Hayward Lakes Outdoor Report 7-4-23

Steve Suman

The forecast calls for rain and thunderstorms through Wednesday, and it appears nature might well provide its own “fireworks” for the July 4 Independence Day celebration, with cooler temperatures following the storms.

Have a safe and fun July 4 holiday!

“Rain early last week greened-up everything in the Quiet Lakes area,” says Greg at Happy Hooker, “and might have raised lake levels a few inches, though not significantly. Water temperatures are holding in the mid- to upper-70s.

“Musky anglers are seeing good numbers of fish, though not connecting on many of them. Fish are shallow, and small, fast moving baits get the most looks and catches. If you raise fish on fast moving baits early in the day, but the fish do not commit, return during peak times such as moonrise or dusk. Use the same bait, or slow down and hang a glider or jerkbait in their face. Topwaters are excellent choices at twilight, as you can hear your bait and know how close it is to the boat, a good reference for hook setting on a strike.

“Walleye fishing slowed considerably, with anglers struggling to find fish. On some lakes, fish are on deep weed edges, while on other lakes they are in 20-25 feet. Finesse presentations are working better than aggressive ones.

“Northern pike are in shallow bays with weeds and still eating everything. Walleye anglers catch pike on jigs and leeches, crawlers, and minnow set-ups; bass anglers catch them on everything from topwaters to spinnerbaits.

“Largemouth bass action remains strong, with anglers catching bass on everything from frogs to spinners to hook and crawler panfish set-ups. Fish are in shallow, thick cover such as lily pads, milfoil, and cabbage.

“Smallmouth bass fishing is good, with anglers finding fish on shallow, sandy bottoms, and Ned rigs and plastic worms are producing.

“Crappies are scattered. Some anglers find fish in the basins, while others working through weed beds find an occasional slab. Crappie minnows, plastic grubs, and Gulp! baits work well.

“Bluegill and perch are shallow and fishing is hot. For bluegills, use waxies, leaf worms, and crawlers on jigs or bare hooks under bobbers. Many anglers fishing for other species say perch are stealing their small leeches.”

Jarrett at Hayward Bait says musky action is solid, with anglers catching most fish on small baits.

“Work weed flats, rock points, and drop-offs. Pay attention to weather patterns and moon phases as well, which open bite windows.

“Walleyes are moving to traditional summer patterns and most anglers are trolling large flats with crawler harnesses or crankbaits on planer boards to find widespread fish. Some remain on weedlines. Once located, slow down and fish with slip bobbers.

“Northern pike moved deeper and trolling crankbaits or spoons is effective. Try points and underwater structure for fish lurking near schools of panfish. For smaller pike, run spinnerbaits and live bait over weeds in 5-10 feet.

“Largemouth and smallmouth bass are on deeper weeds, flats, and structure such as cribs and rock piles, hitting Ned rigs, drop-shot rigs, and jigs. Some fish are shallow and will be there for the summer. Weedless frogs or heavy baits to punch through the weed canopy are essential for fishing weedy shorelines.

“Crappies are on deep weeds and structure and small plastics, spinners, and live bait over deep weed flats help locate fish quickly. Once located, slow down with live bait under slip bobbers.

“Bluegills are on mid-depth structure such as cribs, weeds, and bogs. Waxies, leaf worms, and one-inch Gulp! Minnows on small jigs work well. For bigger bluegills, use regular leeches to deter smaller fish.”

Mike at Jenk’s says the Chippewa Flowage pool is down 1-1.5 feet, with the water temperature mid-70s and rising.

“Muskies are very active chasing various species of baitfish around weed edges. Bucktails and surface baits are producing very well. However, with water temperatures heating up again, muskies will likely head to much cooler depths, making trolling and deeper running baits the baits of choice.

“Walleyes are similar to muskies and are active in weeds in about 6 feet. Expect that to change slightly as water temperatures rebound from last week’s cool-down. Leeches, and slash and jerk baits, are popular. Continue using leeches, but try deeper running divers, as walleyes go deeper with rising surface temperatures.

“Northern pike are very active in weeds. They do not to react to surface temperature changes with the same urgency as walleye and musky, and might hang in weeds slightly longer as temperatures rise. Tinsel Tails, Jack Hammer Chatterbaits with paddle-tail trailers, and big Mini-Mites with jig spinners have the hot touch!

“Smallmouth bass still hit strong on Ned Rigs ‑ definitely the way to go ‑ and surface baits, with Whopper Ploppers and Revolvers producing the most fish.

“Crappie fishing was solid at 6 foot in weed beds, but is changing with the water temperature. Fishing bogs at night is still a strong tactic. As crappies head deeper, they congregate around deep weeds, cribs, and brush piles, but not every structure holds fish. If no action in 5-10 minutes, move. Crappie minnows, Crappie Scrubs, and Garland Mayflies are hot.”

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the Tiger Cat Chain and its musky and northern pike relationship.

“The Tiger Cat Chain of lakes has historically been one of the higher density muskellunge waters in the Hayward area and a popular spot for ‘action’ fishing. Sometime in the ‘90s, northern pike got into the system and this has generated concern about the impact on muskellunge. Indeed, surveys from 2011-2019 showed increasing numbers of pike and decreasing numbers of muskellunge.

“We surveyed the Tiger Cat Chain in 2023 to check on the status of the pike/musky relationship and to gather information on other species.

“Pike abundance in 2023 was very similar to what we observed in 2019. It is plausible that recent pike control efforts via angling are keeping adult pike abundance in check. The 2023 survey showed mixed pike size, with some high-quality fish in the 25- to 30-inch range and some less than 20 inches.

“We highly encourage anglers to harvest pike of all sizes that they catch in the Tiger Cat Chain, which has a 5-fish daily bag limit.

“The muskellunge survey in 2023 was similar to 2019. In fact, we captured many of the same fish in both surveys. This is interesting, but also worrisome. Continuing to catch the same muskies while not seeing new ones come into the population is a sign of poor recruitment of new fish. This is one reason why Tiger Cat was on the DNR stocking list last year and received about a 1,000 muskellunge fingerlings. We captured one of those fingerlings in this survey.

“Encouragingly, many other species saw improvements in quality since 2015, including bluegill, largemouth bass, and yellow perch, which all showed modest improvements in size while maintaining healthy abundance.”

The DNR will host an educational bear hunting webinar Wednesday, July 12, for people interested in learning how to hunt black bear in Wisconsin. The webinar includes information on bear biology, management, rules and regulations, and the most common techniques used to hunt bear in Wisconsin.

According to DNR Recruitment, Retention, and Reactivation Team Supervisor Bob Nack, Wisconsin’s strong bear hunting tradition and opportunity generates a high level of hunter interest. Due to the interest and permit wait times, many hunters do not get the chance to gain much bear hunting experience, and this webinar provides a basic understanding of bear hunting in Wisconsin.

Following a DNR staff presentation, participants can ask questions the panelists will answer at the end of the program. The DNR will make the webinar available for viewing online.

Contact the DNR if you or your organization is interested in hosting a Learn to Hunt Bear program.

For more information, search “bear hunting” on the DNR website.

Fishing Report

Fishing success remains good or better for most species, but timing can be critical. Check with your favorite local bait shop personnel for specifics on bite windows, baits, presentations, and fish locations. In addition, with the warm water temperatures make sure to take good care of any live bait. Do not take chances with lightning ‑ you cannot dodge it once it is on the way! Be safe out there for the holiday!


Musky action is good to very good, though inconsistent. Focus efforts around shallow to mid-depth weed flats and edges, rock points, drop-offs, breaklines, and near baitfish and panfish concentrations. Smaller bucktails, glide baits, jerkbaits, and topwaters are all catching fish. Anglers trolling deep running baits are faring well, too.


Walleye action is slower, though fair to good, with sporadic decent bite windows. Fish are scattered from shallow to deep, on weeds, weedlines, weed edges, flats, and breaklines. Leeches and crawlers under slip bobbers or on harnesses, diving baits, jerkbaits, crankbaits, and minnowbaits can all work well.

Northern Pike:

Northern pike fishing is very good to excellent from shallow for smaller fish to deeper for bigger pike. Find them in/on/around weeds, points, and panfish and baitfish concentrations. Sucker minnows, spinners, spinnerbaits, spoons with trailers, stickbaits, crankbaits, chatterbaits, and topwaters all tempt pike. Some anglers report success with trolling.

Largemouth Bass:

Largemouth bass fishing is very good to excellent. Fish are on in various depths around weeds, weedlines, weed edges, shorelines, bays, lily pads, slop, cribs, and flats. Baits of choice include minnows, crawlers, Ned rigs, drop-shot rigs, spinners, spinnerbaits, and topwaters/frogs.

Smallmouth Bass:

Smallmouth bass fishing is good on mid-depth to deep weeds, weed flats, cribs, rock, and other hard bottoms. Sucker minnows, Ned rigs, drop-shot rigs, various plastics (worms, tubes, creature baits), and topwaters and frogs are all very effective offerings at this time.


Crappie fishing is good… after you locate the scattered fish. Look in/on mid-depth and deep weeds, weed beds, flats, cribs, basins, brush, bogs, and other structure. The most productive baits include crappie minnows, Mini-Mites, Crappie Scrubs, Garland Mayflies, Gulp! baits, and small plastics under slip bobbers, and spinners,


Bluegill fishing is very good to excellent, with fish in and around shallow to mid-depth weeds, weedlines, cribs, brush, and bogs. Traditional baits such as waxies, crawler chunks, leaf worms, leeches, and Gulp! baits on jigs and plain hooks fished with or without bobbers are working well.

Upcoming Events

July 2: Full Buck Moon.

July 4: Independence Day.

July 6-8: Spooner Heart of the North Rodeo (715-635-9696).

July 13-16: LCO Honor the Earth Powwow (715-634-8934).

July 20-22: Lumberjack World Championships (715-634-2484).

July 22-23: Birchwood Lions Bluegill Festival, 7 a.m.-10 p.m. (800-236-2251).

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

Aug. 19: Seeley Lions PreFat bike race.

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.