October 26, 2020

Hayward Lakes Area Outdoor Report

Steve Suman


The forecast for this week is an improvement from last week, which did turn out somewhat better than predicted. The coming week indicates a return to seasonal temperatures, both highs and lows, and even some sunshine!

Note: This Sunday, November 1, the North Woods (as other areas) gain an extra hour of sleep when Daylight Saving Time ends at 2 a.m. Turn back clocks one hour – and then make good use of that hour, however you see fit!


“Skim ice is forming along the Quiet Lakes’ shores,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “so if you are planning a trip, bring some warm clothing. As such, fishing is an ‘experience,’ but a productive one, with big fish putting on the feed and anglers boating some nice musky, walleye, and northern pike.

“Musky anglers are floating suckers while casting bucktails and swimbaits along shorelines in 8-10 feet, and topwaters are effective in morning and evening hours. Most catches are on suckers on quick-strike rigs. Suckers are still available, though hard to say for how much longer.

“Walleyes moved from deep water to the mid-depths. Fishing jigs tipped with minnows and slow-trolling small crankbaits off weed edges and around rock and gravel areas are both working well. The best times are still early morning and late afternoon into dark.

“Northern pike continue to roam in and around shallower weeds. Spinnerbaits and smaller plastics are the go-to baits – and you might even catch a largemouth bass or two.

“Panfish are schooling and moving around the lake. Be sure you have electronics, as once you locate them you can catch a limit, but the bite lasts a short time and they begin to move again. Most fish are in 10-16 feet, sometimes near the bottom and sometimes suspended, so adjust fishing depths accordingly.”


Trent at Hayward Bait says snow and cold made fishing more interesting, but action is good for those willing to beat the cold.

“On lakes and flowages with lowered water levels, look for fish in deeper basins or at rivers mouths.

“Musky fishing is a day-to-day bite, with fish as shallow as 3-7 feet, though most in 10-15 feet. Lures are not working as well as suckers on quick-set rigs, but are raising a few fish and drawing bites on suckers near the boat.

“Walleyes remain scattered in small pods around points, sandy flats, and vegetation in depths from 10-35 feet. Jigs and sucker minnows work best, though some anglers report action on snap jigs such as Acme Hyper-Glides.

“Largemouth bass pushed to 10-20 feet. Work transition points from shallow to deep water with vegetation or wood structure. Bass hold tight to structure this time of year. Finesse jigs, spoons, and lipless crankbaits are good choices.

“Smallmouth bass moved to the rivers or to 15-25 feet on lakes. Try finesse jigs, sucker minnows, and crankbaits.

“Crappies are in deeper basins, cruising in 20-25 feet. Nelson Lake and Chippewa Flowage anglers should check pockets by the rivers. Minnows and soft plastics on jigs work well.

“Bluegills moved deeper and most success is with Bimbo Bugs and Tattle-Tails fished in 15-25 feet.”


Mike at Jenk’s says the Chippewa Flowage pool is down about 4 feet and the water temperature in the low to mid-40s.

“Muskies are active particularly on suckers. If you are casting and not dragging a sucker or two, you are limiting your potential success. This time of year, focus on neck-downs, narrows, and points bordering deeper water. Do not ignore the tips of points – these are some of the most productive spots!

“Walleye are a bit more active, although their patterns are all over the place. Some anglers are reporting catches in the weeds, while others report catches in deeper holes. The common thread between the two spots is that are weeds by the deeper holes. Work both types of structure and see what produces best for you. Minnows are the ticket right now.

“Crappie reports are thin, as musky and walleye are the dominate species of choice at this time. Still, the crappies are out there and fishing minnows on the cribs is probably the best bet.”

“This past Sunday was the end of our regular season hours. However, we are still around – call ahead and I will make it a point to meet you at the shop.”


This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses methods for aging fish.

“Readers of this column often hear about the importance of determining the age of fish. Data on fish age enables us to better understand growth rates, year class strength, and mortality of fish populations, but aging fish is really a science all in its own.

“There are fisheries researchers who built their entire careers on developing and testing the most accurate protocols to age fish. Most often, researchers age a fish by a calcified (bony) structure, called annuli, that has growth rings similar to a tree. However, choosing the correct structure is important, as is the method by which you ‘read’ the annuli.

“Biologists consider otiliths, basically the ear bones of fish, as the most accurate method of aging for many species. The trade-off is that otiliths take considerable time to process – and collecting them is lethal to the fish.

“For some species, such as walleye, it is possible to use dorsal spines effectively and this does not require killing the fish. Species such as black crappie, however, often have hollow spaces within the spines, making them very difficult to read accurately.

“Scales are commonly used to age many species of fish because they are very easy and non-lethal to collect, but scales are notoriously challenging to read, particularly for older fish. As a result, studies consistently show that scales are less accurate than otiliths and spines.”


Hayward Rod & Gun Club, three miles east of Hayward on County Road B, will host its annual rifle sight-in days for the public Nov. 14-20, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., rain, snow, or shine. The club requires shooters to wear masks. The sight-in fee is $6/rifle. The club is also holding a fundraiser rifle raffle for a Ruger .308 Win. American Predator bolt action rifle with 4-12x scope. Raffle tickets cost $10/each or 3/$20. The drawing is at 4 p.m. November 20, and the winner need not be present. For more information, call (715) 634-4912.


Sales continue for bonus antlerless deer tags at one per person, per day, until the unit sells out or seasons end. Deer authorizations cost $12 for residents, $20 for nonresidents, and $5 for youth under age 12. Sawyer County has 625 bonus tags available for private land harvest.

As of October 20, the Sawyer County deer harvest totals are 422, including 198 antlered and 224 antlerless. Totals include Archery – 124 deer (50 antlered, 74 antlerless); Crossbow – 219 deer (115 antlered, 104 antlerless); and the Oct. 10-11 Youth Deer Hunt – 79 deer (33 antlered, 46 antlerless).


Sales of bonus remaining fall turkey authorizations continue at one per person, per day, until the unit sells out or seasons end. Turkey authorizations cost $10 for residents and $15 for nonresidents. Zone 4 has 1,290 bonus harvest permits still available. No permits remain for zones 6-7. Fall turkey season ends Nov. 20 in zones 6-7, but remains open through Jan. 3 in zones 1-5.

As of October 20, the turkey harvest in zones 4, 6, and 7 are as follows: Zone 4: 280; Zone 6: 174; Zone 7: 88.


Spearers interested in the 2021 Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing season should note that October 31 is the deadline to purchase a license. The season opens February 13 for Lake Winnebago and the Upriver Lakes of Butte des Morts, Winneconne, and Poygan, and runs 16 days (max) or until spearers reach pre-determined harvest caps.




Musky fishing is good, with fish more active as the weather changes. Depths vary from very shallow to 18 feet, on weeds, points, humps adjacent to deep water. Sucker/quick-strike rigs work best, but bucktails, rubber baits, swimbaits, and jerkbaits are also catching fish. Topwaters are producing in early morning and late evening hours.



Walleye action is good, with early morning and late afternoon into dark offering the best success. Fish are in mid-depth to deep, from 8-35 feet. Locations include weeds and weed edges, rock, gravel, sand, points, flats, and deep holes. Walleye suckers, fatheads, chubs, jigging baits, and trolled crankbaits and stickbaits are all productive at this time.


Northern Pike:

Northern pike fishing is good to very good as fish are fattening up for a long winter. As usual, you will find them in and around shallow to mid-depth weeds and panfish/baitfish concentrations. Northern suckers, walleye suckers, crappie minnows, spinnerbaits, spoons, and plastics are perfect to pique pike action.


Largemouth Bass:

Largemouth bass action is fair, with anglers finding fish in, around, and close to weeds, wood, brush and other structure, and transition areas, in depths to 20 feet. Baits of choice include live bait, spinnerbaits, finesse jigs, crankbaits, and plastics. Use slower retrieves than in summer fishing.


Smallmouth Bass:

Smallmouth anglers continue to catch fish – as do those fishing for other species such as walleye and northern pike. Concentrate on hard-bottom areas in depths to 28 feet. Top baits include sucker minnows, finesse jigs, drop-shot rigs, plastics, and crankbaits.



Crappie fishing ranges from fair to very good. Fish are schooling and mobile, which can make for short bite windows unless you move with the fish. Look for fish in 8-28 feet in lake basins and around weeds and cribs. Check the entire water column, from bottom to top. Crappie minnows, plastics, Tattle-Tails, Mini-Mites, and Gulp! baits are all effective.



Bluegill fishing is fair to good and mostly revolves around locating the schools. Look for various types of cover in depths from 6-26 feet – and make sure to check the entire water column from top to bottom. Waxies, worms, crawler chunks, and plastics on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks, Bimbo Bugs, and Tattle-Tails are all working well.


Upcoming Events

Oct. 31: Deadline to purchase a Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing license.

Oct. 31: Raccoon hunting/trapping season opens for non-residents (regs).

Oct. 31: Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame closes for the season; reopens April 15 (715-634-4440).

Nov. 1: Daylight Saving Time ends at 2 a.m.; turn back clocks one hour.

Nov. 2: Woodcock season closes.

Nov. 14-20: Hayward Rod & Gun Clubannual rifle sight-in days. Masks required. Fee is $6/rifle. (715-634-4912).

Nov. 19: Crow season closes.

Nov. 20: Fall turkey season closes in zones 5, 6 (see regs).

Nov. 21-29: Traditional gun deer season (see regs).

Nov. 29: Mourning dove season closes.

Nov. 30-Dec. 9: Muzzleloader deer season (see regs).

Dec. 10: Application deadline for spring turkey, bear tags.

Dec. 10-13: Four-day antlerless deer hunt (see regs).

Dec. 21: Winter solstice – first day of winter.

Dec. 24-Jan. 1: Antlerless-only Holiday Hunt (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.