Musky Shop Lake of the Month: Papoose Lake

Musky Shop Lake of the Month: Papoose Lake

Jodie Paul August 22, 2022

Let’s talk about another hidden gem to visitors this month by taking the time to highlight Papoose Lake in Vilas County.  About 41 minutes North of Musky Shop in the town of Presque Isle, dubbed "Wisconsin's Last Wilderness", is a sleepy lake mainly because of its distance from the highway.  This lake is home to many local folks and some summer inhabitants, but either way it’s great for fishing.

Papoose Lake is a 422-acre lake with a max depth of 65 feet, so you might guess it can be a great lake for trolling and vertical jigging if you are interested in deep cold-water muskies.  It is a great lake for fall fishing and generally might hold off the ice until mid-December.  I would say Papoose is definitely not a numbers lake.  This musky hunt is going to take some time and energy but the prize might be a monster. 

Papoose lake has a small but accessible boat ramp that lies directly at the South end of the lake off of the last stretch of highway.  The parking is only equipped to handle a few boats, but never seems to fill up in comparison to other heavily fished lakes.

The water is a nice clear blue with good deep visibility and the lake is oligotrophic so don’t expect to fish a lot of aquatic plants or habitat.  There is a good deal of sandy sediment and muck at the bottom so open water trolling and jigging can often get you some attention.  Bait's like the Drifter Triple D and 10" Jake can get down to where you need to go with a good deal of line.  There are some nice islands, and some edges that deserve a look as well.  For casting and jigging, some weighted Monster Tubes or Whale Tails might get a musky under your spell, but only if you have the patience.

Papoose is a spring fed lake that has been stocked with walleye and musky for many years but the finding the stocking reports past 2015 is nearly impossible.  So, the opportunity for some large deep-water fatties is definitely high if you bring the right gear. 

The closest place to get your shopping and eating fill is Manitowish Waters, about 15 min, so don’t expect resorts or all you can eat breakfast at the lake.  It’s a small place with cabins for purchase though you might stumble into an Airbnb nearby.

If musky aren’t your target, and you just want to bend some rods, Papoose has all of the familiar species for a fun day on the water.  As mentioned, walleye were stocked, and it is well known for smallmouth bass, so you can enjoy some by-catch between hours spent on the hunt for Muskies.  The shoreline is quite eye-catching and the general area is quiet and reflective.

Papoose lake is familiar to locals for its history and connection with the Bob Ellis Classic, hosted as a row-trolling event in honor of its namesake.  Bob Ellis lost his life while row-trolling for Muskies on Papoose back in 1989 and the event is held each year in his honor.  Ellis boasted his largest catch a 41lb fish taken in November in his 12’ skiff on Papoose Lake.

So, next time you are in the Northwoods, add Papoose Lake to your list of lakes to give a try.  It may not be a numbers lake, but it might be the lake for you if you want to work on different styles of fishing.  Maybe a little trolling for muskies and a little floating for panfish is exactly what you are looking for in a relaxing fall vacation on the lake.  Be sure to let us know at the Musky Shop about your success!!