Hayward Lakes Outdoor Report 5-31-2022

Steve Suman

Once we make it through the first two days of this week, the forecast shows some promise! Highs in the low 70s, lows in the mid-40s, and sunshine ahead… says the current forecast. Enjoy all the North Woods has to offer ‑ and carry insect repellent!

Quiet Lakes’ fishing is good,” says Greg at Happy Hooker, “with walleye anglers finding fish and crappie anglers catching plenty of limits.

“Muskies are around shallow weeds, feeding on panfish and baitfish, and hitting small bucktails, swimbaits, and spinnerbaits. Prior to opener, we heard multiple reports of inadvertent musky catches and big fish hitting crappies as anglers pulled them to the boat.

“Walleye fishing is good, with anglers catching many 14- to 15-inch ‘cookie cutter’ fish, and some more than 20 inches. Fish are shallow, hitting fatheads and leeches on jigs. Fish sandy shorelines near weed beds and basins, starting in 3-5 feet and working deeper until you find them.

“Northern pike are around weeds, hitting Rapalas, spinnerbaits, chatterbaits, crankbaits, and walleye rigs. Pike are abundant and easy to catch on many lakes.

“Largemouth bass are in shallow, weedy bays. Spinnerbaits and soft swimbaits with fast retrieves, and weedless plastic worms and crawlers are good.

“Smallmouth bass anglers are catching some very nice fish on fatheads and plastics on jigs and walleye rigs.

“Crappies on shallow weeds and shorelines are hitting minnows, Tattle-Tails, Crappie Scrubs, and small Beetle Spins.

“Bluegills are around docks, shorelines, and sandy beaches. Dropping crawlers under floats on spawning beds will fire them up and make them aggressive.

“Perch are in weeds in 5-10 feet and crappie minnows on plain hooks under floats are very good.”

Levi and Jarrett at Hayward Bait say muskies anglers should focus on warm, dark bottom bays, and live bait and slow presentations could work best.

“Walleye fishing is good in 5-8 feet in early morning and late evening. Walleye suckers, fatheads, and leeches on jigs and under slip bobbers work well, as do medium crankbaits and jerkbaits on weedlines and steep breaklines.

“Northern pike are very active in 5-10 feet and in warm, shallow, dark bays. Northern suckers, walleye suckers, spinnerbaits, and topwaters are all producing.

“Largemouth bass fishing is good in 3-5 feet around weeds and lily pads in shallow bays, or sand bottoms where you might find spawning fish. Some fish have spawned and some are clinging to beds. It is an all-day bite, with mornings best for topwaters. Plastics, crankbaits, and jerkbaits, and fatheads on slip bobbers are working well.

“Smallmouth bass are in 4-10 feet and on beds. Jerkbaits are the key, with some success on leeches, fatheads, and topwaters. The bite slows in the evening.

“Crappie fishing is very good, with fish near shallow spawning areas and downed trees and structure in 8-10 feet. Crappie minnows, fatheads, waxies, and plastics work well. Look for spawning to start as temperatures warm.

“Bluegill fishing is good on waxies, leaf worms, and crawler in shallow, weedy bays in 3-5 feet. Start looking near spawning areas as the weather warms.”

Cathy at Minnow Jim’s says it is great the fish are biting, less great the mosquitos are biting, and even less great the ticks are biting ‑ and nightly tick checks are now a must!

“Walleye anglers are catching fish on minnows and leeches fished near the bottom in 10 feet and deeper.

“Northern pike are near shallow panfish, taking sucker minnow under bobbers.

“Largemouth bass are in developing weed beds, hitting spinnerbaits and chatterbaits.

“Crappie and bluegill are in warmer water in 3 feet. If not there, move away from shore to about 8 feet. Waxies, worms, crawlers, and leeches on jigs or bobbers will work.”

Mike at Jenk’s says the Chippewa Flowage pool is full, with water temperatures in the high 50s.

“Musky fishing started this past weekend and small baits ‑ 6 inches or less ‑ are the way to go in early spring. Considering the cool water, try floating a small musky sucker.

“Walleyes moved a bit deeper, with reports of fish in weeds in 8-12 feet, but also in river channels in 15-18 feet. Minnows and leeches remain the live baits of choice, with Husky Jerks and Flicker Shads for artificials.

“Northern pike are taking live bait and spinners on the west side; the back bays of Chief Lake are good places to start.

“Crappies at this point are probably in the middle to end of spawn and will head to deeper water. Start shallow and work your way deeper. Minnows, Mini-Mites, and Gulp! Minnows are the ticket!”

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses Lake Hayward, the 8th wonder of the fisheries world.

“When longtime DNR fisheries technician Russ Warwick would recommend people try fishing in Lake Hayward, many thought he was pulling their leg. Surely, a small lake that sits in the middle of town cannot be a hidden fishing gem, but as usual, Russ was right ‑ Lake Hayward is an exceptional fishery for many different species!

“Starting at the top, of the 80 muskies caught on area lakes during the 2017 Muskies Inc. fall tournament, which lake produced the biggest that year? Yes, Lake Hayward, and that was no fluke, as we consistently see big muskies in Lake Hayward, including 50-inch fish.

“Lake Hayward also has a decent northern pike fishery. A 2013 netting survey found 16 percent of pike in Lake Hayward were greater than 28 inches, a percentage of big pike that is considerably higher than most other lakes in this area. Our 2022 survey found a 40-inch pike, a coveted mark for anglers.

“Panfish are another plus for Lake Hayward. Bluegills greater than 8 inches are relatively common and caught throughout the lake, including from the fishing pier near the city beach. We also saw a 10-inch bluegill in a 2022 survey.

“Crappie and perch can reach good size too, especially perch. Harvest of panfish might be high, especially during winter months, and yet Lake Hayward retains good panfish size year after year.

“Anglers can also encounter largemouth and smallmouth bass, the occasional large walleye, and even brown trout during colder months.

“One of the reasons Lake Hayward is such a productive fishery is that the fish have access to a diversity of habitat. Fish can spend time in the weedy, calm lake, or venture upstream into the Namekagon River. This may be particularly important for coolwater fish such as muskellunge and pike that might seek out cooler water during the peak summer months. The river is also a source of productivity for the fishery, delivering nutrients and food for fish.

“If you scratch your head about where to fish in the Hayward area, listen to Russ and do not discount the spot that is right under your nose ‑ Lake Hayward!”

Free Fishing and Free Fun Weekend is June 4-5, when the DNR waives all fishing license, trail pass, and state park admission fees for all visitors. Wisconsin is home to 84,000 miles of rivers and streams, approximately 15,000 lakes49 state parks, 15 state forests, 44 state trails, and more. Saturday, June 4, is National Trails Day and Wisconsin has thousands of miles of trails to enjoy. Visit the DNR website for a list of state properties. For more information, search “Free Fun Weekend” on the DNR website.

Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies Inc. invites the public to attend its club meeting Tuesday, June 7, at Flat Creek Lodge in Hayward. Admission is free. A general business meeting starts at 7 p.m. Featured speakers local DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter and Spooner-based DNR musky research biologist Colin Dassow will cover a variety of musky topics. Anyone interested in becoming a new Muskies, Inc. member can purchase a half-price membership at the meeting. For more information, contact Mike Persson at (715) 634-4543.

May 31 is the elk tag drawing application deadline for the 2022 Wisconsin elk hunting season!


Bass and panfish species are in pre- to post-spawn mode, so talk with your favorite bait shop staff current fish locations, favored baits, presentations, and bite windows. This weekend, June 4-5, is Free Fishing Weekend!


Musky season just opened and fish are post spawn or nearing completion. Target shallow bays, weeds, and concentrations of panfish. Smaller bucktails, spinnerbaits, swimbaits, stickbaits, and small musky suckers can all attract interest.


Walleye fishing is good in 3-20 feet, depending on the water and structure. Shallow to 8 feet is best in early morning and late evening. Weeds, basins, breaklines, shorelines, and river channels can all hold fish. Walleye suckers, fatheads, leeches, and crawlers on jigs and harnesses, and crankbaits, jerkbaits, Flicker Shads, and Husky Jerks are all productive.

Northern Pike:

Northern pike action is very good from shallow out to 12 feet, in warm, weedy bays, and near panfish and baitfish concentrations. Northern suckers, walleye suckers, and minnows on jigs or under floats, spinners, spinnerbaits, spoons, swimbaits, chatterbaits, crankbaits, and topwaters are all catching pike.

Largemouth Bass:

Largemouth bass fishing is very good out to 8 feet in weeds, bays, lily pads, and on sandy bottoms and shorelines. Best baits include swimbaits, soft plastics, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, chatterbaits, jerkbaits, topwaters, and crawlers and fatheads on slip bobbers.

Smallmouth Bass:

Smallmouth bass action is good on hard bottom areas in depths from shallow to 12 feet. Favorite offerings include sucker minnows, fatheads, leeches, crawlers, jerkbaits, tubes, plastics, swimbaits, crankbaits, and topwaters. Smallmouth fishing is catch-and-release only until June 18.


Crappie fishing is very good to excellent. Look for fish on weeds, shorelines, downed trees out to 12 feet. Start shallow and move deeper to find fish. Baits of choice include crappie minnows, fatheads, waxies, worms, crawler pieces, plastics, Tattle-Tails, Crappie Scrubs, Mini-Mites, and Gulp! baits under bobbers, and small Beetle Spins.


Bluegill fishing is good to very good, with fish spawning or on the verge of it. Focus on shallow weedy bays, shorelines, and sand bottoms in 3-8 feet. Look for “elephant tracks” on shallow bottoms! Waxies, leeches, leaf worms, crawlers, and plastics under bobbers all entice.


Perch are in 4-12 feet around weeds and other structure, and often mixed in with other panfish. Waxies, leaf worms, crawler chunks, and minnows fished on jigs or plain hooks, with or without bobbers, are all catching fish.

Upcoming Events

May 25-31Period F spring turkey season (final period, but bonus authorizations on sale until selling out or season ends.

May 28Musky season opened in the Northern Musky Zone.

May 31Application deadline for 2022 elk tag.

June 4-5DNR Free Fishing and Free Fun Weekend.

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

June 18Smallmouth bass season opens in Northern Bass Zone.

June 24-26Musky Fest (715-634-8662).

June 26Hayward Bass Club Open bass tournament on Round Lake 8 .am.-4 .pm. (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.