Hayward Lakes Outdoor Report 9-8-2020

By: Steve Suman


“Noticeable” weather changes occur this time of year – and apparently, some are occurring this week. Expect some nights in the 30s (frost possible) and highs in the 50s/60s, both about 10 degrees below average, and some rain showers. There will be also be days of sunshine and mild temperatures, so enjoy every one of them!


“On the Quiet Lakes, we see early signs of fall fishing,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “which offers some of the best fishing of the year. Fishing is fair to good, with some days better than other days, but action is certainly increasing.

“Musky action is slow, but as the temperatures drop, big predators, and most other species, should increase activity.

“Walleyes are still in the weeds, but the best bite at this time is over hard substrates such as rock and/or sand. Shallower mid-lake humps and windblown shorelines are also still good areas to target. A good tactic is to troll until you find active feeders and then jig minnows or cast small crankbaits. Do not be surprised if you also catch northern pike and smallmouth bass. Best time is late afternoon into dark.

“Panfish fishing is good in deep vegetation on small plastics and hair jigs. Tip them with crawler chunks and pitch them into the weed ‘pockets.’ Anglers looking for more of a comfort bite should try live bait under slip bobbers.”


Trent at Hayward Bait says fall is in the air and multiple species are moving deeper.

“The musky bite is improving, with anglers doing best in early morning and late evening into after dark. Work weedlines, points, and drop-offs in 10-15 feet. Bucktails, Bull Dawgs, and Lake X Toads work well. Do not be afraid to downsize, as often fish are just looking for a quick snack.

“Walleyes are in 17 feet and deeper, around rock and gravel structure, as well as suspending in 15-30 feet near the thermocline. Jigging Raps, Hyper-Glides, and swimbaits are favorites, and trolling crankbaits is again popular.

“Northern pike action is good and most anglers key on them in morning and afternoon hours. Some fish are in the shallows, but most are in 10-15 feet. Work weedlines and drop-offs with crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and swimbaits.

“Largemouth bass are shallow around docks and lily pads, with some migrating deeper during the fall transition. Senkos, spinners, and swimbaits are favored, but topwaters remain a factor.

“Smallmouth bass are on points, humps, and breaklines in 10-20 feet. Topwaters work, but with cooling temperatures, soft jerkbaits, Ned rigs, and Senkos get good attention.

“Panfish are in 25-30 feet, searching for the thermocline, and suspending at 10-15 feet. Use jigs and minnows, small spinners, and waxies.”


Jim and Cathy at Minnow Jim’s say trolling seems to be the enticement for Nelson Lake walleye.

“Troll with stickbaits, Lindy crawler harnesses, and crawlers tipped on Mustad Slow Death hooks.

“Mepps bucktails work well on northern pike, while spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, swim jigs, and surface baits are doing the trick for largemouth bass.

“The crappie bite slowed a bit, but panfish anglers are doing well by drifting in 8-15 feet while jigging and bobber-fishing waxies, worms, crawler chunks, and Gulp Alive! baits. If the bite is slow, adjust the bait depth.”


Mike at Jenk’s says the Chippewa Flowage is at full level, with the water temperature 72 degrees and dropping.

“Musky fishing is solid and anglers caught several nice fish in the past week, with much of the action on figure-8s. Water temperatures dropping into the low 70s are in the ideal range for musky fishing. Surface baits, bucktails, and suckers should be effective. If you troll, be sure to troll breaklines and underwater points.

“Walleye anglers should target smaller bogs in 16-17 feet and use the smallest minnows available, which seems to be the pattern for a day of consistent catching. That could change with water temperatures dropping this week, so watch the water temperatures and keep your options open.

“Northern pike are active on spinnerbaits, spoons, and suckers for anglers fishing in shallow to mid-depth weed beds.

“Smallmouth bass action remains good in and around rocks and stumps with plastics and Ned Rigs.

“Crappies are sitting in the deeper cribs, brush piles, and weed humps. Do not get hung up on just one spot. Move around and try multiple cribs until you start finding some action.”


This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses why fish get big.

“Most anglers are interested in big fish, and forefront in anglers’ minds as they pick their spots and tactics is catching a trophy or a fish large enough they consider a ‘keeper.’ A question about fish size that anglers may not consider from a biological perspective is ‘Why do fish get big?’

“To answer that question, we must step back and remember that the goal of every fish, basically every organism, is to pass on its genes. The goal is not necessarily to get big, and fish will be big only if it is something that helps pass on the genes through successful reproduction. With that starting point, we can examine why fish get big.

“In some species, such as muskies, size is directly beneficial to reproduction. Over evolutionary time, female muskies that grew larger could produce more eggs, increasing the odds of successfully passing on their genes.

“Predation is another reason why fish might be more successful by getting big. For species such as redhorse and sucker, it is beneficial to reach a size that your main predators cannot eat you, with the bonus of producing more eggs.

“There can also be social dominance in having a size advantage over rivals. We see this in bluegill, where the largest males attract the most females, providing the opportunity to fertilize more eggs to pass on their genes.

“Nature, through evolution, has set up all sorts of ways that getting big can be selected. As anglers, we should consider how our actions might counteract the natural selection process favoring bigger fish.

“Historically, humans had a tendency to harvest the biggest fish they could catch, which is extremely unnatural considering how other predators function – eating the small and weak. This might mean that over a long time we could be changing how natural selection functions.

“If anglers are most likely to harvest the largest individuals, it might become an advantage for fish to stay small, because only those smaller fish will pass on their genes. This has already been observed in oceanic commercial fisheries and is speculated for sport fisheries as well.”


This Saturday, September 12, is a big one for Wisconsin hunters, as the following seasons open: Archery and crossbow deer, fall turkey and crow, ruffed grouse in Zone A, cottontail rabbit in the Northern Zone, and gray and fox squirrel. As always, check the current regulations before you go afield. In addition, the DNR forecasts for 2020 fall hunting and trapping seasons are now available online by clicking on the following the links (corrected/updated): Deer; Bear; Upland Game Bird; Migratory Birds; Furbearer Hunting and Trapping. For more information on regulations and season dates, visit the DNR website.


Sales continue for antlerless deer tags and fall turkey authorizations at one per person, per day, until the unit sells out or the seasons ends. Deer authorizations cost $12 for residents, $20 for nonresidents, and $5 for youth under age 12. Turkey authorizations cost $10 for residents and $15 for nonresidents.


Wisconsin’s hook-and-line lake sturgeon season opened Saturday, September 5, on designated waters. Anglers intending to harvest a sturgeon must purchase a harvest permit costing $20 for residents and $50 for non-residents. Check the regulations, requirements, and restrictions for this season!


Wisconsin’s 2020 black bear hunting season opens Wednesday, September 9. Check the DNR website for season dates and regulations.



This is a major transition time due to significant temperature changes. On your way to the lake, stop and ask your favorite bait shop personnel for the most current information on fish locations, favored baits, and presentations.



Musky action is fair to good and improving, with most activity in early morning and late evening into after dark on weedlines, drop-offs, and points in 8-18 feet. Favorite baits at this time include bucktails, Bull Dawgs, Lake X Toads, topwaters, and musky suckers, with trolling also effective. Remember to figure-eight retrieved lures at the boat!



Walleye fishing is fair, with best success in late afternoon into after dark. Fish are on weeds, rock, gravel, sand, humps, bogs, and brush, as well as suspending near the thermocline in depths from 15-30 feet. Baits of choice include leeches, crawlers, fatheads, and walleye suckers, with trolled crankbaits, stickbaits, and crawler harnesses also productive.


Northern Pike:

Northern pike action is very good to excellent, with most success in mornings and afternoons. Fish are in shallow weeds and lily pads, on weedlines and drop-offs, and near food sources, out to 18 feet. The most effective baits include live suckers, spinners, spinnerbaits, spoons, swimbaits, and crankbaits.


Largemouth Bass:

Largemouth bass action is good around weeds, lily pads, docks, brush, and cribs in varied depths, from very shallow to deep cover. Swim jigs/baits, spinners, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, plastic worms, live bait, and topwaters are all productive in the right locations.


Smallmouth Bass:

Smallmouth bass fishing is good to very good, with fish on hard bottom points, rock, breaklines, humps, and stumps in mid-depths out to more than 20 feet. Plastics such as crayfish color Ned Rigs, Senko worms, grubs, jerkbaits, crankbaits, and live bait work well, and topwaters still draw attention.



Crappie fishing is fair to good, though requires searching to find them on weeds, cribs, brush, bogs, and humps out to 28 feet, and suspending at mid-depths over deep water. Check the entire water column! Best baits include crappie minnows, waxies, plastics, Gulp! baits, and spinners.



Bluegill fishing is good to very good, with fish on weeds and weedlines in 4-20 feet, and suspending over deep water. Traditional bluegill baits continue to do the job, including waxies, worms, crawler chunks, plastics, Gulp! baits, spinners, and poppers. Use slip bobbers to target suspending fish.


Upcoming Events

Sept. 1: Seasons opened: Mourning dove; Teal; Early goose in designated areas; Wild ginseng.

Sept. 5: Hook-and-line lake sturgeon season opened on designated waters (see regs).

Sept. 9: Bear hunting season opens (see regs).

Sept. 9-12: Lake Chippewa Flowage Musky Hunt (filled).

Sept. 12: Seasons open: Archery and crossbow deer; Fall turkey; Ruffed grouse in Zone A; Cottontail rabbit in Northern Zone; Gray and fox squirrel; Fall crow (see regs).

Sept. 19-20: Youth Waterfowl Hunt (see regs).

Oct. 2-4: Hayward Chapter-Muskies Inc. 43rd annual fall tournament – Canceled – (715-634-4543).

Oct. 3-4: Musky Tale ResortCrappie Quest (715-462-3838).

Oct. 8-10: Treeland’s 5th Annual Musky Fly Fishing Championship. Limited to first 100 entries (715-462-3874).

Oct. 10: Hayward Chapter-FHNBall you can eat spaghetti feed fundraiser 4:30-8 p.m. Flat Creek Inn (715-634-3185).


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.