Hayward Lakes Area Outdoor Report 5-12-2020

By: Steve Suman

The forecast for this week shows a warming trend, with temperatures nearing 70 degrees on some days, but includes a few chances for showers spread out over the week. During your outside activities, remember that northern Wisconsin’s fire danger remains High to Very High due to low humidity and slow green-up, so practice due diligence!


“Water temperatures on the Quiet Lakes are starting to climb into the 50s,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “but our forecast calls for a few night lows below freezing. Things are only going to get better once we get into warmer weather.

“Walleye action is good and opening weekend anglers caught an abundance of small/under-size fish in 20-30 feet. Walleyes completed spawn, but have not returned to deeper water. Anglers fishing humps, weeds, and rice beds are taking some legal size fish. Live bait, such as large fatheads, is the bait of choice, either by casting or bobber fishing.

“Shallower bays are warming fastest and panfish anglers are finding some fish willing to take baits. The best presentation is a small red hook tipped with a crappie minnow or soft plastic fished under a small bobber. It is critical to cast toward shallower water without spooking the fish. The first few casts matter most – if you can get a couple of bites, it can start a school feeding frenzy. Most anglers know fish are competitive by nature, and when you find them stacked, the catching can be fantastic. Given the time of year and water temperatures, time of day is not critical.

“We encourage anglers to practice conservation. While it would be nice to fill the live well full of fish, please do not get careless with our resources.

“Be well and stay safe!”


Trent at Hayward Bait says the North Woods has experienced crazy temperatures, with some days in the 50s and some nights in the low 20s. Warm days provide a decent bite, but fishing is tough on the cooler days.

“Walleye anglers are finding fish as shallow as 3 feet when water temperatures approach 60 degrees, but, try bay mouths and channels on cooler days. Fathead minnows and worms work well.

“Northern pike are in 3-7 feet – and frequently cutting lines. There is no need to throw anything big yet, as some bigger pike are biting off the crappie jigs of some anglers. Try Slab Daddy jigs with light wire leaders to keep pike from cutting the line.

“Largemouth bass are in 4-8 feet, with smaller fish hugging the shorelines. Dragging creature baits along the bottom is working, as are stick worms and swimbaits on warmer days.

“Smallmouth bass are in 10-12 feet around humps and points with sand and gravel bottoms. Finesse jigs and crankbaits will get their interest.

“Crappies are more active on warmer days and fishing areas similar to those for walleye should produce a few. Crappie minnows are the best choice, but Kalin’s Crappie Scrubs and Tattle-Tail jigs will also get fish for the frying pan.

“The bluegill bite remains tough. They are shallow on warmer days, but still not very active. When bluegills are finicky, leaf worms and crawlers are the best choices.

“Warmer days ahead should produce a better bite.”


Jim and Cathy at Minnow Jim’s say Nelson Lake had a nice opener, with warm temperatures in the 60s.

“Early season anglers cannot go wrong with live bait, including minnow, crawlers, waxies, worms, and leeches.

“Walleye anglers should target sandy shorelines and the north end by the river mouth. Panfish anglers should look for warmer water in bays.”


This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses trout fishing and harvest.

“Trout occupy an interesting place in our fishing landscape. Many anglers revere them for their beauty and enjoy fishing for them because of the pristine streams and spring ponds they inhabit. For some anglers, it is strictly catch and release fishing; others see trout fishing as a harvest opportunity. I would argue that neither of these approaches is wrong, and Sawyer County’s management scheme allows for both experiences.

“In the Hayward area, the Namekagon River is by far our best trophy trout water, frequently producing 20-inch and larger brown trout. Fishing regulations match the Namekagon’s trophy potential and create a fishery where anglers release most trout they catch so the fish can keep growing. Many Namekagon River tributaries have regulations more protective than other streams their size, since young browns that might occupy these streams as juveniles can move out to the main river to become trophies.

“So, which streams are the best bets for anglers who want to harvest trout in the Hayward area?

“Several high-density streams near Exeland, such as Beaver, Buckhorn, and Maple, offer fantastic brook trout fishing and the DNR recently relaxed regulations on these streams to offer more harvest opportunities. Hatchery Creek, running through Hatchery Park, also has liberal regulations to allow harvest. Although they have moderately protective regulations, Casey Creek near Winter, Venison Creek in the National Forest, and Thirty-Three Creek between Birchwood and Exeland also offer great harvest opportunities for nice-sized brook trout.

“There are certainly other named trout streams in the area, but many have low-density trout populations or an average trout size likely smaller than most anglers seek.”


The DNR is continuing its suspension of all burning permits in DNR fire protection areas until further notice. This prohibits all burning of debris in barrels and on the ground, grass, and wooded areas. Debris burning is the #1 cause of wildfires and spring has the highest fire risk. Fire danger is High to Very High in northern Wisconsin and the DNR asks the public to reduce outdoor burning, including limiting campfires, ashes from fireplaces, outdoor grills, smoking, chainsaws, off-road vehicles, and other small engines with potential to throw sparks. Trees, shrubs, and grasses are very dry and the northern half of the state is entering a critical time for catastrophic fire, especially in sandy soil and pine areas. Stay up-to-date on the fire danger and check current wildfire activity on the DNR website. Remember to report wildfires by dialing 911 immediately.


Elk hunters should note that May 31 is the deadline to apply for a 2020 elk season tag. The $10 applications are available through the DNR’s Go Wild license system and license agents. Only Wisconsin residents are eligible. Raffle tickets for a tag drawing are available from Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for $10, with no limit on purchases. For more information, search “elk” on the DNR website.


The Spring 2020 Sawyer County Vacation Guide is now available in hardcopy and online to plan your Hayward area visit! In addition, the Main Streets USA contest has named Main Street Hayward as a Top 25 Quarterfinalist for 2020! Vote for Main Street Hayward as America’s Main Street and help Hayward win $25,000! You can vote 25 times every 24 hours through May 24. Visit www.mainstreetcontest.com/profile/41 to vote for Hayward today (and tomorrow, too!)



This past week offered less than ideal fishing conditions, with wind and cold (and a few snow flurries!) affecting angler efforts. Some who ventured out did well, depending on weather conditions, target species, and angler skill. Check with your favorite bait and tackle shop contacts for the most current favored baits, presentations, and fish locations. There are always frequent changes during the spring transition and a quick stop at the shop can save a considerable amount of time on the water. These people want you to catch fish – they take pride and find it rewarding to help you have success!



Walleye fishing remains good to very good, with many post-spawn fish still somewhat shallow. Small fish remain deep, so concentrate on mid-depths to very shallow for legal size fish. Humps, weeds, bay mouths, and sandy shorelines can all hold fish. Fatheads and other minnows, crawlers, and leeches on jigs and under bobber are all producing some good catches.


Northern Pike:

Northern pike fishing is good to very good, particularly around weeds in shallower water (less than 10 feet) and anywhere you find panfish concentrations. Best baits include live baits, spinners, and spoons – and use a wire leader!


Largemouth Bass:

Largemouth bass action is fair since the water temperatures are still somewhat cold, so look for the warmest water you can find in shallower bays, on dark bottoms, and around brush and other structure. Anglers report having the best success with swimbaits, creature baits, stick worms, minnows, crawlers, and leeches.


Smallmouth Bass:

Smallmouth fishing is good to very good. Look for them in 10-12 feet on humps, points, sand, and gravel. Sucker minnows, crawlers, leeches, swim jigs, plastics, and crankbaits are all catching fish. Remember that smallmouth fishing in the Northern Zone is catch and release only until June 20.



Crappie fishing is good and getting better, especially on sunny, warmer days, as fish begin to stage in mid-depths prior to moving to the shallows to spawn. Top baits include crappie minnows, waxies, worms, panfish leeches, plastics such as Crappie Scrubs, Tattle-Tails, Mini-Mites, and Gulp! baits fished on small jigs under bobbers.



Bluegill fishing is fair to good, with colder temperatures keeping fish mostly in deeper water. They do move to shallow warmer water, such as on darker bottom areas on sunny days. Baits of choice are the traditional offerings of waxies, leaf worms, crawler chunks, panfish leeches, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks.


Upcoming Events

May 6-12: Period D spring turkey season.

May 13-29: Period E spring turkey season.

May 15-7: Musky Tale Resort’s Northern Encounter – canceled (715-462-3838).

May 20-26: Period F spring turkey season.

May 23-25: Memorial Day weekend.

May 23: Musky season opens north of State Highway 10.

Through May 31: DNR accepting elk tag applications for 2020 elk hunting season.

June 6-7: Free Fishing (and more!) Weekend – no fishing license required (see regs for exceptions).

June 20: Smallmouth bass fishing changes to regular season in the Northern Zone (see regs for exceptions).

June 20: Summer solstice – the longest day (daylight) and shortest night of the year.

Through July 31: Illegal to allow unleashed dogs to run on DNR lands and FWPAs (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.