Hayward Lakes Area Outdoor Report 5-5-2020

By:  Steve Suman


If you enjoy outdoor recreation of any type, this past weekend provided you some extremely nice weather to do so, though with a stiff breeze and cooler temperatures Sunday. This week looks a bit cooler, but get out and enjoy the sunshine and absorb Vitamin D!


“Anglers are targeting the warmest Quiet Lakes’ waters they can find,” says Pat at Happy Hooker. “These waters are usually on the north end of the lake and/or in the shallower bays.

“Some walleyes were still spawning in the shallows last week. Now that the fish have mostly finished, they will move deeper. They will be rather slow, but still need to feed. Live bait under slip bobbers and a slow drift/troll is the best tactic.

“Northern pike are in the shallows, looking for an easy meal. Spinnerbaits and small swimbaits will attract their attention.

“Largemouth bass season is open and harvest regulations can vary from lake to lake. The DNR posts the regulations at the DNR boat ramps. Smallmouth bass fishing is catch and release only until June 20.

“Crappie anglers report success on crappie minnows and slow-drift jigging over deep mid-lake basins, with some as deep as 16-20 feet and some as shallow as 5-6 feet, but all small males. Live bait and plastics are the baits of choice.”


Trent at Hayward Bait says water temperatures range from the mid 40s to mid 50s.

“Walleyes are mimicking the crappie pattern, but move to 10 feet or shallower to feed in morning and later evening hours. Fatheads and walleye suckers are the top baits, but shallow diving crankbaits can produce when the fish move shallow to feed.

“Northern pike are known to hit just about any lure, but sucker minnows and large bucktail spinners are good choices.

“Largemouth activity will improve with rising temperature. For now, look for warmer parts of the lake that are holding baitfish. Pre-spawn is a good time to throw lipless crankbaits, swimbaits, and spinnerbaits.

“For smallmouth bass, rivers are good spots to target this time of year. Casting toward the bank and working outward, or casting parallel to the bank, should entice some strikes. Carolina rigs with leeches and crawlers are good choices, and topwater action should start as frog and mouse activity increases.

“Crappie activity is improving with the rising water temperatures and anglers report success with crappie minnows and fatheads. Target bay edges, humps, and wood – where you might also run across some walleyes.

“The bluegill bite is tough, as they are still in deeper water. They will move shallower as the water warms and they prepare for spawning. Small crawler chunks, jigs, flies, and poppers will all perform.”


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

“Walleyes are biting well in the West Fork in the mornings but afternoons are a different story. Fish are definitely in post-spawn and several anglers report success on mud bottoms and rocky bars and points bordering deeper water. Minnows and leeches are the baits of choice. This time of year, crankbaits such as Husky Jerks, Countdown Rapalas, X-Raps, and Flicker Shads are also solid choices.

“Northern pike action is decent, but mostly for smaller fish, and walleye anglers are catching numerous 14- and 15-inch hammer-handles.

“Smallmouth bass are active in the West Fork, with crawlers, minnows, and plastics working well.

“Crappie anglers report success in about 7 feet of water just outside the bays, which indicates the beginning of spawn. Most of the success is on smaller males, so the bigger females are still out deeper. Crappie minnows and plastics such as Crappie Scrubs, Mini-Mites, and Gulp! Minnows are all great choices.”


Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says high winds shot the fishing outside of Chequamegon Bay this past weekend, but fishing was good prior to those days.

“Anglers report brown trout, splake, coho, and sturgeon are at both ends of the breakwall, mostly in the smelt.

“On the Washburn side, trollers report flatlining stickbaits is productive.

“At this time, Anglers All is open for pick-up orders only.”


This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses how to fish with social distancing.

“For many of us, fishing is a social activity just as much as it is a pursuit of the fish. Getting together with friends and family, often at the same time and place, can be some of the most cherished fishing traditions. The current health crisis requires social distancing, which may challenge anglers to find new ways to be social.

“Anglers are an adaptable bunch by nature, however, often having to switch spots or tactics based on what the weather or fish are doing. This current situation will bring out that sense of creative adaptation, no doubt, but here are some ideas on how anglers can be social, while still socially distancing.

“One obvious solution is for family units to fish in separate boats, but within talking distance on the water. This way, anglers from different households could still experience fishing memories together, without being in direct contact. It might also be possible to live-stream video as you fish. However, with poor mobile data access in many areas, walkie-talkies or frequent texts and phone calls might be more feasible.

“Another option for social fishing is social media. There are the usual social media platforms you can use to show off your catch and/or taunt your ‘less lucky’ friends, but several social media apps are devoted just to fishing. Some of these apps will help you connect with other anglers who fish the same waterbodies that you fish.

“Maybe this is the summer you get serious about documenting your fishing adventures through video so you can later share with friends online. While I do not expect any of these alternatives to be as much fun as the usual fishing traditions, these are unprecedented times calling for temporary sacrifices and changes in how we do things, even in our fishing.

“One last thought for your consideration. If you are having a truly great day of fishing, do you really want anyone else to know?”


The Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame will remain closed until further notice, as per Governor Evers’ March 24 executive order. For more information, visit www.freshwater-fishing.org for details as to when it will re-open.


The County Deer Advisory Council (CDAC) for Sawyer County will meet by phone conference Tuesday, May 5, starting at 7 p.m., to discuss recommendations and antlerless harvest quotas for the 2020 deer season. To participate, call (855) 947-8255 and use pass code 311-45#. People can view a video presentation on the 2020 deer season by DNR wildlife biologist Derek Johnson and contact him at (715) 762-1340. The DNR will review CDAC recommendations and provide proposals to the Natural Resources Board for approval in June.


The Spring 2020 Hayward Lakes Area Vacation Guide is now available in hardcopy and online. Check it out to plan your next visit to the Hayward area! 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 it win $25,000! You can vote 25 times every 24 hours through May 24, per IP address. Visit www.mainstreetcontest.com/profile/41 and vote for Hayward today (and tomorrow, too!)



Hayward area anglers enjoyed excellent opening day fishing conditions for the second year in a row, with sunshine, blue skies, and a “good” walleye chop. Sunday was a bit cool, but nothing like the openers of a few years back when anglers were limited to mostly ice fishing! It was a generally good opener and fishing should only improve as water temperatures rise (and winds decrease!)



Walleye fishing is good to very good, with fish both spawning and in post-spawn, depending on the water. Start shallow, inside of 12 feet, especially in early morning and late afternoon. If you do not find the fish, try a bit deeper – or a bit shallower! Look for fish on rocks, bars, points, and mud bottoms, ideally adjacent to deeper escape areas. Effective baits and presentations vary, but walleye suckers, fatheads, small minnows, leeches, crawlers, and crankbaits all work.


Northern Pike:

Northern pike action is fair to good around shallow weeds and in areas holding panfish. Pike are usually not very selective about what they will hit, but northern and walleye suckers, bucktails, spinnerbaits, swimbaits, and spoons are all top temptations for them.


Largemouth Bass:

Largemouth action is fair. Try fishing around mid-depth to shallower structure in areas offering the warmest water. Live bait, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and swimbaits can all do the trick.


Smallmouth Bass:

Smallmouth action is good, but until June 20, it is catch and release only. Look for the fish in shallow to mid-depth areas of lakes, as well as the rivers. Minnows, crawlers, leeches, and plastics are all effective at this time.



Crappie fishing is good and getting better as the water warms. Depending on the lake, look for them in 4-20 feet around humps, wood, brush, and bay edges, as well as in deep basins. Baits of choice include crappie minnows, fatheads, plastics, and Gulp! baits.



Bluegill fishing is fair to good, with many fish holding in somewhat deeper water, waiting for warmer water for spawning. For now, look for fish around brush and weeds – any structure that will absorb the sunshine and hold warmth. Waxies, worms, crawler chunks, and small dressed jigs should get their attention.


Upcoming Events

April 30: Seasons closed: Otter and beaver trapping in North Zone.

May 2: Seasons opened: Inland gamefish (see regs); Musky south of Hwy 10; Smallmouth bass (catch and release); Frog.

May 4: Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies, Inc. meeting cancelled due to virus quarantining (715-634-4543).

May 5: Sawyer CountyCDAC meeting by phone conference, 7 p.m. (855-947-8255).

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 Weekend – no fishing license required! (See regs for exceptions).

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


Spring turkey season dates

April 29-May 5: Period C.

May 6-12: Period D.

May 13-29: Period E.

May 20-26: Period F.


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.