Hayward Lakes Outdoor Report 5-25-2021

Steve Suman


The forecast for this week shows a number of “chances for showers and thunderstorms” days, along with a cooling trend. Rain alone is not a terrible problem, but it is a good idea to watch for thunderstorms, particularly if you are recreating in open areas or spending time on the water. Friday through the Memorial Day weekend appears to have the potential for beautiful weather, so make your plans, but with fall-backs in place.


“The Quiet Lakes received much needed precipitation last weekend,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “and the forecast promises more rain as well. When planning an outing, pack a rain suit ‑ and bug spray!

“Walleyes are tight to breaks in 9-15 feet. The best tactic is casting soft plastics, with live bait also taking some fish. Do not be surprised to hook a northern pike or largemouth bass while fishing for walleyes or panfish. Next Saturday, May 29, is the opening of the 2021 musky season.

“Panfish and even some largemouth bass are starting to make their beds during spawn. Crappies across the region are really starting to feed, and hair jigs and crappie minnow under floats will take some fish.

“Sunfish are also doing well in 1-6 feet, hitting small worm chunks. On a side note, it is not a good idea to target fish sitting on beds, as it can disrupt the spawning cycle.

Next Monday, May 31, is Memorial Day. Let us all take a moment to remember all those who gave their lives for us to keep our freedom.”


Trent at Hayward Bait says water temperatures are on the rise.

“Surface temperatures are in the upper 50s to lower 60s on some large waterbodies, and as high as 68 degrees on smaller lakes.

“Walleyes are transitioning to summer areas on many lakes, though a week or so behind on the bigger, colder lakes. Anglers report a good bite on hair jigs in 10-15 feet, and a decent evening bite in 5 feet or shallower. Try crawler harnesses and spinner rigs as temperatures rise.

“Northern pike are in shallow cabbage and Mepps spinners and jerkbaits work well.

“Largemouth bass are spawning in 6 feet and shallower, with wood and vegetation productive. Plastic worms, topwaters, and bass jigs are all good.

“Smallmouth bass are on beds on hard bottoms in 10 feet and shallower, hitting jerkbaits, hair jigs, and leeches and worms on slip bobbers.

“Crappies are on beds in 7-10 feet, with crappie minnows and worms on jigs and Slab Daddy jigs good choices. Use lighter jigs such as Tattle-Tails for shallow water fish.

“Bluegills are shallow, with many on beds in 1-10 feet. Wet and dry flies, chicken jigs, and Bimbo Skunk Bugs all work well.”


Jim at Minnow Jim’s says Nelson Lake walleye anglers should fish rocky shorelines and points with jigs/minnows, jig/leeches, and stickbaits.

“Northern pike anglers are finding considerable action fishing sucker minnows and surface plugs in all depths.

“Largemouth bass are hitting spinners and plastic frogs in and along developing weedlines.

“Poplar tree fuzz combined with the warm temperatures indicates panfish are spawning. For crappies, use small minnows and dressed jigs. If bluegills are not yet on beds in the shallows, they are close. Work shorelines with your favorite live bait, small poppers, and spiders.”


Mike at Jenk’s says the Chippewa Flowage is at full pool, with water temperatures in the low to mid 60s.

“The walleye bite is strong in 16-18 feet, but anglers desire larger fish. Bigger walleyes are around floating bogs and shallower weeds. You will not catch as many fish there, but have a better chance of getting keepers. Minnows, leeches, and crankbaits all work well.

“Northern pike are active on live bait, though also hitting Tinsel-Tails and Beetle Spins. If casting, hang a sucker or chub off the side of the boat.

“Crappie anglers are catching some females shallow, but still full of eggs, so they have not spawned. When they go, it will probably not last long. Minnows and various panfish plastics are the ticket.”


This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses a spring surgeon survey.

“The ‘Sturgeon Rodeo’ was back in town for a one-day-only show below the Arpin Dam on the Chippewa River in Radisson. The ‘Sturgeon Rodeo’ is what we call our spring adult surgeon survey, and for good reason ‑ it is wild!

“The dam operator contacted us May 4 to say that an estimated 60 sturgeon had shown up below the dam’s spillways. The water temperature at that time was about 53°F, just reaching the spawning range for sturgeon. On May 6, the Hayward and Park Falls Fish teams convened at the dam to survey and tag as many adult sturgeon as possible.

“When sturgeon concentrate below spillways, it is often possible to capture them with large frame dip nets ‑ think giant landing nets with longer, sturdier handles.

“But it is not easy.

“We scramble around on slick, algae-covered rocks to get close enough to get the sturgeon into our nets. The fish constantly seek deeper water to evade us and water overtopped more than one pair of waders during this survey.

“In three hours we captured 86 adult sturgeon, with nearly all more than 45 inches in length and a half-dozen or so more than 60 inches. The largest sturgeon was 68.5 inches, nearly 6 feet in length.

“We scan all captured sturgeon for tags, and with this long-lived species, we sometimes find a tagged fish not seen for a decade or more. Any fish without a tag receives one so that we can gather data on its growth and movement in future years.

“After the rodeo, we return all fish to the river to finish spawning so this incredible species of dinosaur fish can continue to thrive in our waters.

“The data from these surveys has many uses, including tracking growth, estimating population size, setting harvest regulations, and informing dam operation decisions.”


Spring is the most critical fire season in Wisconsin and DNR fire experts remind the public to remain vigilant. Rains provide a bit of a reprieve, but dead grass, leaves, and pine needles dry quickly and become ready to ignite. Be cautious with any outdoor flames, smoke, campfires, ash disposal, and when using equipment. Delay any debris pile burning until vegetation greens up or becomes less dry after spring rains. To check the daily fire danger, wildfire reports, and burning restrictions, search “wildfire danger” on the DNR website, or visit https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/forestfire/restrictions.asp.


Boaters: A new law in effect April 1 requires operators of boats less than 26 feet long to use engine cut-off switches when underway. If an engine cut-off switch is present, the operator must use it. For more information and clarification, visit the BoatUS and U.S. Coast Guard websites.


The Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum in Spooner will host its 11th Annual Canoe & Wooden Boat Show Saturday, May 29, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The free event features more than 20 private exhibitors, museum open house and tours, canoe workshop activities, and live music, with food and beverages available in the beer garden. For more information, visit www.WisconsinCanoeHeritageMuseum.org or call (715) 635-2479.


Wisconsin hunters should note that May 31 is the application deadline for 2021 elk tags. The fee is $10. Hunters can apply through their Go Wild accounts or license agents. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation sells raffle tickets for one bull tag for $10 each, with no limit on the number one can purchase. Proceeds from the RMEF raffle and $7 from each DNR tag application go to elk management and research in Wisconsin. Wisconsin hunters have a 93-percent harvest success rate. For more information, search “elk” on the DNR website.



Panfish and bass are spawning (or on the verge of doing so) as water temperatures reach the “correct” level. Fishing is great, but it is easy to over-harvest these spawning fish. Consider keeping only enough for a couple meals ‑ for the family, not for the entire neighborhood! Be sure to check daily bag and possession limits on the waters you fish.

Musky season opens in the Northern Musky Zone Saturday, May 29, of Memorial Day weekend. The following weekend, Saturday and Sunday June 5-6, is Free Fishing and Free Fun Weekend when the DNR waives fishing license, state park admission, and trail pass requirements.

The DNR will close the Sand Lake boat launch June 1 as it begins a renovation of the launch. The contractor plans to complete the new ramp installation and pavement markings and reopen by July 1, in time for the July Fourth holiday weekend. As with any construction project, weather could delay completion and the reopening date.



Walleye action is good to very good. The fish are dispersing to summer locations and are now on weeds, breaklines, bogs, and rock points in depths from 4-20 feet. Work shallower water from evening into after dark. Baits of choice include minnows, leeches, crawlers, and plastics on jigs and spinners; crankbaits, and stickbaits.


Northern Pike:

Northern pike fishing is good to very good around mid-depth to shallow weeds and especially near spawning panfish concentrations. Pike are not particularly particular and hit most offerings, but top baits include suckers, chubs, plugs, spinners, spinnerbaits, spoons, and jerkbaits.


Largemouth Bass:

Largemouth bass are in for spawning, in depths to 8 feet around weeds, weedlines, and wood. Assorted bass plastics, swim jigs, spinners, and even various topwaters are enticing action.


Smallmouth Bass:

Smallmouth bass are also in spawning mode, on hard bottoms in depths to 12 feet. Various bass plastics, jerkbaits, and live bait such as minnows, leeches, and crawlers under slip bobbers are all productive baits.



Crappie fishing is good to excellent, with weather conditions affecting success during the shallow water spawning process. Crappie minnows, waxies, worms, and plastics on various jigs with/without a bobber are all producing.



Bluegill fishing is good to excellent with fish on their spawning beds in the shallows. Waxies, worms, and plastics on small jigs, and small poppers and spiders all work well.


Upcoming Events

May 26-June 1: Period F spring turkey season.

May 29: Canoe Heritage Day at Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum in Spooner; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (715-635-2479).

May 29: Musky season opens in Northern Musky Zone.

May 31: Application deadline for 2021 elk tag.

May 31: Memorial Day ‑ to memorialize the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country.

June 4-6: Vets Fish Fest in Winter (715-492-6407).

June 5-6: DNR Free Fishing and Free Fun Weekend ‑ No fishing license, state park admission, or trail passes required.

June 7-11: Fishing Has No Boundaries-Hayward Chapter ‑ Senior Citizen Event on Nelson Lake (715-634-3185).

June 19: Smallmouth bass season opens for harvest.

Jun 24-27: 71st Annual Musky Fest (715-634-8662).

June 27: Hayward Bass Club Round Lakes Open Tournament, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (text 405-227-1789).


For more information on area events and activities, visit the Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau and Hayward Area Chamber of Commerce websites, view the Calendar of Events, or call (715) 634-8662 or 800-724-2992.