree range, our team set six fyke nets targeting musky and crappie.

“Day one of the survey mostly aligned with our expectations. Crappies were abundant and of nice size, we caught a large musky, and we netted a fair number of very healthy smallmouth bass.

“On day two, a few unexpected things happened. A net set along the north shore of the lake produced a very healthy channel catfish. We know channel cats exist in Barker Lake and several other lakes in the upper Chippewa River drainage, but catching them has always been rare.

“Our previous fyke netting and electrofishing surveys on Barker Lake did not capture any catfish, though survey crews in mid-2010 caught a few in sturgeon nets. The catfish we caught in spring 2024 was only the second catfish ever captured in a fyke net in Sawyer County, and the first since 1966.

“We thought we had a rare event on our hands ‑ until two nets later when we caught a second, even larger channel cat! This second catfish was 32 inches long and very healthy. To cap it off, there was a 54-inch sturgeon in the same net!

“Barker offers a lot of interesting angling opportunities for bass, panfish, and musky. If you venture out there you might have your own unexpected catch as well!”

Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies Inc. invites the public to attend its club meeting Tuesday, June 4, at Flat Creek Lodge in Hayward. The business meeting is at 6:30 p.m. and the general meeting at 7 p.m. Featured speaker is local angler Christian Dueholm, who will discuss spot-on musky fishing and building musky lures. Admission is free and attendees interested in becoming a new member of Muskies, Inc. can purchase a half-price membership.

For more information, call Mike Persson (715) 634-4543.

Wisconsin’s Free Fishing and Free Fun Weekend is this Saturday and Sunday, June 1-2. Residents and nonresidents do not need a fishing license or trout/salmon stamps, but all fishing regulations apply, including bag and length limits. State parks waive admission stickers, admission fees, and state trails will not require trail passes. For more information, search “Free Fun Weekend” on the DNR website.

A free Kids Fishing Derby for youth 1-15 years of age (accompanied by parent or guardian) is this Saturday, from 9 a.m.-noon, at Lake Hayward Park. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. Anglers will fish from the park shoreline and large fishing dock. The event provides bait, loaner tackle, prizes, casting contest, and a booth where youth can make their own baits. For more information visit the HBC website or call Wayne at (715) 699-1015.

The application deadline for 2024 elk season tags is Friday May 31. Applicants must select the Clam Lake Elk Zone or Black River Elk Zone. Only Wisconsin residents can purchase an elk license application through Go Wild or a license sales agent. The application fee is $10. The DNR will notify drawing winners by early June. For those selected, the harvest license costs $49. For more information, search “elk hunting” on the DNR website.


On May 16, the Sawyer County Board of Supervisors voted to allow ATV/UTV traffic on all Sawyer County Roads, except those within the LCO Reservation. However, these roads will NOT OPEN until the county signs the roads, which could take six weeks. Check the HLVCB ATV/UTV trail conditions report and Sawyer County Snowmobile & ATV Alliance report for updates on these roads and other changes.

An ATV safety education class will be available June 28-29, in Winter in Sawyer County. The course fee is $10. For more information, to contact those presenting the class, and to register, go to your gowild.wi.gov account, go to safety education, register, and choose ATV and Sawyer County. Conservation wardens recommend all ATV/UTV operators complete a safety course.

Fishing Report

Fishing remains good for most species. Crappie and bluegill are leading the charge, with predator fish close behind (figuratively and actually!) Anglers find the best action in the warmest waters. The DNR’s online 2024 Wisconsin Fishing Report provides the outlook for various species. Review new regulation changes in effect for some Sawyer County waters, especially for panfish and northern pike.

Smallmouth bass fishing in the Northern Bass Zone is catch-and-release only until June 15.


Musky season in the Northern Musky Zone opened this past weekend. Look for fish in and around shallow weeds, weedlines, and near concentrations of spawning panfish in depths to 15 feet. Suckers, bucktails, Bull Dawgs, Medussas, spinnerbaits, twitchbaits, crankbaits, jerkbaits, plastics, and topwaters are all drawing the interest of muskies!


Walleye fishing is good, though inconsistent. Find fish on shallow weeds and weedlines, deeper rock points and brush, and other structure, in 8-15 feet, and around baitfish. Best offerings include walleye suckers, fatheads, leeches, and crawlers on jigs and/or under slip bobbers, jerkbaits, crankbaits, and minnowbaits.

Northern Pike:

Northern pike action is very good to excellent in and around shallow weeds, weedlines, bays, flats, and crappie, bluegill, and baitfish concentrations. Northern suckers, walleye suckers, fatheads, spinners, spinnerbaits, spoons, swimbaits, minnowbaits, and jerkbaits all catch pike.

Largemouth Bass:

Largemouth bass fishing is good, with fish moving to shallow bays for spawning purposes. Crappie minnows, fatheads, leeches, and crawlers on jigs and/or slip bobbers, jerkbaits, plastics, and minnowbaits are working well.

Smallmouth Bass:

Smallmouth fishing is good, but few anglers are targeting these fish. Look for the fish on rock and gravel flats, sand to rock bottom transitions, and in shallow bays in depths to 12 feet. Sucker minnows and leeches on slip bobbers, jerkbaits, crankbaits, Ned rigs, and swimbaits with trailers are producing catches. Note: Smallmouth bass fishing in the Northern Bass Zone is catch-and-release only until June 15.


Crappie fishing is good to very good as the fish are between spawning and finished spawning, depending on the lake. Find them on very shallow weeds out to around 10 feet, as well as on bogs at night. Crappie minnows, fatheads, waxies, worms, leaf worms, plastics, Mini-Mites, and Gulp! Minnows are all very effective at this time.


Bluegill and perch are shallow, in and near weeds, wood, and sand bottoms, with bluegills spawning or near spawn. Top bait choices include waxies, worms, leaf worms, crawler chunks, small minnows, panfish leeches, plastics, and Gulp! baits on plain and dressed jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks fished with/without bobbers.

Upcoming Events

May 28: Spring turkey season Period F ends, finishing spring season.

May 31: Application deadline for 2024 elk season tag.

June 1-2: Free Fishing Free Fun Weekend.

June 1: Kids Fishing Derby at Lake Hayward Park (youth 1-15 years old), 8 a.m.-noon (405-227-1789).

June 4: Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies Inc. general meeting 7 p.m., Flat Creek Lodge (715-634-4543).

June 15: Smallmouth bass harvest season opens in the Northern Bass Zone.

June 20: Summer Solstice.

June 21: Full Strawberry Moon.

June 21-22: Hayward Bass Club/Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies Inc.Musky Fest fishing contest (405-227-1789).

June 21-23: 74th Annual Musky Fest (715-634-8662).

June 23: Hayward Bass Club – Round Lake Open, 8 a.m.-4 .pm., (405-227-1789).

June 28-29: ATV/UTV safety education class in Winter.

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.