March 23, 2015
Hayward Lakes Area Outdoor Report
Steve Suman

This week looks to offer another bump or two on the road to spring, but the extended forecast shows a fairly consistent slide into more moderate temperatures. Just not quickly enough for some people!
Although we are nearing the “tweener” season, there are still many activities and events available in the Hayward area. Be sure to check out the events calendars on the Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau and Hayward Chamber of Commerce websites.

“Our rush to spring was delayed this week,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “but ice and travel remain good on the Quiet Lakes, despite the slush and water. Use extra caution – this time of year, ice starts to thin and crack and can quickly become unsafe.
“Crappies, bluegills, and perch are either in 15-20 feet on main lake mudflats and basins, near structure, humps, wood, cribs, and contour changes, OR along weedlines and break edges in less than 10 feet. In general, crappies and bluegills are suspending in the upper half of the water column and perch are tight to bottom.
“Use waxies, crappie minnows, and micro-plastics on small jigs or under slip bobbers, and crappies have taken a strong liking to one-inch Gulp! Minnows.”
Guide Dave Dorazio at Outdoor Creations says crappie action is good to great on the Chippewa Flowage, but due to the warmer weather, anglers should exercise caution near shorelines and current areas.
“Use electronics to find crappies on wooded flats in 12-25 feet of water – and crappies feed upward, so fish your bait above them. Crappie minnows will produce some fish, though jigging is more productive. Plastics work well, but the hot bait is a tungsten jig tipped with a waxie. For larger fish, try #3 Jigging Rapalas.
“Anglers are also catching some quality bluegills on smaller jigs tipped with one waxie or spike.”
Bob at Hayward Bait says all fish should start moving shallow as the weather warms and ice begins to melt, and panfish anglers report some good catches.
“Crappies are suspending over deep basins outside flats and tungsten jigs with crappie minnows, rosy reds, waxies, and spikes are working well. For bluegills, fish cabbage beds and flats with waxies, spikes, and mousies on small jigs. Perch fishing is good along mid-lake bars and mud flats. Use small spoons tipped with waxies, spikes, plastics, and minnow heads.”

This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses panfish limits – and filets!
“In a lead-up to proposed changes in panfish regulations, DNR researchers John Lyons and Andrew Rypel looked at the weight of panfish fillets from different size panfish. For all three major panfish species – crappie, bluegill, and yellow perch – they found the filets were about 30 percent of the total fish weight.
“While looking at how reducing bag limits in lakes with good panfish growth (i.e. no stunting) might influence the overall harvest, the researchers found that the top 16 percent of anglers are responsible for about 50 percent of the panfish harvest.
“They concluded that reducing bag limits will likely increase panfish size and average anglers may actually take home more filet weight per fish and per filet. They caution, however, that any positive results may take some time to materialize.”
DNR fisheries biologist Skip Sommerfeldt says the recent spring thaw quickly deteriorated lake ice conditions.
“Ice depths are now 10-12 inches of soft, honeycombed ice, and many lakes developed patches of open water near inlets, access areas, and south-facing shorelines.
“Colder temperatures firmed the ice cover, but conditions can change within hours on warm, sunny days. Late season anglers should consider the ice extremely hazardous and be very cautious.”

The free Fishing and Outdoor Expo is this Saturday, March 28, at Hayward Wesleyan Church, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Namekagon River Partnership (NRP) and Sons & Daughters of Zebedee (SADOZ) are co-sponsoring the event and SADOZ is providing a free lunch. Check out information on outdoor activities such as fishing, boating, hiking, biking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, and more. Learn how to make lures, tie flies, and cast. Visit displays by outdoor gear retailers, resource agencies, and watershed groups. Attend seminars presented by local experts on the best family fishing spots, fish stocking, and fishing Lake Superior, the White River, and the Everglades. For more information, call (715) 634-4613.

Sawyer County Outdoor Projects and Education (SCOPE) is sponsoring a DNR Hunter Education Course in April. Classes meet April 7, 9, and 14 at Hayward Middle School, and April 11 at Hayward Rod and Gun Club. The course is limited to 35 students, requires advanced registration, and the $10 fee includes all materials and bonus items. To register, email For more information, contact Chris Wunrow (715) 558-5371.

The 2015 DNR spring fish and wildlife hearings are Monday April 13, starting at 7 p.m., and offer people the opportunity to provide their input on proposed rule changes and advisory questions. County residents can run for a Conservation Congress seat or elect other county delegates to represent their county views. This year, the Sawyer County meeting is at Hayward Middle School in Hayward.

The DNR says it is unlikely a proposed rule to allow motor trolling on all inland Wisconsin waters will be in place for the May 2 fishing opener. The state currently allows trolling on some waters in 63 counties and allows drifting or “row trolling” on all waters. The proposed rule would allow anglers to trail at least one sucker, minnow, or other bait or lure behind a moving motor boat, regardless of whether the occupants are casting other lures.

Crappie action is good to very good and should only improve with the warming weather. Spring is a great time for crappie fishing, but also a good time to use caution on melting ice. Look for crappies suspending over deep basins and breaks, near wooded flats, weedlines, cribs, humps, and others structure (or no structure!) in a variety of depths out to about 25 feet. Closely check the ENTIRE water column! Favorite baits include crappie minnows, rosy reds, waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on tungsten jigs. Try jigging spoons for larger fish.

Bluegill fishing is good to very good on/along flats, weedlines, wood, humps, breaks, and cribs in depths to 20 feet. As with crappies, check the entire water column with your locator. Best bait choices include waxies, spikes, mousies, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks, fished with or without slip bobbers. Downsize to increase success, though try small minnows for bigger ‘gills.

Perch have started moving toward shallower water for spawning that will occur immediately after ice-out. Still, look for them out to 25 feet, holding close to the bottom on mudflats, mid-lake bars, basins, humps, wood, weed edges, and cribs. The most productive baits include small jigs and spoons tipped with waxies, plastics, spikes, crappie minnows, and minnow heads.

Upcoming Events
March 20: Crow season closed.
March 23: Leftover spring turkey tags on sale.
March 25: Hayward Bass Club meeting at Hayward Rod and Gun Club, 7 p.m. (715-699-1015).
March 28: Trout season opens on some Lake Superior tributaries. (See trout regs).
March 28: Hayward Fishing Expo, Hayward Wesleyan Church, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
March 31: Licenses for 2014-15 expire.
April 7-14: SCOPE sponsored Hunter Education Course (715-558-5371).
April 11-12: Youth turkey hunt.
April 13: Spring Fish and Wildlife Hearings and Conservation Congress meetings.
April 15 through July 31: Illegal to allow dogs to run on DNR lands and Federal WPA (see regs for exceptions).
April 26: Early catch-and-release only inland trout season closes.
April 30: Seasons close in north zone: Otter trapping; Beaver trapping.
May 2: Seasons open: Inland game fish; Smallmouth bass catch-and-release only in northern zone; Muskie in southern zone; Frog.

Spring turkey hunting periods
A: April 15-21; B: April 22-28; C: April 29-May 5; D: May 6-12; E: May 13-19; F: May 20-26.

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 Calendar of Events, or call 800-724-2992.