Hayward Lakes Area Outdoor Report 5-19-2020

By:  Steve Suman


Warm spring weather is finally arriving in the North Woods, just in time for Memorial Day. The forecast calls for high temperatures hitting the low 80s by the weekend, with lows dropping only to the low/mid 50s. This should be a great week to get outdoors and catch up on fresh air and sunshine!


“Anglers have dealt with windy conditions since the opener,” says Pat at Happy Hooker. “It is always best to fish the windward side, as it drives baitfish towards the banks.

“Anglers on the Quiet Lakes fan-casting rock piles with small Husky Jerks report a mix of walleye and smallmouth bass, with smallmouth catch and release until June 20. Small male walleyes are cruising rock and sandy shorelines; larger females moved towards deeper water. Anglers fishing humps and rice beds in 8-12 feet are catching some keepers. Those fishing holes in 18-25 feet are catching abundant small walleye, but few keepers. Jigs and minnows, cast or under bobbers, still work best.

“Northern pike and largemouth bass action is good on spinnerbaits and swimbaits cast along shorelines and weedlines.

“Crappie anglers are catching a few small fish around weeds, but large fish are deeper, staging for spawn. Water temperatures are still cool, but with a warm-up, fish will move in to start their spawn cycle. Use crappie minnows and small plastics under bobbers, adjusting the bobber to hold the bait above the fish – they look up, not down.”


Trent at Hayward Bait says water temperatures are creeping upwards and most species are moving shallow.

“Walleye anglers are doing well with jigs and fatheads, swimbaits, and soft plastics fished on weed edges, river channel mouths, and below dams.

“Northern pike anglers can tie on just about anything and get some action. Pike are taking jigs and minnows and Mr. Crappie Slab Daddy and Lindy Fuzz-E-Grub jigs. No need to throw big baits – unless you are after papa pike!

“Largemouth action is best on north side shorelines in afternoons. On cooler days, work 5-8 feet. Wacky worms and jigs work well, and topwaters could soon start to produce.”

“Smallmouth bass anglers report an improved bite, with jerkbaits and crankbaits popular choices. Creature baits entice both smallmouth and largemouth.

“Crappies are stacked and anglers do well once they find fish. Most anglers are jigging small minnows and Tattle-Tail jigs on cribs, humps, and vegetation in 8-10 feet.

“Bluegills have yet to move in to spawn, but with some consistently warm weather, anglers can catch them from shore. Worms are hard to beat, but popper flies also produce.”


Jim and Cathy at Minnow Jim’s says that as we patiently wait for nicer weather to warm the water, Nelson Lake fish will be shallow and anglers should start outside of bays and work toward shorelines.

“For walleyes, use fatheads, sucker minnows, leeches, and stickbaits.

“Northern pike are hitting sucker minnows and large plugs. Largemouth bass anglers do best fishing plastic worms, chatterbaits, spinnerbaits, and surface baits over weed beds.

“Panfish anglers should vertical jig and bobber-fish crappie minnows, waxies, worms, and small leeches.”


Mike at Jenk’s says the Chippewa Flowage is at full pool, with water temperatures in the low to mid 50s.

“Walleyes are deep, with most anglers finding success on mud flats and around brush in 15 feet and deeper. Side imaging is very helpful in locating fish. The most effective baits are minnows and leeches, in that order, and trolling crankbaits over deep water is also effective.

“Northern pike are active, particularly on the west side, mostly on live bait such as suckers and chubs. Make sure to check the back bays of Crane Lake, Daggett’s Bay, Squaw Bay, and James Slough.

“Crappies are also deep, with the cold front pushing back the spawn. However, warm weather can change that quickly. The mud flats in 18-20 feet outside Kavanagh Bay are producing some catches. Crappie minnows, Gulp! Minnows, and Kalin Scrubs are solid bait choices.”


Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says the shop is fully open and Chequamegon Bay and Lake Superior have considerable activity.

“Smallmouth bass, in their usual haunts of Sand Cut, Brush Point, and Oak Point, are fishing well with jigs and Twister Tails, hair grubs, and crankbaits. Use a slow presentation. In the same areas, anglers are making good catches of northern pike, walleye, and perch.

“Walleye anglers are fishing the head of the Bay, the slough, and channel drops. Some are jigging, while many are trolling crawler harnesses and stickbaits.

“Trout and salmon anglers report very good success trolling from Houghton Point to the Islands. They are primarily trolling shallow running stickbaits, with some switching to spoons on leadcore line or behind Dipsey Divers.

“All landings are open and remember to use social distancing at the docks. Word is that face coverings are required at the Washburn landing. Buffs are great for this purpose and also provide sun protection.”


This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses selective harvest at this particular time.

“Fishing remains an essential activity that is very conducive to social distancing, with the benefit of providing food with the fun. We have many people fishing at this particular moment in time, which is great. As a result, this seems like a good time to remind anglers about the principles of selective harvest, specifically in the Hayward lakes area.

“Selective harvest means keeping specific fish, or sizes of fish, that can lead to benefits for the fish community. The best selective harvest opportunities are for species more abundant than ideal, which often leads to smaller size. Of course, this means anglers might need to keep fish smaller than what they would typically consider. However, by doing so they might help drive changes in the population over time that could lead to bigger fish in the future.

“Northern pike, especially smaller fish less than 24 inches, are a good selective harvest opportunity almost everywhere in the Hayward area, with Nelson Lake an exception. Pike are not native to many of our area lakes and are abundant with poor size in many places.

“There are a handful of lakes where we have removed minimum length limits for largemouth bass with the hopes that anglers will practice some selective harvest. In these cases, harvest of bass less than 14 inches is the general guideline.

“Selective harvest can also come into play with panfish, where anglers are encouraged to keep more medium-size crappie, bluegill, and perch, and release some of the larger fish they catch. Consistently keeping only the biggest panfish can lead to reduced size structure of a panfish population.

“We are blessed that our lakes and rivers offer lots of opportunities to bring home a healthy meal of fish. In doing so thoughtfully, we can make fishing even better for the next time we go fishing.”


The Spring 2020 Sawyer County Vacation Guide is now available in hardcopy and online to plan your Hayward area visit and Main Streets USA contest 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!)



This could be a great week for anglers. The forecast predicts MUCH warmer highs in the upper 70, lows in the mid 50s, and no rain until Friday. This should get fish moving shallow to do their thing. Musky season opens Saturday, May 23, in the Northern Musky Zone (north of Highway 10). Finally, Free Fishing Weekend is coming up June 6-7 when the DNR waives fishing license requirements, with exceptions. Go fishing!



Walleye action remains good as fish head to deeper water. Target weeds, rocks, sand, holes, humps, brush, mud flats, and river channels out to 23 feet. Effective baits include live bait such as fatheads, sucker minnows, crawlers, and leeches. Artificials include crankbaits, stickbaits, swimbaits, and plastics, with trolling also productive.


Northern Pike:

Northern pike action is good to very good. Focus on mid-depths to shallow weeds and/or near panfish concentrations. Top tempters include sucker minnows, jigs/minnows, spinners, spinnerbaits, swimbaits, and spoons. Go deeper with bigger baits for trophy pike.


Largemouth Bass:

Largemouth bass fishing is fair, but should quickly improve with warming water temperatures. Fish shallower, warmer water along weedlines and shorelines later in the day; early and on cooler days, work somewhat deeper water. Wacky worms, creature baits, spinnerbaits, chatterbaits, swimbaits, plastics, and topwaters all work.


Smallmouth Bass:

Smallmouth bass fishing (catch and release until June 20) is fair to good and improving. Fish are in mid-depths on rock, gravel, sand, and other hard bottom areas as they stage for spawn. Live bait, jerkbaits, Husky Jerks, crankbaits, creature baits, swimbaits, and plastics are all effective offerings.



Crappie action is fair to good as the fish stage for spawn. Depths vary, with smaller fish very shallow and bigger fish out to 22 feet. Check for fish holding on/near weeds, humps, cribs, and brush. Best baits include crappie minnows, waxies, worms, panfish leeches, Tattle-Tails, Mini-Mites, Crappie Scrubs, and Gulp! baits fished with bobbers.



Bluegill action is fair, with fish still in pre-spawning staging mode. That could change this week with the arrival of much warmer weather. Start in mid-depths and work shallower. Baits of choice include waxies, worms, panfish leeches, plastics, and Gulp! baits fished with/without a bobber.


Upcoming Events

May 13-19: Period E spring turkey season.

May 20-26: Period F spring turkey season.

May 23-25: Memorial Day weekend.

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

May 31: Deadline to apply for a 2020 elk season tag.

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

June 6-7: Free Fun Weekend: Free admission to all state parks, forests and trails; ATV/UTV owners can ride free; DNR waives state trail pass requirement for biking, mountain biking, horseback riding, inline skating.

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.

June 28: Hayward Bass Club’s Round Lake Open tournament 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (715-699-1015; 634-2921).

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.