Hayward Lakes Outdoor Report 5-29-23

Steve Suman

The North Woods’ string of sunny, dry weather might see its end this week. Some rainy days in the forecast, but with high temperatures remaining in the mid-to upper-80s. Enjoy the wonderful summerlike weather, but make sure to have abundant bug repellent available!

“With Quiet Lakes’ water temperatures in the low to mid 60s, all fish should be active,” says Greg at Happy Hooker. “It appears most panfish have spawned, but are still shallow.

“Musky season opener offered good water temperatures, consistent weather, and lots of shallow baitfish. Start shallow on weed beds, working towards deeper edges, with fast moving baits such as bucktails and spinnerbaits. If no action results, slow down and try glide baits and jerkbaits.

“Walleye fishing slowed with fish moving to structure and points in 10-15 feet. Minnows and crawler chunks on jigs are productive, as are trolled crankbaits.

“Northern pike are post spawn and now in the shallows chasing panfish. The water is warming and spinnerbaits and shallow diving crankbaits can be fantastic this time of year.

“Largemouth bass are shallow in some smaller bays, likely feeding on minnows and other small baitfish. Bobber rigs with bigger plain hooks, sinkers, and good size crawler chunks work well, and spinnerbaits will now start producing.

“Smallmouth bass are on and around rocky points and sand and rock shorelines heading to deeper water. Right now, jigs, crankbaits, and drop-shot rigs can produce.

“Crappies have mostly spawned, but are still shallow, around emerging weed beds in 3-8 feet. Most anglers are taking crappies with crappie minnows and fatheads on small jigs or hooks under bobbers.

“Bluegills are stacked in shallow weeds and still active as they start post-spawn. Keep rigs a simple crawler and hook under a bobber. Anglers are also doing well with small jigs and plastics, Cubbies, Beetle Spins, and Mimic Minnows.

“Perch are in shallower weeds or a little deeper along rocky points and rock and gravel bars. Set-ups with crappie minnows under bobbers always seem to work well for perch.”

Jarrett at Hayward Bait says it is now musky season, with the opener this past weekend.

“Many muskies are in 5-15 feet, in areas with structure, but will not be on an early season tear. Think smaller musky suckers, large northern suckers, bucktails, and larger Mepps.

“Walleye anglers still find fish shallow, though fish slide to 8-12 feet during daylight hours. Minnows on jigs or slip bobbers work well, and leeches are just starting to come around with the water warming. During evening hours, fish scoot shallow in 2-6 feet and you can pick up the pace and throw crankbaits and stickbaits for active fish.

“Northern pike are shallow, with some bigger fish moving deeper to recover. With most of the food chain shallow this time of the year, many smaller pike will stay shallow. Count on live bait, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits, and spoons to trigger aggressive pike.

“Largemouth and smallmouth bass spawning temperatures are fast approaching and many fish will roam the shallow bays near where they will spawn. For largemouth, check weedy, muddy bays that are warming quickly. For smallmouth, sandy and rocky areas bring in fish looking for bedding materials. Wacky worms, Ned rigs, spinnerbaits, and chatterbaits all work well right now.

“Crappies just moved in within the last week and some populations are spawning. Look for pencil reeds and shoreline structure such as downed trees and timber, and pitch thoroughly with minnows or plastics under bobbers. Wherever you find one crappie, there will likely be more!

“Bluegills are shallow, with the main spawn somewhere from early to mid-June, depending on the lake. Currently, many fish are roaming those shallows looking for food. Crawlers and small leeches on jigs, fished under bobbers or dragged across the bottom, will perform well.”

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the best month to catch different fish species.

“Working in a tourist area, I field many calls from people planning their fishing vacations and trips. Often, folks are asking for the best time to visit to target different species.

“Our survey data reveal some interesting patterns in catch rate for different species, depending on the month. Here, I will use Chippewa Flowage creel data, but these patterns are generally consistent across lakes in our area and vary only a little from one year to another.

“The walleye catch rate ‑ number of fish caught per hour of angling ‑ is highest in May, especially in years when spawning and post-spawn behavior are still happening close to the May fishing opener. Catch rates drop for the rest of the summer months before increasing somewhat in October.

“Crappies follow a similar pattern, with the highest catch rate in May, followed by September and October. The bluegill catch rate is highest in June spawning time, followed by July.

“Largemouth and smallmouth bass catch rates are highest in August, though rates are also high in May, July, and September.

“Muskellunge catch rates are highest in September, followed by October. Northern pike catch rates are considerably higher in May than any other month, followed by June, and low throughout the rest of the summer months.

“These collective results demonstrate some temperature preferences of these fish species.

“Coolwater species such as walleye, muskellunge, and pike catch rates are highest in the early summer or fall months when water temperatures are lower. Warmwater species such as bass and bluegill catch rates are higher during the peak summer months.

“These results illustrate the importance of fishing at the most effective time for your desired species. This is not always what people planning a vacation want to hear, since many want to catch walleye or musky, but might be able to take their vacation only in the peak summer months when kids are not in school.

“Of course, climate change and expected warmer water temperatures will only exacerbate these patterns, pushing the prime coolwater angling opportunities further into the early and late parts of the open water season, and creating more frequent conditions that are favorable for bass and panfish fishing.”

Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies Inc. welcomes the public to its club meeting Tuesday, June 6, at Flat Creek Lodge. Admission is free. A business meeting starts at 6:30 p.m., followed by a DNR Spooner Hatchery fisheries biologist who will explain the raising of fish from egg gathering to stocking. 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.

Free Fishing Weekend and Free Fun Weekend in Wisconsin is this weekend, June 3-4, when residents and nonresidents of all ages can fish without a fishing license or trout stamps. All other regulations apply. During this weekend, the DNR does not require admission stickers at any of the 50 state parks or 15 state forests. It waives trail pass requirements for residents and non-residents, and opens all trails to the public. For more information, search “Free Fun Weekend” on the DNR website.

A Kids Fishing Derby is Saturday, June 3, from 9 a.m.-12 noon, at Lake Hayward City Beach Park. The event is open to youth 1-15 years old. The participants fish from the big fishing pier and around the park shoreline. The event offers prizes for the casting contest winners and biggest fish for various age categories. Kids bring their own gear or use some from the DNR. All kids receive fishing gifts. For more information, call (405) 227-1789.

The DNR reminds Wisconsin hunters that the application deadline for the 2023 elk season is May 31. The 2023 elk hunting season runs from Saturday, Oct. 14 through Sunday, Nov. 12; and Thursday, Dec. 14 through Friday, Dec. 22. Successful applicants can hunt during either period. For more information, search “elk hunting” on the DNR website.


Musky season opened in the Northern Musky Zone this past weekend and drew considerable angler interest. Panfish and bass are now preparing to spawn, spawning, or finishing spawn, while other species are moving deeper.

Remember: Smallmouth bass fishing is catch-and-release only in the Northern Bass Zone until June 17.


Musky fishing reports are still coming in from opening weekend and so far no concrete details. Look for fish on or around the edges of weeds, weedlines, weed beds, and other structure, as well as along shorelines, in depths to about 12 feet. Suckers, bucktails, spinnerbaits, gliders, jerkbaits, and #5 Mepps can all produce action.


Walleye action slowed as fish disperse and move deeper, but anglers are still finding good action. Try points and structure in 8-17 feet during the day; work depths out to 8 feet in very late afternoon into evening. Minnows, leeches, and crawlers on jigs and slip bobbers, as well as trolled crankbaits and stickbaits, are all working.

Northern Pike:

Northern pike fishing is good to very good, with some post-spawn fish around shallow weeds and panfish concentrations, and some moving deeper. Northern suckers, jigs and minnows, spinners, spinnerbaits, spoons, jerkbaits, and crankbaits are all producing.

Largemouth Bass:

Largemouth bass fishing is good to very good with water warming and fish preparing to spawn. Find them in shallow weedy bays and along sandy shorelines. Try live bait including crawlers, leeches, and minnows, wacky worms, Ned rigs, spinners, spinnerbaits, stickbaits, and crankbaits.

Smallmouth Bass:

Smallmouth bass fishing (catch-and-release only until June 17) is good to very good as fish are on or near shallow to mid-depth rock and sand shorelines, points, and humps, preparing to spawn. Top baits include live bait on jigs, Ned rigs, drop-shot rigs, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and chatterbaits, wacky worms, and plastics.


Crappie fishing is good to very good as fish are spawning and/or post-spawn, depending on the lake. Look for fish in depths from 2-10 feet around timber, trees, reeds, and other structure along the shoreline. Crappie minnows, fatheads, and plastics on small jigs and plain hooks under bobbers work well.


Bluegill fishing is very good to excellent, with anglers finding fish shallow and in shallow weeds. Look for “elephant tracks” (nests) on shallow, sandy bottoms. Best baits include waxies, worms, crawler pieces, panfish leeches, and plastics on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks, fished with/without bobbers, and small Beetle Spins.

Upcoming Events

May 31: Application deadline for 2023 elk season tag.

June 3: Full Strawberry Moon.

June 3-4: Free Fishing Weekend.

June 3: Kids Fishing Derby, Lake Hayward Park, 8 a.m.-Noon (405-227-1789).

June 6: Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies Inc. meeting 6:30 p.m., speaker to follow, Flat Creek Lodge (715-634-4543).

June 17: Smallmouth bass harvest season opens in Northern Bass Zone.

June 17: Chequamegon 100 (715-798-3599).

June 21: Summer Solstice (first day of summer).

June 23-25: Musky Fest (715-634-8662).

June 23-25: Musky Fest FHNB Fishing Contest (715-634-3185).

June 23-24: DNR Learn to Fish at Shues Pond.

June 25: Hayward Bass Club Round Lakes Open, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (405-227-1789).

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.