Hayward Lakes Outdoor Report 7-20-2021

Steve Suman


Chances for rain and thunderstorms, though slight, are in the forecast for all week and leading into the weekend. High temperatures will range from the low to upper 80s, with most lows around the lower 60s. There are many recreational opportunities to enjoy during summer in the North Woods ‑ do not allow “chances” for showers to deter you!


“This time of year, we usually worry about rain interrupting our Quiet Lakes’ plans,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “but that is not this year. Instead, we worry if we will get some rain. Water levels are down and water temperatures spiking.

“Fishing remains somewhat consistent, however, and anglers catch fish on almost every outing and recently some bigger fish, too.

“Musky action is still slow, but anglers are catching fish in mid-depths adjacent to vegetation.

“Walleyes are getting a little trickier to come by on most lakes, but you will find some success if you concentrate efforts on periods of low light. Drifting over deep basins and dragging crawler halves and leeches continues to put some fish in the boat.

“Northern pike are in mid-depths adjacent to vegetation. Casting big spinnerbaits and swimbaits is a good way to attract some fish.

“Bass fishing continues to be best around shady cover and deeper structure. Dock fishing is now a thing as we experience the hottest days of the year, and topwater baits thrown into cover are producing.

“Crappies and larger panfish are relating to deeper vegetative cover and anglers are catching them in 12-18 feet. Crappie minnows, crawler pieces, and small plastics on slip bobber rigs and vertical jigging will catch some fish.”


Trent at Hayward Bait says water temperatures remain near 80 degrees on most Hayward area lakes, making for a tough bite during the day. Still, mornings and evenings are quite productive, and many anglers report a decent to very good bite despite the warm water.

“Musky and northern pike anglers might want to push to deeper cove. The active fish are coming from weeds and ledges in 15-25 feet, although morning and evening hours might show a bite in 10 feet on some lakes. Bucktails, jerkbaits, and topwaters are the current favorites.

“Walleye reports are indicating the bite has slowed. The majority of catches are on drop-offs and breaklines in 20-25 feet, but anglers might have to go deeper as well. Jigging Raps, Hyper-Glides, and ripping and blade baits make it easier to reach the desired depths and still have plenty of action.

“Largemouth bass are hanging around vegetation, wood, and docks in 3-8 feet. Finesse rigs such as Texas and wacky rigged worms are making tight lines for a number of anglers.

“Smallmouth bass are staging on breaklines and offshore vegetation in about 20 feet. Anglers report success with Ned rigs, crankbaits, and wacky worms.

“Crappies are in about 10-15 feet, with some as deep as 20 feet and suspending. Jigs and minnows, Slab Daddy jigs, and small crankbaits are good options.

“Bluegills are often near vegetation and wood structure in 5-15 feet, depending on the waterbody. Leaf worms, red worms, Bimbo Skunk flies, and chicken jigs are working for many anglers.

“Perch are near the bottom on humps, drop-offs, and saddles with light vegetation, and nearly anything you throw at them can prove effective.”


Jim and Cathy at Minnow Jim’s say Nelson Lake walleye anglers should cast or troll rocky shorelines early and late in the day.

“Try stickbaits, crawler harnesses, and live bait such as leeches, crawlers, and minnows.

“Northern pike anglers are catching a lot of fish on minnows, zigzag stickbaits, spinnerbaits, and buzzbaits.

“Largemouth bass anglers can tempt fish with weedless soft plastic baits, spinnerbaits, and swim jigs cast along weeds and weed beds.

“Crappies and bluegills are typically near bogs and crabs, but if not there, try weedlines. Try waxies, worms, crawler bits, and leeches under bobbers, and or cast Beetle Spins and small dressed jigs such as Cubbies and Tattle-Tails.”


This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses Nelson Lake’s record yellow bullhead.

“It happened quietly, but a fish caught in Sauk County has eclipsed a record fish from Sawyer County. No, not ‘that’ record fish ‑ you would have heard about that. Sawyer County was home to a state record fish that nobody seemed to crow about and certainly had no mention on local water towers or festivals.

“Since 1983, the state record yellow bullhead was a 3 lb. 5 oz. fish from Nelson Lake. In the grand scheme of things, that is a relatively longstanding record, but apparently, it was a record not meant to last.

“In 2020, White Mound Lake in Sauk County produced the new state record, an impressive 4.15-pound specimen. Fisheries biologist colleague Nate Nye confirmed the catch with this quote: ‘Legend has it there is gold hidden deep within the hills of western Sauk County. If by gold you mean state record yellow bullheads, the legend is true.’

“Interestingly, anglers caught the 1983 Nelson Lake and the 2020 Sauk County record bullheads on the same day of the year, June 6. Perhaps we should designate that day as ‘Wisconsin Bullhead Day?’

“Unfortunately, this record caught us by surprise, and there are no active plans to try to grow a bigger bullhead in the Hayward area to retake the record.”


Plan now to attend the Lumberjack World Championships July 29-31 at the Lumberjack Bowl on County Road B in Hayward. Watch the world’s best lumberjack athletes compete to determine who IS best in the world! Preliminaries are Thursday and Friday, with the finals Saturday.

For more information, visit www.lumberjackworldchampionships.com or call 715-634-2484.


The Wisconsin DNR has announced the three lucky residents drawn for their once-in-a-lifetime elk harvest tag for the 2021 elk hunting season. The random selection of the hunters came from a pool of more than 25,000 applicants. The winning hunters are from the Madison, Marshfield, and Manitowoc areas.

The Natural Resources Board approved a harvest quota of eight bulls from the northern elk management zone. Four tags go to state hunters; the Ojibwe tribes receive the remaining four tags per treaty rights within the Ceded Territory.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will award the fourth state elk license through a raffle, with proceeds funding Wisconsin elk management and research. Resident hunters can purchase the $10 raffle tickets on the RMEF website, and RMEF will draw the winner Saturday, Aug. 14.

The 2021 elk hunt split season runs Oct. 16-Nov. 14, and Dec. 9-17, and will take place in Wisconsin’s northern elk zone in parts of Ashland, Bayfield, Price, Rusk, and Sawyer counties.

The 25,000 applicants’ $10 application fee contributed directly to the future of the state’s elk population, as $7 goes to elk management, habitat restoration, and research. Some applicants gave more than the $10 fee, an amount totaling more than $9,700. Drawing winners must purchase a $49 elk license and attend mandatory hunter orientation before receiving their license and tag.

For more information, search “elk hunting” on the DNR website.


Hayward Chapter-Muskies Inc. will host its annual free Kids Fishing Day on Tiger Cat Flowage Sunday, August 1, from 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m., at Black Iron Bar and Grill on Hwy 77, 10 miles east of Hayward.

Knowledgeable anglers guide young anglers 10-16 years old as they fish for muskies, bass, and panfish on the Tiger Cat Flowage. Fishing begins at 9 a.m. and ends at noon for a shore lunch and prize distribution. Pre-register (required) at Hayward Bait, and a parent or guardian MUST be present to sign the registration form.

Adult anglers who are interested in volunteering as guides or helping with the shore lunch should contact Mike Persson at (715) 634-4543. For more information, call Hayward Bait (715) 634-2921.



Temperatures are fluctuating a bit and the fish will move with the changes. Take time to visit your favorite bait and tackle shop on the way to the lake to learn the current fish locations, favored baits, and presentations. Fishing is always good, but it is more fun if you catch fish!



Musky action is fair, with best success in mornings and evenings. Target weeds, drop-offs, breaklines, and ledges in depths to 25 feet, with bucktails, jerkbaits, gliders, and topwaters.



Walleye fishing slowed, though anglers are still catching fish, most during early mornings and late evening into dark. Weeds, drop-offs, breaklines, rock, and flats in depths to 28 feet can all hold fish, but look to mid depths and shallower during feeding hours. Crawlers, leeches, and minnows on harnesses and spinner rigs work well, as do jigging baits.


Northern Pike:

Northern pike action is good to very good in and around weeds, weedlines, drop-offs, and panfish concentrations in depths from very shallow out to 25 feet. Pike are finding live bait, spinners, spinnerbaits, spoons, stickbaits, jerkbaits, buzzbaits, and topwaters of interest. Go deeper with bigger baits for trophy pike.


Largemouth Bass:

Largemouth bass fishing is good to very good on weeds, weedlines, wood, brush, bogs, docks, slop, and cribs in depths from very shallow out to 18 feet. Live bait, soft plastics, rigged worms, spinnerbaits, swim jigs, and topwaters will all get the attention of bass.


Smallmouth Bass:

Smallmouth bass fishing is fair to good on weeds, weedlines, breaklines, drop-offs, and hard bottoms in depths to 22 feet. Live bait, Ned rigs, wacky works, crankbaits, soft plastics in crawdad colors, and topwaters, are all catching fish.



Crappie fishing is good, with best success in late afternoon and evening hours. Fish are around weeds, weedlines, cribs, and bogs in depths from 8-20 feet, and suspending over deeper water. The most productive baits include crappie minnows, waxies, worms, leeches, and small plastics on jigs fished with/without slip bobbers, and Beetle Spins.



Bluegill fishing is good to very good, with fish in and around weeds, weedlines, wood, brush, bogs, and cribs in depths from very shallow out to 20 feet. Top baits include waxies, leaf worms, crawler chunks, leeches, Mini-Mites, Tattle-Tails, and plastics on small jigs and teardrops, fished with/without slip bobbers, and Beetle Spins.



Perch fishing is good for fish holding near the bottom of the water column on sandy drop-offs and humps with some weeds and other vegetation. Best baits include crawler chunks, minnows, and plastics on small jigs.


Upcoming Events

July 23: Snowmobile Recreation Council Zoom meeting (715-210-4911).

July 28: Culpepper & Merriweather Circus at Sawyer County Fairgrounds; 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (715) 634-8662).

July 29-31: Lumberjack World Championships (715-634-2484).

Aug. 1: Hayward Muskies, Inc. ‑ Annual Kids Fishing Day at Black Iron Grill; 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (715-634-4543).

Aug. 10: Application deadline for wolf, fisher, bobcat tags.

Aug. 13-15: Sawyer County Fair (715-296-9000).

Aug. 15: Hayward Bass Club Free Youth Bass Tournament at The Landing Resort, 12 noon-4 p.m. (405-227-1789).

Sept. 18: Hayward Chapter-FHNB event at Lake Chippewa Campground (715-634-3185).


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.