Hayward Lakes Outdoor Report 7-18-23

Steve Suman

This week’s forecast predicts a mix of rain, thunderstorms, and sunshine. Currently, sunshine and blue skies Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday offer the best days for outdoor recreation, but many forecasted rains have skirted the Hayward area this summer!

“It was a tough bite for most species on the Quiet Lakes last week,” says Greg at Happy Hooker, “though we did fill our first musky board of the season, so that is a good sign! Fishing should improve with some stable weather. When fishing is tough, simplify set-ups, slow down, and work spots longer.

“Musky fishing is good, with anglers catching many small fish and observing a few very large fish. Baits are mainly small bucktails, decent size crankbaits, and even walleye and crappie jigs. Find fish in and around weed beds and shallow structure with weeds nearby.

“Walleye anglers are not catching fish or not telling their secrets. Work deep rocks and weed edges where the bottom transitions from hard to soft, using Lindy Rigs, crawler harnesses, and bottom bouncers to keep baits in the strike zone.

“Northern pike fishing slowed, but fish should be active given the current water temperatures. Try bucktails, spinnerbaits, and crankbaits in 6-10 feet.

“Largemouth bass are active on real and plastic worms, spinnerbaits, and frogs. Work baits around submerged and emerging weeds, and shallow sandy shorelines.

“Smallmouth bass are active on deep rock structure, and look for areas where hard and soft bottoms meet. Use drop-shot and Ned rigs, deep diving crankbaits, and live bait.

“Crappies are quiet. A few anglers see fish on their electronics, but struggle to catch them. The fish relate to basins and cribs and you have to drop baits on top of them to get a bite.

“Bluegill and perch fishing is consistent for smaller fish. Anglers catch the most fish off docks with crawler chunks on small jigs or plain hooks.”

Jarrett at Hayward Bait says musky fishing remains steady.

“Most anglers throw small bucktails, glide baits, and topwaters with some success, catching many fish in 10-20 feet on rock, weed edges, and baitfish congregations. Check peak moon phases during daylight hours ‑ a ‘normal’ sunny day can turn into an amazing two-hour window!

“Walleye anglers on big lakes are trolling crankbaits and crawler harnesses near the bottom. Some lakes feature deep areas where baitfish suspend, attracting fish to mid-depths. Use electronics to pinpoint depth and select crankbaits that dive to that level. Shallow lake trollers should use long lines or planer boards, as boat noise scatters fish.

“Northern pike moved deep, near panfish concentrations and access to deep water where fish slide up and down to feed, and pike are primarily daylight feeders. Live bait, small spoons, bucktails, and swimbaits are effective.

“Largemouth and smallmouth bass moved to deep structure, with some still in shallow, thick weeds. For deep fish, drop-shots work well. When fishing shallow, heavy jigs punching through weed canopies and weedless frogs gliding over them can tempt fish from cover.

“Crappies are deep, roaming or sitting on structure. Park over cribs, if available. One-inch Gulp! Minnows and plastics on jigs work well. If in search mode, cast plastics paired with plain jigs or Beetle Spins. Cover water until you find the fish, then slow down and finesse them.

“Bluegills are holding to the same mid-depth structure as crappies, but more at home at the bottom of the water column. Leaf worms and leeches on slip bobbers work well for big bull bluegills, and plastic tubes, worms, crickets, and hellgrammite baits also work.”

Mike at Jenk’s says the Chippewa Flowage is down 1.5-2 feet, with a mid-70s water temperature.

“Musky action slowed a bit, water temperatures took a dip, and trolling seems less effective. Watch the temperature gauge. If water temperatures get into the high 70s, trolling can be good. If you see low- to mid-70s temperatures, cast shallow while sitting over deeper water. Bucktails are the most effective bait.

“Walleye fishing is okay with the somewhat cooler temperatures. Leeches remain the live bait of choice. The best action is in early morning and later evening in 6-12 feet around weed edges bordering deeper water. Fishing during the day is more challenging, but electronics make things easier. You want to mark baitfish, and if the graph shows no signs of life, move to another spot!

“Northern pike are aggressively hitting spinnerbaits and spoons in the weeds, though anglers report catching many smaller fish.

“Smallmouth bass are quiet, which might reflect fewer people casting for them. Rocks and stumps are great places to start, with Ned Rigs and Whopper Ploppers the best baits.

“Crappie fishing is very good on the bogs in the evening, with crappie minnows, Garland Mayflies, and Gulp! baits working well. Crib fishing during the day is challenging and you have to connect the dots. Some crappies are on cribs, but not every crib holds fish. If a crib does not produce within five minutes, move on to the next one.”

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the northern longear sunfish.

“What fisheries technician Scott Braden and I catch in fisheries surveys seldom surprises us. We have been on the job for 11 years now and have sampled fish from almost all the public access lakes in Sawyer County. However, on May 25 we were truly surprised at a small fish that popped up in our electrofishing survey of Teal Lake.

“At first glance, many would identify the fish as a small pumpkinseed, but Scott immediately knew something was different with this fish and we took a closer look. The fish had a somewhat different ‘ear tab’ shape than a pumpkinseed, and had blue speckles distributed across its entire flank. We identified and later confirmed the fish as a northern sunfish, sometimes also called a longear sunfish, though one can make a case to consider the northern sunfish and longear sunfish two separate species.

“Though documented in the past in Sawyer County, this was the first northern sunfish I encountered during my time working in Hayward, a sign of their rarity. The Lac Courte Oreilles/Little Lac Courte Oreilles system and the Quiet Lakes of Teal, Lost Land, and Teal River Flowage have all documented northern sunfish, with these two pockets representing the only systems in the area to do so.

“Longear sunfish are present in southern Wisconsin and are common in states farther south. Northern sunfish have a maximum size of around 5 inches, and anglers can probably catch them by the usual panfish methods. Many of their biological characteristics, including spawning timing and behavior, are similar to their sunfish cousins such as bluegill and pumpkinseed.”

The Birchwood Lions Club Bluegill Festival is this weekend, Friday through Sunday, July 21-23. Grab your family and friends and come visit! Attractions include live music, fish fry, pancake breakfast, beer garden, bake sale, Bluegill Queen, craft market, indoor and outdoor church services, parade, cash raffle, medallion hunt, and so much more.

For more information and schedule of events, visit www.birchwoodwi.com/bluegillfestival or call 800-236-2251.

The 63rd annual Lumberjack World Championships begin at 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, July 19, and run through 8:30 p.m. Saturday, July 22. Grab dinner from one of the food trucks, visit unique vendors, or have a drink in the Swinging Axe Beer Garden. This international competition showcases the best sawing, chopping, speed climbing, log rolling, boom running, and more, offering great family fun! See the event schedule to make plans and purchase tickets.

For more information, visit www.lumberjackworldchampionships.com or call (715-634-2484).

Fishing Report

Fishing success remains consistent for most species. Visiting your favorite bait shop for the most current information on fish locations, bite windows, favored baits, and presentations, and using your electronics, will get you on fish quickly!


Musky action is good and consistent, with anglers seeing some big fish and catching numerous smaller ones. Focus on weed beds, shallow structure in weedy areas, rock, and concentrations of baitfish and panfish in 8-22 feet. Smaller bucktails, crankbaits, gliders, and topwaters are very productive. Try trolling when water temperatures warm.


Walleye fishing is fair to good, with best success in early morning and late evening into dark. Electronics can identify suspending baitfish, deep weed edges, rocks, and hard to soft bottom transitions that hold fish. Go deeper during the day and shallower in low light hours. Leeches and crawlers on jigs, Lindy Rigs, harnesses, spinner rigs, and bottom bouncers work well, whether drifting or trolling on long lines, and crankbaits and stickbaits will catch fish, too.

Northern Pike:

Northern pike fishing is good to very good, but primarily for smaller fish at this time. Shallow weeds and areas of baitfish and panfish concentrations in 4-12 feet adjacent to deeper water hold fish. Live bait, bucktails, spinners, spinnerbaits, spoons, swimbaits, stickbaits, and crankbaits will all catch pike. Go bigger and deeper for trophy fish.

Largemouth Bass:

Largemouth bass action is good to very good around weeds, weed edges, weedlines, wood, lily pads, slop, and sandy shorelines. Productive baits include live bait, spinners, spinnerbaits, various plastic configurations, drop-shot rigs, swimbaits, and topwaters/weedless frogs.

Smallmouth Bass:

Smallmouth bass fishing is fair to very good. Find fish on deep structure such as weeds, rock, wood, stumps, and hard to soft bottom transitions. Some fish are in thick, shallow weeds. The most productive offerings include live bait, Ned and drop-shot rigs, tubes, deep crankbaits, and topwaters.


Crappies are challenging anglers in many respects. Look for fish on cribs and deep structure, in basins, and on bogs in the evening. Baits of choice include crappie minnows, plastics, Garland Mayflies, and Gulp! baits on jigs or plain hooks under slip bobbers, and Beetle Spins. Placing baits on the crappies’ noses will increase your catch rate!

Bluegill and Perch:

Bluegill and perch fishing is good and stable, with shallow water dock anglers catching mostly smaller fish. For bigger bluegills, work baits near the bottom of mid-depth to deeper structure. Best baits include waxies, leeches, leaf worms, crawler chunks, and various panfish plastics on jigs or plain hooks under slip bobbers.

Upcoming Events

July 19-22: Lumberjack World Championships (715-634-2484).

July 21-23: Birchwood Lions Bluegill Festival (800-236-2251).

July 30: Northwoods Bass AnglersBig Chip Open Tournament (text 405-227-1789).

Aug. 1: Full Sturgeon Moon.

Aug. 1: Application deadline for bobcat and fisher permits.

Aug. 4-5: Jack Pine Savage Days in Spooner (715-635-2168).

Aug. 6: Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies Inc.Kids Fishing Day, Blackiron Grill, 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (715-634-4543).

Aug. 17-22: Sawyer County Fair (715-699-2022).

Aug. 19: Seeley Lions PreFat bike race, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.

Aug. 20: Hayward Bass Club ‑ Free Youth Bass Tourney, The Landing Resort, Noon-4 p.m. (text 405-227-1789).

Aug. 27: Hayward Bass Club ‑ Benefit Tourney, Tiger Cat Flowage, Blackiron Grill, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (text 405-227-1789).

Aug. 30: Full Blue Moon.

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.