Hayward Lakes Outdoor Report 9-26-23

Steve Suman

It was a wet weekend and this week’s forecast is less than stellar. Cloudy and rain chances continue, with mild temperatures in the upper 60s for highs and low 50s for overnight lows, but a bit warmer for the weekend. Check the calendar below for many activities and events in the upcoming weeks!

Quiet Lakes’ water temperatures are dropping and around the low to mid 60s,” says Greg at Happy Hooker. “This will be great for fishing, and the bite is good overall now, with anglers finding all species of fish.

“Musky action picked up again and fish are all over the place, with some shallow and others suspending off structure. Smaller artificials are still producing, and live bait is heating up as well.

“Walleye fishing is better than in the past couple weeks, with most anglers finding fish on deeper hard to soft bottom transitions. Depths vary from lake to lake, but try 10-12 feet and 18-25 feet, depending on the lake. Walleye suckers and fatheads on slip bobbers, and tight-line jigs, are working well.

“Northern pike anglers are catching fish on spinnerbaits, bucktails, and other fast moving baits that cover a lot of water. Pike are shallow and relating to weed beds and structure with weeds.

“Largemouth bass fishing is good and anglers are catching them with multiple fishing styles. Spinnerbaits work for fish not relating to shorelines; topwaters such as Whopper Ploppers work for bass in shallow weeds.

“Smallmouth bass are in and around weed beds and will push a little deeper over the next week or so. Jigs and minnows, crankbaits, and Ned rigged plastics worked down to the fish will trigger strikes.

“Crappies are in deeper water, around 20 feet. Use crappie minnows and plastics on jigs to get down to them.

“Bluegill and perch anglers should focus on green weeds. Drifting waxies and leaf worms under bobbers through weed beds will put some fish in the livewell.”

Jarrett at Hayward Bait says musky anglers are catching fish on a regular basis.

“Most fish are coming from 5-15 feet, with bucktails, Warlocks, creepers, and gliders catching fish. Cool weather offers anglers the option of pulling live suckers while casting.

“Walleye fishing is quiet, normal for this time of year, and most anglers use crawlers and minnows. Crawlers are effective on crawler harnesses trolled to find scattered fish on weedlines, flats, and lake basins.

“Northern pike fishing is solid, with anglers seeing fish in 5-30 feet. It is quite a range of water, but smaller pike hang in shallower weeds to avoid predation, and bigger fish are on deep points and weed edges. Northern and walleye suckers on jigs and slip bobbers work well for big pike, as do Rattle Traps, spoons, and swimbaits.

“Largemouth bass are on shallow timber, lilies, and docks, with others on weedlines. Whopper Ploppers, frogs, and other topwaters work well. For deeper fish, work slow moving Texas rigs with 7- to 10-inch worms.

“Smallmouth bass fishing is excellent in 10-25 feet. Ned and Texas rigs dragged across the bottom, drop-shot rigs, and topwaters are good options, as are minnows for the live bait bite.

“Crappies are suspending over flats and basins and on weedlines and cribs. Live bait and plastics on jigs are effective, but long casts are necessary for finicky fish.”

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses 2023 adult walleye population estimates.

“One of the most useful statistics we can gather from our fisheries is ‘total adult population size,’ which is effectively an estimate of how many catchable adults are in the waterbody. These surveys are very intensive and done mostly on high-priority species such as walleye and muskellunge. We have the ability to complete just a handful of these in this area each year.

“In 2023, the DNR and our partners with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission completed four estimates of adult population size for walleye.

“The estimate for Big Chetac was 5,470 adult walleyes, or 2.9 per acre, an increase from 2017 when the population estimate was 2.5 adults per acre. Big Chetac is one of our more successful stocked fisheries and has a higher minimum length limit protecting adult walleyes until they reach 18 inches.

“The estimate for Teal Lake was 2,415 total adults, or 2.3 per acre. The Lost Land estimate was 1,910 total adults, or 1.5 per acre. Teal has more suitable habitat for walleye, and estimates in Teal are typically higher than in Lost Land, though size of walleye in Lost Land is typically greater than in Teal. Both of these represented increases from the last estimates, where Lost Land was 0.4 in 2019 and Teal was 1.0 in 2016.

“Lastly, the Sand Lake estimate was 1,964 total adults, or 2.1 per acre. The last adult estimate on Sand Lake was from 2021 and came in at 1.1 per acre.

“It was a pleasant surprise to see the walleye population size in all four of these lakes increase compared to the last estimate. Consistent stocking has played a role in the increases in Chetac, Lost Land, and Teal. Sand Lake has been a naturally reproducing population, with an adult population size of more than eight adults per acre in recent years. We recently tightened harvest regulations on Sand to better protect adult walleyes and allow the population size to increase, an effort that already appears to be paying some dividends.

“Walleye populations will continue to face challenges by the effects of climate change, but estimates like these provide us with the opportunity to evaluate our remedial measures and make recommendations to anglers and tribal harvesters on waters where they might find these coveted fish in good numbers.”

The 45th Annual Fall Muskie Tournament hosted by Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies Inc. is Friday through Sunday Oct. 6-8, and offers more than $30,000 in prizes and trophies. The first 10 places receive prizes that include a $1,500 gift certificate to Cabela’s, $1,000 gift certificate to Hayward Bait, trolling motors, depth finders, GPS units, rods, reels, cameras, and more. The angler releasing the largest fish receives a graphite replica.

Each registered angler receives entry in the Grand Prize drawing for a 2023 Lund 1775 Pro Guide boat with a 60hp Mercury motor on a ShoreLand’r trailer (winner must be present at Sunday drawing).

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, October 5.

For more information, visit www.muskiesinc-hayward.org/Poster_23.pdf or call (715) 634-2921 or 634-4543.

The Tommy G. Thompson State Fish Hatchery in Spooner will host an Open House this Saturday, Sept. 30, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Visitors have the opportunity to view fish such as walleye and muskellunge up close, learn about hatcheries and spawning facilities, and see the various tools used in fish rearing and stocking. For information, call (715) 635-4147.

The Shues Pond/Terry Peterson Fishing Foundation project is holding a planting day at the pond Friday, September 29, from 2-5 p.m. The project needs volunteers to help with restoration efforts by getting plants in the ground and spreading mulch. Bring gloves and your favorite trowel or shovel, though coordinators will provide some equipment.

Fishing Report

Saturday was the first official day of fall and fish are starting their seasonal transitions. Fishing is good, but to learn current details on fish locations, baits, preferences, and bite windows, visit your favorite bait shop.


Musky fishing is good and getting better as fish bulk up for winter. Find them from shallow to mid-depths, on weed edges, points, breaklines, bars, and suspending near structure. If action is slow, trying downsizing baits and varying retrieval speeds. Suckers, bucktails, gliders, and creepers and other topwaters are good choices right now.


Walleye fishing is fair to good and improving, with fish scattered in 8-28 feet, depending on the lake. Check basins, weedlines, hard to soft bottom transitions, and flats. Walleye suckers, fatheads, and crawlers on jigs, crawler harnesses, slip bobbers, bottom bouncers, and cast and trolled Flicker Shads, Shad Raps, and World Cranks are all producing.

Northern Pike:

Northern pike fishing is very good from shallow to deep on weeds, weedlines, points, and near panfish and baitfish concentrations. Find smaller fish in shallower water and big pike on deeper cover. Northern suckers, walleye suckers, and fatheads on jigs or under slip bobbers, and bucktails, spinners, spinnerbaits, spoons, swimbaits, and crankbaits all produce.

Largemouth Bass:

Largemouth bass fishing remains good on shallow to mid-depth weedlines, shorelines, wood, lily pads, and docks. Fish are hitting minnows, crawlers, crankbaits, spinners, spinnerbaits, plastics in various riggings including worms, tubes, and creature baits, swim jigs, and Whopper Ploppers, frogs, and other topwaters.

Smallmouth Bass:

Smallmouth bass fishing is very good to excellent on deeper weeds, cribs, rock, and other hard bottom areas. Fish are in varied depths, however, out to more than 20 feet. Productive baits include sucker minnows, crawlers, and plastics, tubes, Texas, Ned, and drop-shot rigs, crankbaits, and topwaters.


Crappie fishing is good and getting better. Look for fish on weedlines, cribs, brush, and bogs in about 20 feet, as well as suspending over deeper flats and basins. Crappie minnows, fatheads, Mini-Mites, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs are all effective offerings, fished with or without slip bobbers.


Bluegill fishing is fair to good. Focus on shallow green weeds and weedlines, cribs, and other structure. Try deeper structure for bigger bluegills. Best baits include waxies, leaf worms, crawler chunks, and panfish plastics on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks, fished under slip bobbers.

Upcoming Events

Sept. 16: Seasons opened: Deer (archery/crossbow); Turkey; Ruffed grouse (Zone A); Cottontail; Squirrel; Crow.

Sept. 16: Regular goose season opened in Northern Zone.

Sept. 23: Seasons opened: Duck in Northern Zone; Woodcock.

Sept. 29: Full Harvest Moon.

Sept. 29-30: Cable Fall Festival (715-798-3833).

Sept. 29: Shues Pond/Terry Peterson Fishing Foundation project ‑ planting day. Volunteers needed.

Sept. 30: Tommy G. Thompson State Fish HatcheryOpen House, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (715-635-4147).

Sept. 30: Lake sturgeon hook and line season closes (see regs).

Oct. 6-8: Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies Inc. 45th Annual Fall Muskie Tournament (715-634-2921 or 634-4543).

Oct. 7: Stone Lake Cranberry Festival, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Oct. 7-8: Youth Deer Hunt.

Oct. 7-15: Hunters with Disabilities gun deer hunt.

Oct. 10: Bear season closes.

Oct. 14: Seasons open: Coyote trapping; Bobcat hunting/trapping; Fox hunting/trapping; Raccoon hunting/trapping (resident); Fisher trapping; Elk (Clam Lake Zone – see regs); Bobwhite quail; Hungarian partridge (see regs).

Oct. 14: Northwest Relic Riders15th Annual Vintage Snowmobile Show, Flat Creek, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. (763-258-4038).

Oct. 21: Seasons open: Mink and muskrat trapping in North Zone.

Oct. 21: FHNBfall fundraiser all you can eat spaghetti dinner, Flat Creek Lodge, 4:30-8 p.m. (715-634-3185).

Oct. 28: Full Hunter’s 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.