Hayward Lakes Outdoor Report 9-5-23

Steve Suman

Labor Day Monday was a “hot time in the old town tonight” (94 degrees) for all, though a dry, breezy, and pleasant day overall. Tuesday looks like more of the same, but with a good chance of late afternoon and evening thunderstorms, some possibly severe. High temperatures drop significantly Wednesday (68) with rain, and Thursday (60!) dry and windy. Temperatures then move back into the 70s for Friday through the weekend. Take advantage!

Quiet Lakes’ water levels are holding well,” says Greg at Happy Hooker, “with water temperatures around 70 degrees on most lakes. Schools are starting and there is less angling pressure, but the bite is a bit tough for most species.

“The musky bite is good and the last eight fish on our board all came on small bucktails, mostly Mepps, according to the anglers. Fish are hitting other bigger baits, but nothing like on bucktails. Fish are still relating to the shallow, weedy areas of the lakes.

“Walleyes are scattered in deeper water and fishing is tough, but trolling is effective for fish roaming the basins. Start with aggressive deep running crankbaits. If that does not produce, slow down and troll live bait on bottom bouncers, Lindy Rigs, or on crawler harness set-ups. Look for fish at or near the bottom of the basins.

“Northern pike catches, the majority of them, are still made by anglers targeting species such as musky and bass, and most are small. If you want to target pike, they relate to shallow weeds this time of year.

“Largemouth and smallmouth bass anglers are not saying much lately. The fish might have scattered from their peak summer locations, but there is little being said about the largemouth or smallmouth bites. Largemouth should be around shallow weeds; smallmouth should be off deep rocky points and hard bottom.

“Crappies are currently suspending in 15-20 feet and deeper basins. Crappie minnows and plastics on small jigs, worked close to bottom, are catching fish.

“Bluegill and perch fishing is consistent, though most are small fish. Work leaf worms and crawlers in and around shallow weeds.”

Jarrett at Hayward Bait says a cool-down is on the way!

“Musky anglers are catching fish consistently, with most in 5-15 feet, on bucktails, Warlocks, creepers, gliders, and topwaters. Fish will move shallower as water cools, and anglers can soon drift a sucker while casting to cover water.

“Walleye fishing is quiet, normal this time of year, but anglers report success with crawlers and minnows. Trolling crawler harnesses is effective to find fish scattered throughout weedlines, flats, and basins.

“Northern pike fishing is solid, with fish in 5-30 feet. Small pike hang in shallow weeds to avoid predation. Large fish are on deep points and weed edges chasing panfish. For big pike, northern and walleye suckers on jigs or slip bobbers, and Rattle Traps, swimbaits, and spoons all work well.

“Largemouth bass are cooperative. Some fish are around shallow timber, lilies, and docks. Other fish are on weedlines chasing bluegills and other forage. Slow moving Texas rigs with 7- to 10-inch worms are irresistible to deep fish, and topwaters such as Whopper Ploppers and frogs are catching fish.

“Smallmouth bass fishing is excellent, with most catches in 10-25 feet. Many catches are by anglers dragging Ned and Texas rigs across the bottom, but drop-shot rigs and topwaters are very good options in certain areas.

“Crappies are suspending over flats and basins, on cribs and weedlines, and nearly everywhere. Long, accurate casts are necessary for finicky open water fish. Jigs and plastics are effective, with live bait a good option for the stubborn fish.

“Bluegills are in the same areas as crappies. Downsize presentations, and live bait on slip bobbers are great to search for fish.”

Mike at Jenk’s says the Chippewa Flowage pool is down 2.5-3 feet, with water temperatures in the low 70s, but expected to rise.

“Muskies are definitely moving and action is very good with the water temperatures in the high 60s to low 70s. Double Cowgirls cast around weed edges and drop-offs are producing considerable action, though producing a lot more follows than strikes. There are some sucker action reports, although it is a bit early. Increasing water temperatures will push fish deeper and trolling will be more effective. Warmer conditions are not ideal for sucker fishing, but some anglers like to start early. Make sure to keep suckers aerated and cool, and send them to deeper water.

“Walleye fishing is very strong for trolling anglers. Troll deeper water and run baits down 9-15 feet. Flicker Shads, Jointed Flicker Shads, Wally Divers, and World Cranks are all effective. In the evening when it cools, use crawlers on weed edges bordering deep drop-offs.

“Northern pike are in the weeds and hitting Tinsel Tail spinnerbaits and Zman JackHammer chatterbaits.

“Smallmouth bass action is good on Ned Rigs and Whopper Ploppers in areas with plentiful stumps and rocks.

“Crappies are on sunken bogs and brush in 20-25 feet during the day, with floating bogs producing fish at night. Crappie minnows are the best bait, but Garland Mayflies, Mini-Mites, and Gulp! Minnows are also producing.”

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses solid Namekagon River survey result.

“Every summer, the DNR Hayward Fish Team partners with the National Park Service to survey the Namekagon River trout population. The survey encompasses the reach of river from Tag Alder Road upstream to Larsen Road. The crews use two electrofishing barges, each with three electrofishing probes, to cover this large piece of river.

“This survey indexes the abundance of trout and other species and has run almost continuously since 2006. Results from 2023 represented a muted version of a recent trend. Brown trout in the Namekagon pulled off another good year class in 2023, following even stronger year classes in 2019, 2021, and 2022.

“Overall, abundance of brown trout was above the long-term average for this site, yet abundance of trout greater than 12 inches was below the average. This encapsulates the brown trout fishery in recent years, in which trout have been very abundant, resulting in a population that skews towards younger, smaller fish. Still, high quality trout were present, with the capture of several greater than 19 inches, the biggest of which was 19.8 inches. One in twenty, 5 percent, was greater than 18 inches.

“Conducting this annual survey allows us to track changes in the population through time, which can allow for early detection of warning signs or issues within the fishery. Trout populations are and will continue to be greatly challenged by climate change, but for now, the Namekagon brown trout fishery is healthy and very worthy of anglers’ attention.”

Wisconsin’s 2023 black bear hunting season opens Wednesday, Sept. 6. The DNR issues harvest tags through a preference point lottery. For more information on bear hunting in Wisconsin, visit the DNR website.

Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies Inc. invites the public to attend its club meeting Tuesday, September 5, at Flat Creek Lodge. A business meeting starts at 6:30 p.m., followed at 7:30 p.m. by a general meeting and guest speaker Max Wolter, Hayward area DNR fisheries biologist. Admission is free, and anyone interested in becoming a Muskies, Inc. member can purchase a half-price membership at the meeting. For more information, call Mike Persson (715) 634-4543.

Fishing Report

Fishing remains good in general, with some species more difficult than are others. Choose your target species wisely! Finding success might take some work, but nothing better than a fall day of fishing in the North Woods!


Musky action is good to very good. Focus on shallow weeds, weed edges, points, and drop-offs. Look deeper during hot temperatures when trolling can be productive. Bucktails, gliders, creepers, and topwaters work well. Cooler temperatures will soon make using suckers more practical.


Walleye fishing is slow, but trollers are doing well. Fish are suspending in and around deep weeds, weedlines, drop-offs, flats, and basins. In the daytime, troll/drift crawlers and minnows on harnesses, bottom bouncers, or Lindy Rigs. Deep running crankbaits work, too. In the evening, work crawlers under slip bobbers on shallow weeds and weed edges.

Northern Pike:

Northern pike action is good to very good. Look for fish in and on the edges of shallow weeds and near panfish and baitfish concentrations. For trophy pike, fish bigger baits on deep weeds, weed edges, and points. Northern and walleye suckers, spinners, spinnerbaits, swimbaits, spoons, crankbaits, and chatterbaits are all working well.

Largemouth Bass:

Largemouth bass fishing is good to very good for anglers fishing in, along, and around shallow weeds, weedlines, wood, lily pads, brush, and docks. Live bait, plastics in various configurations and presentations, spinners, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, stickbaits, and Whopper Ploppers, frogs, and other topwaters are all producing action.

Smallmouth Bass:

Smallmouth bass action is very good to excellent on rock, rocky points, and other hard bottoms, and stumps in 8-28 feet. Best baits include sucker minnows, plastics in a broad range of forms, set-ups, and presentations; Ned, Texas, and drop-shot rigs; and Whopper Ploppers and other topwaters.


Crappie fishing is fair to good. Find them in 12-25 feet during the day, on or suspending over weeds, weedlines, brush, basins, flats, and cribs. At night, fish floating bogs. Bait choices include crappie minnows, Mini-Mites, Garland Mayflies, plastics, and Gulp! Minnows on small jigs fished near bottom and/or under slip bobbers.

Bluegill and Perch:

Bluegill and perch fishing is excellent for small fish, and good for larger bluegills. Shallow weeds, brush, and docks hold big numbers of aggressive smaller fish. Big bluegills are on or suspending over deep weeds, weedlines, basins, and cribs. Waxies, leaf worms, crawler chunks, plastics, and Gulp! baits fished under slip bobbers are all productive offerings.

Upcoming Events

Sept. 1: Seasons opened: Early Canada goose; Early teal; Mourning dove (see regs).

Sept. 2: Lake sturgeon hook and line season opened (see regs).

Sept. 5: Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies Inc. meeting at Flat Creek Lodge, 7 p.m. (715-634-4543).

Sept. 6: Bear season opens (see regs).

Sept. 6-9: 24th Annual Lake Chippewa Flowage Musky Hunt (715-462-3874).

Sept. 9: Early teal season closes.

Sept. 15: Early Canada goose season closes.

Sept. 15: Application deadline for hunters to sign with a sponsor for hunters with disabilities gun deer hunt (sponsor list.)

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

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

Sept. 16-17: Youth Waterfowl Hunt.

Sept. 16: Hayward Lions Club Oktoberfest, Sawyer County Fairgrounds, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

Sept. 16: 40th Chequamegon MTB Festival.

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

Sept. 23: First day of fall.

Sept. 23: Hayward Fall Festival (715-634-8662).

Sept. 29: Full Harvest Moon.

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

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

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.