Hayward Lakes Area Outdoor Report 2-24-2020

February 24, 2020

Hayward Lakes Area Outdoor Report

By: Steve Suman


Monday’s sun and mild temperatures in the 40s followed the same as experienced during Birkie weekend, but as always, all good things must end. Though there are no serious weather events in the forecast at this time, temperatures will slide back to readings that are more seasonal. It is still winter and still February – but the sunshine is very encouraging!


“This is a great time to pursue gamefish on the Quiet Lakes,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “especially since gamefish season ends March 1 and then the only option is panfish.

“Walleye anglers report an occasional fish, but there is no consistency finding walleye. They could be in pre-spawn and not feeding. Tip-up anglers, setting up over deep green weeds and weed edges during the day, are reporting success on northern pike and bass. Walleye suckers and shiners are the go-to baits.

“A few excited ice anglers report catching muskies measuring more than 40 inches – and have pictures to prove it!

“Fishing pressure dropped early last week due to weather conditions, but a few hardy panfish anglers caught some limits. Crappies are schooling and moving around the lake. Set up just off weed areas in 12-16 feet, and late afternoon offers the best fishing. Most anglers are using waxies and small plastics on small tungsten jigs, with spring bobbers.”


Trent at Hayward Bait says it may be his imagination, but he thinks he can just about smell spring in the air!

“February is almost over, which means gamefish season is almost over, but until then, if walleye and northern pike are your target species, there is still some time. In addition, late winter/early spring is a very good time to focus on panfish, especially crappie.

“Walleyes are more active at night, with the hot bite around 6-7 p.m. and then again about 10 p.m. to midnight. Small walleye suckers and fatheads are the favored baits, fished on either tip-ups or dead sticks.

“Northern pike are still hitting large suckers and shiners, but anglers are also catching them on panfish gear. Keep in mind the low oxygen levels this time of year and an ‘easy’ target that requires a fish to exert less energy will induce more strikes.

“Crappies are suspending higher in the water column, sometimes as high as 8-10 feet off bottom, while bluegills are still holding to the bottom. Perch are also near the bottom, and dropping lures right to the bottom and stirring up sediment can trigger these fish into biting.

“A few colors producing good numbers of panfish are pink, gold, green/orange, and green glow with polka-dots.”


This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses smallmouth bass movement in large rivers.

“Smallmouth bass thrive in rivers of all sizes and some of the most dynamic populations exist in places where the fish have access to diverse habitats that include large rivers, smaller tributaries, and lakes or impoundments.

“How much movement do smallmouth bass actually make within a complex river system? A recent study on the Snake River system in Idaho aimed to answer this question.

“Researchers used a combination of external tags (reported by anglers) and trackable radio tags to determine the extent and types of movement smallmouth bass were making. It turned out that big movements by smallmouth were common in this system.

“During the study period, almost 80 percent of the tracked smallmouth moved more than 3 miles – and 42 percent moved more than 18 miles. Most movement happened in the spring and summer, and the biggest individual movement was a bass that moved 103 miles upstream from its tagging point.

“Researchers concluded that with so much movement and mixing of fish between the main river, tributaries, and reservoirs along the river, it was important to manage the smallmouth as one mixed population, rather than as separate, segmented populations that did not mix with each other.

“These results demonstrate once again how incredible fish movement can be, in addition to the importance of interconnected habitats and thoughtful, system-wide management.”


This weekend, Friday Feb. 28 through Sunday March 1, WI Women Fish will hold its Third Annual Crappie Weekend at Deerfoot Lodge. For more information, visit www.wiwomenfish.com or call (715) 462-3328.



The DNR reminds snowmobilers to make sure their snowmobile has a current registration and displays a valid snowmobile trail pass. Wisconsin requires a trail pass to operate on all public snowmobile trails. You can order trail passes online, as well as renew registrations.


The February 20 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Ashland County says trails are open, groomed, and in good condition, with a base of 6-10 inches. The temporary, well-posted trail closures and detours in Marengo and on Trail 77 in Cayuga remain in place. Please stay on the trails!


The February 21 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Bayfield County says most of the county received fresh snow last week and trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 12-18 inches.


The February 19 Travel Wisconsin trail report for the Clam Lake area says trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 12-18 inches. Some spots on the trails have open water and crews are trying to keep these areas posted. Ride at your own risk.


The February 21 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Douglas County says trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 18-20 inches. Reports of deer on trails continue, so be alert while traveling. Make sure the trail you use is open and do not trespass on private property.


The February 19 Travel Wisconsin trail report for the Park Falls/Phillips area says trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 16-20 inches. The warm weather should not have much effect on the trails. A reroute on Trail 120 is in effect all season; a reroute on the northern section eliminates a very bad part of the swamp. A logging operation remains in progress on Trail 94 about two miles north of intersection 99.


The February 24 Travel Wisconsin trail report for Washburn County says all trails are open, groomed, and in excellent condition, with a base of 8-14 inches. The area received significant snowfall Feb. 17 and Feb. 19, followed by trail grooming. Groomers are typically out on the trails daily. Travel with caution – there are some patchy ice conditions throughout the trail system.



The DNR is again reminding snowmobilers to ride safely and responsibly following three snowmobiler fatalities in accidents this past weekend that raises total deaths to 17 so far this season. In 2019, there were 16 snowmobile fatalities. February is often the deadliest month for snowmobilers, with alcohol, excessive speed, driver inexperience, and operator error the leading causes. According to DNR warden Lt. Martin Stone, safe snowmobiling means operating within your capabilities, following others at safe distances, and using appropriate speeds for the terrain and daylight and night riding.


Sevenwinds Casino will host a Midwest Extreme Snowmobile Challenge (MESC) this Saturday, February 29, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The course is on a portion of the UTV racecourse, fields, and some woods, with a large portion of the course in view of spectators near the casino. This is long distance XC snowmobile racing. Admission is $5 for adults; kids with an adult enter at no charge. For more information, visit www.sevenwindscasino.com or call (833-479-4637.



Gamefish season closes this Sunday, March 1, so this is your last week to chase gamefish until gamefish season reopens Saturday, May 2 (a full two months away!) If you have been “kind of wanting to get out and fish for some walleyes” this winter, you better do it now!



Walleye action is fair to good, but the fish are difficult to pattern, though most success is in late afternoon into after dark. Concentrate on deeper weeds and weed edges at varied depths. Walleye suckers, shiners, and fatheads on tip-ups and dead sticks continue to be the most productive presentations.


Northern Pike:

Northern pike fishing is good to very good throughout the day, with fish nearly always searching for food. Look for pike around weeds and weed edges in shallow to mid-depth areas holding panfish. Use tip-ups with northern suckers, walleye suckers, and large shiners – but do not overlook smaller live bait and lighter equipment.


Crappie, Bluegill, Perch:

Crappies schools are on the move and the best action is in mid and late afternoon hours. Use your electronics and search weeds and weed edges in 8-20 feet. Once again, be SURE to check the entire water column – crappies can suspend and/or hold at any position within the water column. Baits of choice include jigs with crappie minnows, waxies, and plastics. As you head to the lake, check with your favorite bait shop for the most current hot baits, colors, and presentations. Using a spring bobber will help detect the light bites.

Bluegill fishing, as with crappie, is best in mid to late afternoon in similar areas, but they are near bottom. Waxies, mousies, spikes, and plastics are all effective bluegill baits.

Anglers chasing perch will find them near the bottom, too, with the same baits as for bluegills, and minnow heads on jigs. Moving your offering on the bottom can get their interest.


Upcoming Events

Feb. 23: Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing season closed.

Feb. 28: Cottontail rabbit season closes.

Feb. 28-March 1: WI Women FishCrappie Weekend” at Deerfoot Lodge (715-462-3328).

Feb. 29: Midwest Extreme Snowmobile Challenge (833-479-4637; (715-462-3674).

March 1: Remove ice fishing shelters from WI-MN boundary waters.

March 7: Game fish season closes for all inland species (check regs for exceptions).

March 8: Daylight Saving Time begins at 2 a.m. (turn clocks ahead one hour).

March 8: Remove ice fishing shelters south of Hwy 64.

March 8: Mink trapping season closes.

March 15: Remove ice fishing shelters north of Hwy 64, Lake Superior, and WI-MI boundary waters.

March 16-20: Remaining spring turkey permits on sale beginning at 10 a.m.

March 24: Sawyer County Fisheries Forum at Hayward High School; starts 6 p.m.

March 20: Winter crow season closes.

March 28: Trout season opens on designated sections Lake Superior tributaries (see regs).


For more information on area events and activities, visit the Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau website, view the Calendar of Events, or call 800-724-2992.