Musky Shop Lake of the Month: Harris Lake

Musky Shop Lake of the Month: Harris Lake

Jodie Paul October 17, 2022

This week we visit a lake at the tippy top of Vilas County to once again highlight some musky havens often overlooked and off the beaten path.  Harris Lake is a bowl lake with very moderate musky pressure.  It is surrounded by shoreline of private residences and some WDNR public lands, but not many tourists are making their way this high into the wilderness without a Navigation chip. 

First the stats: Harris Lake is a 534-acre lake shaped as a combination of clear bowls, and a max depth of 57 feet.  It has one major bowl-shaped body with some small bowl-shaped bays to the North Side.  On a map, some might say it looks a bit like an upside-down jellyfish, and is certainly see through like one.  As is typical, we try to only highlight accessible lakes, to prevent a disappointing daytrip, and Harris is equipped with a public access ramp on its South Eastern side.  Locals have noted that the access ramp is a bit shallow, so you might want to leave your “Deep V” at home on this one if water levels are low.

Harris Lake is noted by the WDNR as a good musky and walleye candidate with available bi-catch if you are interested.  The best scenario for making contact with our favorite freshwater friends would be to seek out the steep weeds and reads of the main bowl or taking a turn in the Northern bays to seek out other reeds and weeds as well as a bit of timber.  Getting your bell rung during peak season in Harris means paying attention to bait and color choice.  Reeds can sometimes be a tough bet, so start your attempt with some reed friendly spinners, like Northland Reed Runners and Acebait Tandem Spinnerbaits.

Using Spinnerbaits will help avoid hang-ups and definitely cause a hot commotion on Harris.  Natural colors always work great in clear lakes, but sometimes too much flash can be shocking in clear water, so it can be a good time to seek out a painted blade on your spinner.  In the right season, topwater can also help you locate some muskies.  Everyone has a topwater presentation that suits them best, so pick your favorite and go to town and remember in an extra reedy situation you can T those hooks and rubber band them to the bait body to prevent too much snag.

Harris Lake is also well suited for an open water bite.  If it’s a bright clear day, take the opportunity to find some deeper edges and/or cast a little open water.  You can try a deep crank, like a Grandma Deep Diver or even jig a Bondi for some interesting change-ups, while running them parallel to the drop.  Sometimes you have to go deep to pull up the trophies in clear water, but give it a try and see what comes up.

Outside of the obviously important Musky fishing, Harris Lake offers over water access to a hidden gem high up in Vilas County: The Nell Lake State Natural Area.  It can only be reached by crossing Harris Lake when frozen or by watercraft and offers a beautiful old growth, bog and seepage lake.  If you are serious about getting back into the wilderness, this Nature Preserve owned by the WDNR is open for fishing, hiking, kayaking, etc., but no camping is allowed.  A day hike with kayak will allow you to experience wilderness like a decade’s old heron rookery, pine bog floating orchids, and beautiful swamp islands.  This feat is definitely reserved for individuals who love a good hike and opportunity to visit nature undisturbed with maximum physical exertion.

All of the ins and outs of Nell and Harris are noted on the WDNR website with a good list of fishing and visitor regulations to make sure you keep within the limits of the state.  All in all, Harris Lake makes a great day trip for anyone seeking a great lake for a nice experience.  You might even find a home for sale and decide to stay as it’s a beautiful and bountiful lake.  Neighboring lakes and towns offer more advantageious lodging, but Harris Lake offers up plenty of beauty and great fishing.