Shell Lake Fishing

Want walleye and muskie? Target Shell Lake
By Naomi K. Shapiro

What: Plying the waters of Shell Lake for walleye, smallies and trophy muskie.
You’ll also find largemouth, pike and a variety of panfish.

Where: Shell Lake is located northwest of Rice Lake between Highways 63 and 253.

When: There is always great fishing in mid- to late May, although the weather can be a bit testy.

The action will get better in the next month or so.

Remember, however, that everything is catch-and-release until muskie season opens May 29 and bass season begins June 18.

How: Take your pick. Seems like bodybaits and crankbaits do quite well for most any species.

You’ll also do well with your standard jigs tipped with minnows and shiners. Concentrate on the 3 to 15-foot depths.

Especially where you find weeds.

RICE LAKE, Wis. — “Shell Lake is big water, but surprisingly few fish it, even though it’s got some great spring walleye, smallie and muskie opportunities,” said Gary Fankhauser, fishing department manager at J.C. Bear Paw Sporting Goods (715-236-7300) in Rice Lake, Wis.

P3_f_map_WI_Shell_Lake

Shell Lake is located northwest of Rice Lake, just off Highway 63. At almost 2,600 acres, it’s one of the biggest lakes in the area, and has quite a bit of home development on it.

However, according to Fankhauser, “not too many folks fish Shell Lake regularly because, if there’s any type of wind, you’re going to get blown all over, and also because of its large, somewhat intimidating size.”

“Anglers get real frustrated, real quick, and there aren’t a lot of protected areas on the lake or specific, must-go-to, easily found action fishing spots. So I can pretty much promise that you’ll be surprised at how few people there are on Shell Lake at any one time.”

The water is fairly clear, with some real good weed growth in the south bay, which is at the very south end of the lake. The water in this area goes to about 8 feet.

“I personally like to fish Shell Lake at the end of May into early June for walleye and smallies,” said Fankhauser. (These species are catch-and-release until bass season opens on June 18.)

“And when muskie season opens on May 29, devoted muskie hunters flock to Shell Lake because it’s a true, trophy muskie water.”

Walleye

Walleye
Fishing shallower waters is a great way to approach the walleye on Shell Lake.

“There’s a real good walleye population in Shell Lake,” said Fankhauser.
There is no size limit on walleye; check regs for details.

“The walleye will generally go up to 20 inches or so, which are nice sized. There are plenty in that range, and you’ll get an occasional 24- to 26-incher.”

“Most folks will fish a number of well-known walleye spots,” said Fankhauser.

“I personally I like to fish the shoreline near Scout Island. You’ll be fishing 10 to 15 feet. I usually drag a Lindy Rig tipped with a fathead or golden shiner, or a jig and a minnow. Make sure, this time of year, that you use a medium-sized minnow, nothing real huge.”

Straight east of Scout Island is Rolf’s Point, and the shoreline to the north of Rolf’s Point is also real productive.

Again, the depth is going to be 10 to 15 feet. I’ve also found that fishing around some of the many cribs in Shell will produce walleye.

And while you’re going for walleye, you’ll pick up small northerns, panfish, and, at times, even a big muskie.

Fankhauser suggests that anglers pick up a good map of Shell.

“A map and good electronics will go a long way in helping you get fish,” said Fankhauser, “And don’t kid yourself: Getting out on this type of lake can be very intimidating.”

“Do your homework before you go out and you’ll do just fine.”

Muskie

“Shell Lake doesn’t get hit real hard for anything,” said Fankhauser.

“And if you can weather the wind and stick to it, you can get muskie into the 50-inch range, and they’re caught with regularity every year.”

“Most muskie hunters at this time of year will troll at deeper depths, looking for trophy fish,” said Fankhauser.

“Lots use a Jake, and will go to 30 feet. If you want to cast, find the deeper areas of the south bay, which is fairly shallow. Toss a topwater like a Viper or Phantom along the weed edges or toward the shoreline.”

“As for color, in this type of clear-water lake, I’ve found natural color patterns like perch or walleye to be the most productive. Muskie anglers pull fish from both areas as the muskie are constantly migrating, looking for food.”

Consider releasing your fish.

“I would also request that anglers release any muskies they catch, even if it means letting go of a 50-plus-incher. Take a couple of photos. Release the muskie. Bring your photos into Bear Paw, and we’ll set you up with someone who can make you a wallhanging trophy mount from those photos that will blow your mind.”

“The technology today is amazing, and there’s no need to keep any of these superb predators. Throw ’em all back, and return in a few years, and try to see if you get an even bigger one.”

What: Plying the waters of Shell Lake for walleye, smallies and trophy muskie.
You’ll also find largemouth, pike and a variety of panfish.

Where: Shell Lake is located northwest of Rice Lake between Highways 63 and 253.

When: There is always great fishing in mid- to late May, although the weather can be a bit testy.

The action will get better in the next month or so.

Remember, however, that everything is catch-and-release until muskie season opens May 29 and bass season begins June 18.

How: Take your pick. Seems like bodybaits and crankbaits do quite well for most any species.

You’ll also do well with your standard jigs tipped with minnows and shiners. Concentrate on the 3 to 15-foot depths.

Especially where you find weeds.

Smallmouth

“There are a lot of good-sized smallies, built like footballs with fat girths,” said Fankhauser.

“Basically, you’ll find the smallies at this time of year in the same areas as the walleye. I’d fish crankbaits like a Shad Rap, and fish 10 to 15 feet, around gravel and rocks. And when the smallies start moving in a little shallower, change to a Huskie Jerk.”

“Perch and walleye patterns are real good, and don’t be afraid to move in and out of deeper water, just like the smallies will do this time of year,” said Fankhauser.

“I’ve had some real good success for smallies in late May into early June, and will again remind you that it’s strictly catch-and-release until the bass season opens ‹ and who keeps bronzebacks, anyway, right? Right!”

Other bites

According to Fankhauser, there are a lot of small northerns in Shell.

You’ll find them all over the lake, and they’ll bite you off big-time, and anytime, as you go for walleye.

Fish the weed areas, anywhere and everywhere, and look for northerns not only right off the weeds, but running on top of the weeds too.

Use a chartreuse or white spinner, a Johnson Silver Minnow or other spoon, or a northern sucker minnow.

“Largemouth are present, but not nearly as prevalent as the smallies,” Fankhauser said.

Look for the largemouth among the many stumps, fallen leaves and emerging weed cover.

Fish 4-to-10 or 12 feet. You can toss a spinnerbait, jig and a big fathead or shiner, or a Texas or Carolina Rig with a big live or artificial ‘crawler.”

“The best panfishing is for ‘gills,” said Fankhauser.

“There are lots of smaller perch, and not a lot of crappie. Locals don’t really go for panfishing in a big way on Shell. They pretty much stick to walleye and smallies, and to a somewhat lesser extent, muskie.”

“I’d suggest that folks who want to get some action and a nice fish fry for the kids, while doing some sorting, to try for the panfish in 4 to 8 feet of water right in the weeds,” said Fankhauser.

Key on emerging weeds.

Best place to start for panfish would definitely be on the south end of the lake, where there’s good weed growth and shallower water.

You should use a waxie, small minnow or wiggler.

If you want to go for the crappie, try off the weedlines, usually at the first break to deep water.

Like northerns, crappie will hang out off weeds looking for food.

Don’t forget about the cribs on Shell.

You’ll find crappie hanging around these cribs, usually tight to the crib sides, suspending from the base of the crib to the top, maybe 1 to 6 or 7 feet off the bottom.

For the crappie, Fankhauser prefers a small minnow or tube jig.