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Lake Shelbyville, Shelby County

Lake Shelbyville, Shelby County

5/28/22 @ 9:13 AM
Partly Sunny
56° - 60° F
71° - 75° F
USER SINCE 1/21/03

                           "Sometimes, you take what the spillway gives you."

Never launched my boat the entire week.  Although the fishing on the lake is excellent at the moment (limits of crappie and walleye), the spillway was really good. Given the choice of managing a large boat by yourself, it's often easier to fish the spillway.

Caught tons of fish during the weeklong trip:

Walleye and Saugers:  Caught on Berkeley Power Baits.

Crappie:  Bobby Garland and Spenser Brewer Baits (Sliders and Slabilicious)

White Bass:  Blade Baits, Mepps, small spinnerbaits, and Shadpoles.

Best colors:  Black/blue, Chartreuse and Orange, and Pink with a chartreuse tail.

Flathead Catfish:  Let's call them 'lucky'.  Saw a handful caught on small jigs.  I caught one that weighed in at 25lbs (released) and I saw another at nearly 45lbs.

Spillway discharge rates were low (less than 200 CFS).  This allowed for presentations using 1/8 oz and 3/16 oz jigheads.  Walleyes are currently on an early a.m. bite and again in the late evening on twister tails, sliders, and flukes.  Crappie was closest to the dam discharge area towards the middle.  The west side was best.  Using two 1/8 oz jigs with sliders or slabilicious plastics, it was easy to countdown to approximately 5-6 feet and begin a slow steady retrieve to contact fish suspended at 8 feet in 12 fow.  Catch rate was nearly every cast, several doubles, but there were a lot of small fish to work through to finish with a nice stringers of 10 1/2 to 12-inch crappie.  Keeper rate was 1:8.  Averaged 70-90 crappie per day

The saugers that I caught were on Pink/Pearl or Orange/White 4-inch Powerbaits snap jigged on a 1/4 jig.  My retrieve is aggressive because I'm fishing mid-day and the fish are fairly dormant.  You're targeting 'reflex' strikes versus true bites that will occur in the early morning and evening when they are feeding.

White Bass fishing was good and they were quality fish averaging 12-16 inches.  They were close to the shore of the main flow when pursuing small baitfish (saw shiners for the first time).  During the day (when there are few fishermen), I walk the shore and cast parallel to shore which is right on the ledge with the low discharge rate.  The bites were crushing, powerful, and fun.  You didn't catch a ton but everyone was in the 1-2.5 lb range.

On Day 1, I sat on the bench and watched both successful and unsuccessful fishermen.  It was easy to determine that the greater level of catch rates were occurring near the face of the dam.  In moving up closer to review more, I could see most fishermen were using minnows and golden roaches fished under bobbers to catch white bass and big crappie.  Being a lure fisherman, I matched the hatch and put on a three-inch shad imitation paddle tail, and retrieved it quickly after counting it down to the 3-5 foot range to make contact with white bass.  It was a good change of pace and a better fight than crappie.

On this trip, the speed of the retrieve determined which species you would make contact with while fishing.  I thought that it was an excellent trip.  Remember, let the guys that are already fishing dictate what you should or shouldn't do before you start fishing.  It'll save you time and put a few more fish on the bank.

Time for the 'honey do' list.  Next trip:  Late June.

5/12/22 @ 6:24 PM
61° - 65° F
66° - 70° F
USER SINCE 1/21/03

Next Trip:  May 18, 2022

Conditions:  Crappie and Walleye 

Phase:  Crappie - Spawning and Walleye - Post Spawn

Now the easy part has come to an end.  I do not fish any species when they are near their spawning beds or spawning.  It's just a preference so this trip will focus on primarily post-spawn walleyes and sauger that drop into in the main lake.

This is the time of year to adapt and try several techniques:

1.  Trolling

2.  Jigging Flats

3.  Casting shoreline

Regarding lake fishing, I will be targeting main lake points and if there are stiff winds, wind-blown shorelines.  These are the best odds.  Fish are hungry now!  You have to be open to trying several techniques to see what works.

I will fish the main lake points and wind-blown shores exclusively for walleyes and sauger.  Twistertails, shallow running crankbaits and a jig and night crawlers are the three best presentions whether you're casting shorelines or slow trolling 6-10 feet of water.  

Make a day of fishing different techniquest to see what the fish prefer.  Try to cover as many techniques as you can during Day 1 to determine how you should fish for the remainder of your trip.I 

Spillway discharge rates will be lower.  Now comes the finesses.  Start with small baits and do your best to find the bite windows which are typically dawn and dusk.

I don't post my catches.  If you can be open to just fishing some the techniques mentioned, you will find that one of them will work on a given day.  Don't be afraid to try different things!

Tight lines,

4/5/22 @ 3:49 PM
Partly Sunny
40° - 45° F
41° - 45° F
USER SINCE 1/21/03

March 27, 2022 - April 3, 2022

Fishing Conditions:  Good

Discharge Rates: Varied (Dam shut down due to drowning 4 miles downriver)

Weather:  Partly Cloudy, Moderate Rains, Sunshine.

Overall, the fishing was good.  Again, I targeted evening hours to fish with moderate success for 4 hours of fishing each day.

Again, there were a few fishermen outperforming everyone in terms of results and I've learned to not focus on the baits that they are using but more importantly, focus on their delivery mechanics as priority one.  Even as adults, the closer that we get to the water, the more that the child in us comes forth and we go rushing out to fish the last place that we caught a fish there that last time that we were out.  We can't wait to get on the water!  The truth however is to take one hour prior to fishing dams and walk around because the conditions will most likely be different than your last visit.  Observe.  If you are willing to invest one hour to simply observe the fishermen on the water, their location, fish catches, etc., and then micro-targeting what the fishermen are doing in terms of their retrieve and cadence, it will make the best use of the time that you are about to invest.  Then replicate it!

Even though you are walleye or sauger fishing, don't ignore big baits.  I know that we are disciplined to use twister tails and swimbaits to catch walleye.  If you pay close attention when you're out there, you'll find the rule-breakers.  You'll see an elite group of fishermen that seem to be out of the norm using baits that are so large that it defies logic!  To think, baits that are 4-6 inches long can't possibly be fishermen that are walleye fishing.  When you get tired of seeing them leaving the spillways by 9:00 a.m. hauling a limit of fish to their cars, you must admit that they know something that you don't know.

The lesson is to be open by observation.  Challenge yourself to dedicate different fishing styles during the course of the day.  You'll find that you'll lock into a pattern that may deliver your limit in 2-3 hours.  

I caught my limit only twice during my fishing trip.  On the other hand, I learned far more that will aid me on my next trip.  Take the time to make a new friend of two while you are there.  50 years of fishing has taught me that you'll meet the best people fishing on a river and that you're a question away from tapping into some of the most knowledgeable fishermen on a river system.

Until the next bite!

My best baits:  Crappie Sliders, Flukes, and Sassy Shads in natural colors.  The best fishermen were using different baits.  I still have so much to learn!!! In the end, if you are willing to ask a fisherman exactly what he's doing and how he is fishing, there is a 70% chance that he will share his strategy.  Be respectful however and go find your own locations.  There are so many spots on a spillway to catch fish.


3/16/22 @ 5:04 PM
USER SINCE 3/14/16

Jigaroni I too have fished the spillway for a long time I live about 2 and a 1/2 hours away and have learned a lot in that time. Thanks for the info your breakdown and info has been great to read. I am going down sometime next week to fish evening and morning the next day. Hopefully we will meet up because I too have met a lot of great people down there as well and its always fun just to wet a line even if I don't catch many fish. I love it down there because you never know what you are going to catch. 

3/16/22 @ 5:07 AM
USER SINCE 12/23/05

Yes, thanks Jigaroni for your insight, experience and knowledge shared here. I too look to learn more about this great sport that is second to none....

3/15/22 @ 9:35 PM
USER SINCE 1/21/03

Anatomy of a dam.  Okay, most of us are old and we've fished so many dams in our lifetime!  But, are we 'listening' to what the dam is attempting to tell us?  I mean, in this single picture, how much do you see, and more importantly, can you translate what it means?  I've fished this dam for nearly 40 years and for nearly 30 of those years, I wasn't 'listening' to what it was telling me.  Look at it.  What do you see and what does it mean based on water flow?  You see the gates that dictate the various water flows that will come through the dam or the chutes.  Once the water hits the ballast, what does it do, and where does it move?  It depends on if its an even flow or a predominate flow through any given gate.  Then that same flow comes over the ballasts before moving downriver.  Do you see the concrete behind the ballast?  That's one of many resting areas in a dam.  The fish will position behind the ballast because it requires too much energy to hold a position in the main current flows which will begin to pick up a few yards behind the concrete slate.  These are your imaginative cues to tell you potentially where the walleyes may be positioned.  Do you pay attention to feeding windows or when the bite is most active?  Why?  Because if you are fishing passively and jigging on the bottom, you're fishing for neutral to negative fish.  The old veterans in most cases are fishing 'suspended' in the spillway.  They see the dam in layers.  Depending on the jig that you're casting, you're counting down and fishing different layers around the discharge.  It's because the most active fish are going to be positioned not on the bottom, but suspended waiting for baitfish to wash over the ballast.  Why?  Look at the image again.  Notice the pitch of the water flow before the ballast.  It's downward.  That means the water goes down, hit the ballast, and then shifts up before coming over the ballast and moving downriver.  Now imagine shad coming through the chutes and gates.  Triple bogey.  The shad are cold.  They come through the dam into water that is 10-12 feet deep FROM water on the other side that is 25-30 feet deep.  Pressure change that momentarily stuns them.  Then, they get pushed INTO the various ballast by the force of the water flow.  After that, they flow over the top and through the gaps of the ballast into the mouths of feeding fish.  Can you envision this scenario?  If yes, then you can begin to put together a game plan.

What do the baitfish look like?  What size are they?  Are they near the surface or you can't see them?  This is your indicator on your countdown when fishing the various layers in the discharge.  The walleyes or saugers are going to be positioned somewhere within the layers or on the bottom.  This determines how you will approach the spillway, the various counts that you will try, and how slow you may need to retrieve the lures.  Fish for active fish first (upper layers), then try the tried and true bottom bouncing jigs, twister tails, and other presentations on the bottom.  This is the biggest mistake that walleye fishermen can make:  fishing one style of presentation vs. trying them all.  Remember.  At any given time, you can be fishing ABOVE or BENEATH them.  Fish stretches of the spillway and try different lures, crankbaits, etc. to find the active bite. 

The last point for this evening:  Look at the baitfish coming through the discharge and MATCH it as best you can (see image).  It's a matter of remaining aware of all of these little things and then putting them together for a decent day on the water.

Success. or failure, I will post results on my next trip.  I still strike out because I'm old and some days, I don't feel like walking the spillway on both sides or changing presentations constantly.  There are often too many other things to enjoy while you're out there like meeting new people, listening to your thoughts, or acknowledging God's work all around you!  Sometimes. I'll sit on a bucket all evening, catch nothing, and still have a wonderful day.

Until the next report....peace my fellow fishermen

3/14/22 @ 8:10 PM
USER SINCE 1/21/03

Headed down late March for a few days.  Discharge rates remain high with more than 22,000 gallons per second rushing through the gates.  Hopefully, the discharge rates will slow down.  If not, the walleyes and saugers will move downriver and hold in deeper pools until dusk.  They will move up in the evening to the corners of the discharge and within 10-15 feet of shore.  This is the time to try larger plastic baits like sassy shads and 4-inch twister tails.  My guess is that the water temperatures will be between 40 and 43 degrees which is prime spawn.  My goal is to put in 3-4 hours and stay light enough in gear to ensure that I keep moving around and trying both sides of the spillway.  In many experiences, it takes that one move that can put you into a pocket of holding fish.  A limit comes quick in such instances and oftentimes, you'll catch a single fish each time that you move.  If you can put a couple of fat eyes on the stringer, it was a successful evening...better with a friend by your side.  I'll keep you posted and remember; big girls go back...always.

3/7/22 @ 6:56 PM
USER SINCE 1/21/03

If I'm not mistaken, the DNR has stocked approximately 600 pure stripers annually into the lake since 2017 or so.  I've heard rumors that some pass through the dam each year however the pure stripers are more torpedo-shaped.  I use the term 'wiper' because I have seen a handful of these fish caught in the spillway and I don't think that they are white bass or pure stripers!  Due to the breaks in the stripe patterns on their sides, I assume that it's a hybrid which I refer to as a 'wiper'.  Last year, I helped a gentlemen land one that was 6lb 10oz.  It couldn't have been a white bass.  It was thick, stocky, and wide.  I've seen others caught that were toads but did not know the weights.  The one that I caught during my trip was over 9lbs.  I can say definitively though that they are not in the spillway in any numbers.  I thought it was a foul-hooked buffalo until I got it shore.  It was a first for me. 

3/7/22 @ 4:06 PM
USER SINCE 3/12/04

How long has there been wipers in there? And do they stock them every year? My personal best is 12 pounds out of lake Lasalle  . I would love to come down there for a week, have heard good reports 

3/7/22 @ 11:09 AM
USER SINCE 1/21/03

Cripler -  Yes, there are walleyes in the lake and the best months to fish them is from late April through July.  Focus on windblown shores, and points.  Remember, on Lake Shelbyville, the visual point is not the true point.  Look to your mapping on your electronics and locate the original point which in some instances can be 50-100 feet out from the visual point.  You can drift fish across the points with jighead and crawlers or use bottom bouncers with crawler harnesses while trolling.  Average fish will be in the 15-17 inch class for both walleye and saugers.  

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