The North Woods is enjoying some wonderful spring weather, though warmer temperatures are more to the liking of some people. This week, highs are in the low to mid-70s, lows in the 40s, and most days (though not all) have some sunshine ‑ near perfect for just about any recreational activity. Get out and take advantage!
“This time of year,” says Greg at Happy Hooker, “Quiet Lakes’ musky fishing is best with smaller baits and slower presentations, such as spinnerbaits, inline bucktails, and swimbaits on jigs. Look for shallow, weedy bays where muskies are feeding on baitfish.
“Walleye fishing is solid with fatheads and leeches on jigs worked along bottom. Water temperatures remain cool and shallow weed edges still hold fish.
“Northern pike anglers are catching pike on walleye rigs, spinnerbaits, and chatterbaits, but there is no wrong way to fish for pike. Any water from shallow, weedy bays to sand and rock shorelines will hold fish.
“Largemouth bass fishing is hot on chatterbaits in green pumpkin, black/blue, and white/chartreuse colors. Crawlers on jigs or hooks under floats also work well.
“Smallmouth bass anglers continue to catch some nice fish. Rocky points transitioning into basins are good places to start with fatheads and plastic crayfish imitations on jigs, or small crankbaits.
“Crappie action slowed with water temperatures hovering just above 60 degrees. The shallow weed bite is good, but you have to pick through to bigger ones.
“Bluegills are making beds for spawn and will aggressively protect those beds. Fish sandy shorelines with leaf worms and crawlers under floats, and Beetle Spins or similar spinners.
“Perch are around shallow weed beds and fish through them until you get nice keepers. Crappie minnows on snelled hooks under floats work best.”
Levi at Hayward Bait says muskies are feeding in 4-6 feet in dark bottom bays, and natural crappie and bluegill colors work best.
“Walleye fishing is good on walleye suckers, fatheads, leeches, jerkbaits, and crankbaits on shallow weedlines and in 16-18 feet. Fishing is best in early mornings and evenings.
“Northern pike fishing is very good, with many anglers targeting them. Northern suckers, bucktails, spinnerbaits, and crankbaits in shallow bays in 4-6 feet work well, with mid-morning to early afternoon best.
“Largemouth bass fishing is very good in the shallows. Many are post-spawn and some still spawning, depending on the lake. Work bays with sandy bottoms in 3-6 feet. Anglers report success with plastic worms and crawfish presentations, walleye suckers, and fatheads.
“Smallmouth bass are moving toward spawning areas. Find fish on gravel and sandy bottoms near steep breaks and points in 8-12 feet. Jerkbaits and plastics work best.
“Crappie action is picking up, with many male crappies near spawning areas, but few females moving in. Look for trees, logs, or other structure in 4-6 feet. Crappie minnows are the key, with some catches on plastics.
“Bluegill fishing is good near spawning areas and some fish are on beds. As water temperatures warm, the fish ‑ especially the bigger ones ‑ will move heavily toward those areas. Concentrate on shallow, sandy bottom bays in 3-5 feet. Waxies, leaf worms, crawlers, and small plastics work well.”
Cathy at Minnow Jim’s says walleye anglers should fish jigs with minnows or leeches near the bottom in 8-12 feet.
“Largemouth bass are shallow, feeding on panfish, and prefer live bait over plastic frogs and surface baits.
“Northern pike are in the shallows, feeding on panfish and hitting sucker minnow under bobbers.
“Crappie anglers say crappies are on beds, though some say only the small ones. Fish shallow and move deeper if you catch only small fish. Waxies, worms, crawler chunks, and small leeches on jigs or under bobbers work well, and scented Gulp! Alive baits enhance the bite.”
Mike at Jenk’s says the Chippewa Flowage is at full pool, with the water temperature 61-64 degrees.
“Musky fishing is decent, with anglers catching many smaller fish. Small spinners, bucktails, and crankbaits are all effective over weed beds. Some anglers report success hanging small suckers off the side.
“Walleye fishing is okay, but not spectacular. Bigger fish are in shallow weed beds in 6-12 feet. Smaller walleyes are in 15-18 feet off steep drop-offs. The bite is on minnows and leeches, with Husky Jerks and Flicker Shads also effective.
“Northern pike anglers are catching fish on a mix of live and artificial baits primarily on the west side. Tinsel Tails and Johnson Silver Minnows are excellent choices in the weeds, and make sure to hang a sucker or chub over the side while you are casting.
“Crappies and reports remain all over the place. Some reports say anglers are unable to get them to bite; some say fish still have eggs and are still spawning in 1-2 feet; and some say that the fish completed spawn and crappies are on cribs and brush piles or by the bogs at night. There is no consensus. If you go for crappie, use a trial and error approach and see what is successful. Minnows and Gulp! baits are the most popular baits.
“Bluegills are definitely in the shallows and on beds, with waxies and leaf worms the ticket.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses Moose, Windigo, and LCO crappie survey results.
“The timing of fisheries surveys is critical to ensure that the results actually represent the targeted population. This spring’s fast warm-up created survey challenges for the DNR’s Hayward Fish Team. The very fast mid-May warm-up created great conditions for targeting crappie in our surveys, as the fish flooded the shallows to warm up before spawning. Typically, the best crappie surveys happen when water temperatures are 50-60F.
“In 2022, we surveyed crappie on three area lakes, Windigo, Moose, and Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO), and the crappie population in each lake impressed us.
“Windigo had the highest catch rate of the three lakes. While high abundance often means poor size, this was not the case. Windigo crappies averaged greater than 10 inches and we captured a number of fish greater than 14 inches. We also captured two greater than 15 inches, a rare mark for a lake with easy public access.
“Moose Lake had the highest average size of the three lakes, at greater than 10.5 inches. The dark water of Moose Lake produces some very handsome crappie, with spawning males sporting very dark pigment on their heads and bodies.
“Our final crappie survey was on LCO. In the past, we have seen big crappies on LCO, but catching them in nets has been a challenge. Our catch rate in 2022 was way up compared to previous surveys, and we caught many very large crappies. This survey had the most 13-inch crappies that we have observed in the area in at least 10 years.
“Moose and Windigo have reduced bag limits that protect the populations and likely contribute to the quality size we observed. Although LCO does not have a reduced crappie bag limit, the large, deep lake is very good at ‘hiding’ its crappie throughout much of the year.
“Crappies are a hot commodity right now, with many anglers seeking them for the frying pan.
“Very big crappies, such as the ones we observed, are special. They are also very old. Anglers seeking to harvest crappie should consider harvesting the more abundant smaller crappies (around 9 or 10 inches) and releasing larger ones to preserve the size structure in these and other area lakes.”
The DNR is hiring four temporary LTE (limited term employment) fisheries technicians to fill three full time positions and one half-time position for creel surveys. Based in Spooner, Barron, or Hayward, the creel clerks will primarily work in Ashland, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Washburn, and Barron counties. The salary is $15 per hour and the positions start with orientation and training in June. The application deadline is June 12. For more information, search “LTE creel clerk positions” on the DNR website.
Fishing is very good for spawning bass and panfish and they are running the full gamut of it from start to finish. Weather fronts can interrupt their activities, so check with your favorite bait shop personnel for current specifics.
Musky action is good in shallow panfish spawning areas in depths to 6 feet. Small bucktails, spinnerbaits, swimbaits, and crankbaits fished slowly can entice action, as will a small sucker under a bobber or off the boat side.
Walleye fishing is good around weed edges, breaklines, and drop-offs in 6-20 feet. Best fishing is in early morning and late evening into dark. Walleye suckers, fatheads, leeches, and crawlers on jigs and harnesses, and jerkbaits and crankbaits, are all catching fish.
Northern pike action is very good on shallow weedlines, sandy shorelines, and near panfish concentrations. Mid-morning into mid-afternoon offers the best bite window. Northern suckers, spinners, spinnerbaits, spoons, bucktails, and crankbaits all work well.
Largemouth bass action is very good for spawning and post-spawn fish in 2-8 feet in bays and around weeds, brush, and sand bottoms. Top baits include walleye suckers, fatheads, crawlers, leeches, plastics, chatterbaits, and topwaters.
Smallmouth bass are moving to their spawning grounds and you will find them on sand and gravel bottoms, rock points, and steep breaklines in 6-12 feet. Sucker minnows, fatheads, and various crayfish imitations and crankbaits are all grabbing the interest of smallmouth.
Crappie fishing is good to very good with fish in various spawning stages, from starting to finishing, depending on the lake. Start shallow, moving deeper until you find fish. Weeds, brush, bogs, and cribs can also hold fish. Crappie minnows, fatheads, waxies, crawler pieces, leeches, plastics, and Gulp! baits on jigs and/or under slip bobbers are all working.
Bluegill fishing is very good to excellent as fish are on or heading to spawning areas. Look for them on very shallow sand bottoms and shorelines. Waxies, crawler pieces, leaf worms, leeches, and small plastics will all catch bluegills. Fish are vulnerable, so use some restraint!
Perch fishing is good around shallow weeds and other panfish, but it could take considerable sorting to get enough for a meal. Crappie minnows, fatheads, and waxies on jigs and plain hooks under slip bobbers are all effective.
May 28: Musky season opened in the Northern Musky Zone.
June 7: Hayward Chapter-Muskies Inc. meeting at Flat Creek Lodge, 7 p.m. (715-634-4543).
June 18: Smallmouth bass season opens in Northern Bass Zone.
June 18: Free Town of Hayward’s 3rd annual Kids’ Bike Rodeo, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., fire dept. building (715- 634-4123).
June 24-26: Musky Fest (715-634-8662).
June 25-26: Free Pro Lumberjack Competition at Lumberjack Bowl.
June 26: Hayward Bass Club open bass tournament on Round Lake 8 .am.-4 .pm. (405-227-1789).
July 7-9: Heart of the North Spooner Rodeo ‑ Washburn County Fairgrounds (800-367-3306).
July 15-7: LCO Honor the Earth Pow Wow (715-634-893).
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.