A warm, 80-degree Tuesday to start the week quickly changes direction to a cooler 63-degree high Wednesday, “chances” of frost Wednesday and Thursday nights, and possibly a wet weekend. Foliage colors are changing and Thursday, September 22, is the Autumnal Equinox, the first day of fall ‑ a wonderful time of year! With this seasonal change, it is wise to keep flannel shirts, jackets, and rain gear within easy reach.
“Musky action continues to be consistent, with anglers seeing many fish and getting a fair number of them into a net. Bucktails, jerkbaits, and topwater baits are working well. Depending on the lake, muskies are relating to relatively shallow weeds and structure, and with low water levels, some structure could hold fish shallower than anglers might think.
“Walleye fishing could be much better. Fatheads on jigs are still the most popular way to go right now. Start shallower than usual and then work deeper if need be. Start out on weeds, wood, rock, and anywhere that holds baitfish, and work the edges of the structure with jigs and minnow. If fish are not hitting, slow down and finesse crawlers on drop-shot rigs to hook finicky fish.
“Northern pike action is good on bucktails, spinnerbaits, and small topwater baits fished around weeds and lily pads. Look for weed beds with baitfish dimpling the surface and there is a good chance a predator is under or around them.
“Largemouth bass fishing is still good, with live bait under floats, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, swim jigs with plastic trailers, and small topwaters catching good numbers of bass. Focus on weed beds, weed bed edges, and shoreline weeds.
“Smallmouth bass fishing is good on tube jigs, crankbaits, fatheads on jigs, and anything worked toward bottom on deep structure.
“Crappie fishing slowed the most of any fish, though there are reports of anglers catching fish in the basins and on weed edges heading towards the basins. Crappie minnows on small jigs fished under slip floats seem to be producing best. Use electronics to find schools of fish and then try to pick them apart!
“Panfish anglers fishing crawlers under floats are catching bluegills and perch around docks and piers. If you are fishing from a boat, focus on shallow weed edges close to shore and fallen timber along shorelines where panfish hide from predators. Waxies on small hair jigs can be a great option as well this time of year.”
Jarrett at Hayward Bait says musky fishing remains solid, with anglers catching fish over weed beds and weedlines.
“Most anglers are pitching small bucktails, glide baits, rattle baits, and topwaters. Many anglers are now towing small suckers behind the boat to attract fish that are not committing on follows. When selecting baits and suckers, keep in mind that the cooler the water, the bigger the baits.
“Walleyes are somewhere between late summer and fall patterns and fishing is very slow. Most anglers who are having success are trolling and finding pockets of fish here and there along the way. Depending on the waterbody, fish can be anywhere in 10-40 feet. To target fish starting to bunch in deep water, set live bait rigs with walleye suckers on the bottom or try the more aggressive tactic of snap-jigging baits such as Jiggin’ Raps, Hyper Rattles, and Hyper Hammers.
“Northern pike fishing is solid and many fish are starting to feed aggressively with the dip in water temperatures. Catches are coming on a variety of baits such as spinnerbaits, swimbaits, and jerkbaits. For bigger pike, use large northern suckers or small musky suckers, fishing weed bed and weedline patterns similar to those used when musky fishing.
“Largemouth and smallmouth bass head towards deeper structure as shallow weed growth begins to die off. Fish will start to transition and chase baitfish on large flats and weedlines. Spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and swimbaits in bluegill patterns work well to stir largemouth, while smallmouth prefer Ned rigs and drop-shot baits. As water temperatures cool and fish put on the feedbag, faster action baits such as jerkbaits begin to shine.
“Crappies are sitting tight to structure or deep in weeds until prime feeding time. Thick weeds, woodpiles, and cribs in deep water will hold fish this time of year, but you need to fish very close to coax them out ‑ which means losing a few jigs in the process. Crappie minnows, fatheads, and small plastics will do the trick.
“Bluegills are all over the lakes, with some cruising the shallows feeding on insects, and others roaming deep flats feeding on small bugs in the mud and small minnows near the bottom. Fish are aggressive and live bait, larger plastics, and Beetle Spins work well.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses ‘river mix’ minnow offerings.
“Some bait shops still sell a collection of minnows that is often dubbed a ‘river mix.’ Unlike the carefully sorted product you get when buying a dozen shiners (typically common or golden shiners), suckers (usually white suckers), or crappie minnows (typically small fathead minnows), a river mix can include many different species of minnows and other small fish.
“The particular makeup of a river mix undoubtedly varies depending on where the collection of bait occurs, but there will be many commonalities.
“Typical minnow species captured in rivers include common shiners, white suckers, western blacknose dace, northern redbelly dace, finescale dace, pearl dace, fathead minnows, creek chubs, and hornyhead chubs (red tails). All of these species make excellent bait, and several are quite hardy.
“More odd species that could appear in a river mix would include central mudminnow, brook stickleback, or maybe even johnny darters. These are all native species and can be exceptionally abundant in productive warmwater streams across Wisconsin.
“Whether gamefish will respond better to the minnows in a river mix or to a standard fare of shiners and suckers is open for debate, but it is likely the fish are responding more to the presentation rather than to the minnow species.”
Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies Inc. will host its 44th Annual Fall Musky Tournament Sept. 30-Oct. 2 and offer more than $30,000 in prizes and trophies. Awards to the first 10 places include a $1,500 Cabela’s gift certificate, $1,000 Hayward Bait gift certificate, trolling motors, depth finders, GPS units, rods, reels, cameras, and more. The angler releasing the largest fish receives a graphite replica, and every angler releasing a 34-inch or larger fish receives a plaque.
Each registered angler receives entry in the Grand Prize drawing for a 2022 Lund 1650 Angler boat, 50hp Mercury motor, and ShoreLand’r trailer (must be present to win).
The open entry fee is $110 and $25 for ages 16 and younger. Enter in person at Jenk’s Bait or in person or by phone at Hayward Bait (715-634-2921) until 11 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29.
For more information, visit www.muskiesinc-hayward.org/page3.html or call (715) 634-2921.
The Hayward Fall Festival is this Saturday, September 24, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., in downtown Hayward. The all-day festivities include a farmers market, live music, beer and brat tent, food trucks, art and craft booths, scarecrow contest, 3-on-3 basketball tournament, kids games, sidewalk sales, and more. Visit the Northern Lakes Co-op booth by the main stage to enter drawings for three prize packages that include a compact freezer filled with New Glarus beer (need not be present to win). For more information, visit haywardareachamber.com or call (715) 634-8662.
The seasonal transition is just starting and the folks at your favorite bait shop can keep you up to speed on fish movements and preferences. Let them help you!
Musky fishing is good and getting better with the cooling water. Look for fish on shallower weeds, weedlines, and other structure. Anglers are dragging musky suckers as well as casting smaller bucktails, rattle baits, jerkbaits, gliders, and topwaters with success. As temperatures decrease, bait size increases ‑ and always figure eight at the boat!
Walleye fishing is somewhat slow, with fish scattered from shallow to deep (8-40 feet) on weeds, wood, breaklines, rock, and other structure. Trollers are having the most success, but anglers fishing walleye suckers on the bottom, fatheads on jigs, crawlers on drop-shot rigs, and snap-jigging Jiggin’ Raps and similar baits are also catching fish.
Northern pike fishing is good to very good on shallow to mid-depths weeds, weed edges, and lily pads, especially if they hold baitfish and panfish concentrations. Baits of choice include fatheads, sucker minnows, small musky suckers, spinners, spinnerbaits, spoons, swimbaits, bucktails, jerkbaits, and topwaters.
Largemouth bass fishing is good to very good on shallow to mid-depth weeds, weedlines, and wood, and deeper flats, cribs, and other structure. Spinnerbaits, swim jigs, buzzbaits, crankbaits, and jerkbaits in bluegill patterns, topwaters, and crawlers under slip bobbers are all producing action for bass anglers.
Smallmouth bass action is good for fish on deeper weeds, weedlines, flats, and hard bottom structure. Top baits include sucker and fathead minnows, Ned rigs, drop-shot rigs, tube jigs, spinnerbaits, swim jigs, jerkbaits, and crankbaits.
Crappie fishing is fair ‑ maybe this is the lull before the storm? Look for fish on and very near mid-depth to deeper weeds, weedlines, wood, brush, basins, and cribs. The most productive baits include crappie minnows, fatheads, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs and/or under slip bobbers, and small Beetle Spins.
Bluegill and Perch
Bluegill and perch fishing is good to very good and fish are on the feed. Anglers are catching them in various areas from shallow weed edges, weed beds, brush, and near docks, to deep cribs and flats. Traditional panfish baits such as waxies, worms, crawler chunks, Mini-Mites, Tattle Tails, plastics, Gulp! baits, and Beetle Spins are all producing catches. For bigger bluegills, fish deeper areas with small minnows.
Sept. 17: Seasons opened: Deer (archery/crossbow); Ruffed grouse (Zone A); Turkey; Crow; Cottontail (Northern Zone); Squirrel.
Sept. 22: Autumnal Equinox ‑ first day of fall.
Sept. 24: Hayward Fall Festival 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (715-634-8662).
Sept. 24: Cable Fall Fest 9 a.m.-7 p.m. (715-798-3833).
Oct. 1: Stone Lake Cranberry Festival.
Oct. 1-9: Gun Deer Hunt for Hunters with Disabilities.
Oct. 8-9: Youth Deer Hunt.
Oct. 8: 14th Annual Relic Riders Vintage snowmobile show & swap 8 a.m.-2 p.m., Flat Creek Lodge (715-634-8377).
Oct. 9: Hunter’s Moon (full).
Oct. 11: Bear season closes.
Oct. 15: Seasons open: Pheasant; Bobwhite quail; Hungarian Partridge; Elk; Coyote trapping; Fox hunting/trapping; Bobcat hunting/trapping Period 1; Fisher hunting/trapping.
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.