December 29, 2014
Hayward Lakes Area Outdoor Report
Steve Suman

Winter returned to the North Woods, if not with a vengeance, at least with a chip on its shoulder. The long-range forecast shows a few milder days in the near future, with somewhat of a warming trend from mid-January to the end. Not that that can’t change between now and then!
Best wishes for a safe, sane, and Happy New Year!

“Northern pike anglers are doing well on the west side of the Chippewa Flowage,” says Guide Dave Dorazio at Outdoor Creations.
“Fish the weed edges and open areas in the weeds with large shiners or sucker minnows on tip-ups, checking them often for weed fouling. Crappie anglers are finding fish in deep water and it might take some time to check areas thoroughly with electronics. Once you locate fish, experiment with baits to learn which ones produce. Try crappie minnows and jigs tipped with plastics or Gulp! baits. For lethargic fish, downsize to smaller jigs and plastics. For larger fish, try a Jigging Rapala.”
At Hayward Bait, Jim says ice conditions are very good, with 8 to more than 15 inches.
“The good walleye bite continues for anglers working gravel bars and weedlines in 10-22 feet with sucker minnows under tip-ups, Jigging Raps, and jigging spoons tipped with minnow heads. Northern pike are very active on northern suckers under tip-ups fished along weedlines and steep drop offs in 5-15 feet. The same approach is also producing bass.
“Crappies are suspending in 15-30 feet, taking jigs tipped with waxies, minnows, or plastics, or try tip-downs with crappie minnows or rosie reds hooked through the back with small treble hooks.”

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter talks about where fish spend the winter.
“In the winter, flowage and river fish have to make decisions about where they will spend it. Their metabolism slows considerably and fish do not want to devote as much energy towards swimming or fighting the current. This means finding a nice calm place to spend the winter.
“In rivers, this might mean a deep hole in a slow stretch, or a backwater lake deep enough to hold oxygen through the winter. In flowage lakes, this also means finding areas without much flow.
“Anglers who can identify and key on these overwintering areas will find themselves on top of big groups of fish!”
DNR fisheries biologist Skip Sommerfeldt says most lakes are maintaining 8-10 inches of ice, though depths vary. Some waters have 6 inches and others 10-12-inches.
“Walleye catches have dropped off after good early success. Tip-up anglers report good numbers of flags, but with many short hits or fish dropping the bait. Fish medium suckers or extra-large fatheads just off bottom on mud/muck flats in 4-12 feet, or on gravel drop-offs and hard-bottom breaklines near weed beds.
“Northern pike fishing is good with large golden shiners on green weeds. Small teardrops tipped with waxies work for bluegills suspending just off bottom near deep water and perch on mud flats near old weed beds.”

In the past week, Hayward area registration stations (Shooting Star, Hillman’s Store, Hayward Bait) did not register one deer. Archery season continues through January 4, but few hunters are participating. Dennis at Shooting Star says hunters report seeing small bucks, but most are holding off for a big trophy.

Snowmobile Trail Reports
The December 27 Hayward Power Sports snowmobile trail report says most Sawyer County trails are in good condition with more than 5 inches of fresh snow, and groomers are grooming. Crews have staked most lake having more than 12 inches of ice, including Lost Land, Nelson, Sand, Tiger Cat Flowage, Moose, Spider, Osprey, LCO, Round, Little Round, Grindstone, Whitefish, Blueberry, and the west side of Chippewa Flowage. The Flowage’s east side has spots with thin ice. Some lakes have ice heaves; some trails still have downed trees. Ride with caution and stay on marked trails. The 63 railroad grade north of Seeley has a reroute due to a property dispute; trails 8, 31, and 77 in the Seeley Hills are in good condition.
The December 26 Runamuk Rides snowmobile trail report says Sawyer, Bayfield, Iron, and Ashland county trails are open and in fair shape with the new snow. Though no big storms, there is a consistent half- to one-inch of new snow every day or so. In Sawyer, southern Bayfield, and Ashland counties the base is between 6-9 inches; the base is more than 12 inches heading north into Bayfield and Ashland counties.
The Cable Area snowmobile trail report of December 26 says the area received some new snow and all lakes are marked and safe for travel.
The Lakewood’s snowmobile trail report for December 23 says (at that time) there is a good base, but with trails in poor condition due to lack of snow. The lakes have plenty of ice and the stick trails are marked, so you can get around area lakes and visit the stops. With accumulations of 6 inches or more of new snow, groomers will be out packing and setting trails. Trails conditions vary by area, so do not expect great conditions, but you will still be able to put on some miles and get to your favorite spots.
The Namakagon Trail Groomers trail report for December 23 says (at that time) lakes have good ice and crews have staked the stick trails.

Walleye action continues to be good to very good, though it has slowed somewhat from the start of the season. Look for fish in shallow water out to more than 25 feet, working shallower water during low light periods. Concentrate on weeds and weedlines, mud/muck flats, gravel and rock bars, drop-offs, and hard-bottom breaks. Baits of choice include walleye suckers and big fatheads under tip-ups, Jigging Rapalas, and jigging spoons with minnow heads, all fished near the bottom.

Northern Pike:
Northern pike fishing is fair to very good, depending on the day and light conditions. Work on/in/over/near weedlines, weed edges, and sharp drop-offs in depths from shallow to 17 feet. Northern suckers and large shiners under tip-ups are the favorites. Go deeper for trophy pike – and keep some smaller fish for eating or pickling. Pike make great table fare!

Largemouth Bass:
Ice anglers do not usually consider largemouth bass as a prime species for ice fishing, but they report good success on them this winter. Use northern suckers on tip-ups and fish for them in the same areas holding northern pike.

Crappie action is fair to good after you take the time and make the effort to find them. The crappies are suspending over deep water out to 30 feet, but be sure to check the entire water column with your electronics. Top baits include crappie minnows, rosie reds, waxies, plastics, and Gulp! baits on jigs or plain hooks. Jigging Rapalas will take bigger fish.

Bluegill fishing is fair, with fish near deeper weeds and suspending just off the bottom. Small ice jigs tipped with waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits all work well at different times. Downsize your offerings to improve success.

Perch anglers are catching a few fish after searching awhile to locate them on weed beds and mud flats. Try teardrops with waxies or small jigging spoons with minnow heads.

Upcoming Events
Dec. 25: Bobcat hunting/trapping Period 1 season closed.
Through Dec. 31: Extended fall turkey season in zones 1-5.
Dec. 31: Seasons close: Pheasant; Turkey; Hungarian partridge; Fisher trapping; Frog.
Jan. 3: Sawyer County Fairgrounds Winter Wonderland; 2-7 p.m.
Jan. 4: Late archery deer season closes.
Jan. 6: Hayward Lakes Chapter Muskies, Inc. business meeting; 7 p.m. (715-634-4543).
Jan. 17-18: Free Fishing Weekend.
Jan. 25-March 20: Winter crow season.
Through Jan. 31: Bobcat hunting/trapping season Period 2 north of Hwy. 64.
Jan. 31: Seasons close: Squirrel; Ruffed grouse in northern zone; Bobcat Period 2 hunting/trapping.
Feb. 19-22: American Birkebeiner (715-634-5025).

Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau and Sawyer County Record co-sponsor this report. For more information on area events and activities, visit the HLVCB’s Calendar of Events or call 800-724-2992.