Ice fishing is one of the top activities you can do in the beautiful state of Minnesota, and for good reason. With over 14,000 lakes, Minnesota provides ample opportunities for ice fishers to experience the beauty of the outdoors and catch an expansive variety of fish. However, with so many lakes to choose from, it can be overwhelming to decide where to go. This Ice Fishing Minnesota guide will cover some of the best places to spend a day on the ice.
Our Top 4 Minnesota Ice Fishing Lakes
1) Lake of the Woods
Located in northern Minnesota, Lake of the Woods is a popular destination for ice fishing due to its massive size and abundance of fish. The lake spans over 1,700 square miles, with over 14,500 islands and 65,000 miles of shoreline. The lake is known for its walleye, sauger, northern pike, and perch, making it a great spot for a diverse range of catches. There are also plenty of resorts and fishing guides available to help make your trip a success. I would highly recommend embarking on a Lake of the Woods Ice Fishing trip if you live in Minnesota.
2) Mille Lacs Lake
Mille Lacs Lake, located about an hour and a half north of the Twin Cities, is another popular spot for ice fishing. The lake is known for its trophy-sized walleye and northern pike, as well as jumbo perch and tullibee. Mille Lacs Lake is also one of the few lakes in the state where anglers can legally fish for muskie during the winter months. With over 132,000 acres of ice fishing opportunities, Mille Lacs Lake has something for everyone.
3) Lake Minnetonka
Located just 15 miles west of the Twin Cities, Lake Minnetonka is a popular destination for ice fishermen looking for a day trip. The lake is known for its walleye, northern pike, and crappie, as well as its stunning winter scenery. While the lake can get crowded on weekends, there are plenty of areas to fish away from the crowds. One popular spot that we recommend is near the Gray’s Bay Dam.
4) Upper Red Lake
Located in northern Minnesota, Upper Red Lake is a popular destination for ice fishermen looking to catch walleye and crappie. The lake covers over 120,000 acres and is one of the top walleye destinations in the state. The lake is also known for its jumbo perch, which can provide a fun and challenging catch for anglers. While Upper Red Lake can get crowded on weekends, there are plenty of hidden away areas to fish away from the the bulk of people.
Other Recommended Lakes for Ice Fishing Minnesota
Lake Vermilion is located in northeastern Minnesota and is one of the larger lakes in the state, covering over 39,000 acres. The lake is known for its trophy-sized walleye, as well as northern pike, muskie, and panfish. Ice fishing on Lake Vermilion is popular due to its abundance of fish and the beautiful winter scenery. Anglers can fish from the shore or set up a fishing shelter on the ice. The lake has several resorts and ice fishing pros available to help make your trip a success.
Gull Lake is located in central Minnesota and is a popular destination for ice fishermen looking to catch walleye, northern pike, and panfish. The lake covers over 9,400 acres and has several bays and islands that provide excellent fishing opportunities. Gull Lake is also known for its ice fishing contests, which draw anglers from all over the state.
Leech Lake is located in north-central Minnesota and covers over 110,000 acres, making it one of the largest lakes in the state. The lake is known for its walleye, muskie, perch, crappie, and sunfish.
Rainy Lake is located in northern Minnesota and is known for its scenic beauty and excellent fishing. The lake covers over 227,000 acres, with over 1,600 islands and 2,700 miles of shoreline. The lake is known for its walleye, northern pike, and smallmouth bass, crappie, and sunfish. Rainy lake honestly isn’t a must-do ice fishing experience in my opinion; but if you’re a fan of fishing for bass, then you may be inclined to check it out.
Big Stone Lake
Big Stone Lake is located on the border between Minnesota and South Dakota and covers over 12,000 acres. The lake is known for its walleye, northern pike, crappie, perch and sunfish.
Tips and Tricks for Ice Fishing Minnesota
When it comes to ice fishing in Minnesota, there are a few tips and tricks that can help make your trip a success. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Dress warmly: Minnesota winters can be extremely cold, so it’s important to dress in warm layers to stay comfortable. Make sure to bring an ice fishing bib, warm jacket, hat, gloves, and boots.
- Bring the right equipment: Ice fishing requires specialized equipment, including an ice auger, ice fishing rod, and fishing shelter. Make sure to bring everything you need, as well as extra gear in case something breaks.
- Check the ice: Before venturing out onto the ice, make sure to check its thickness. The Minnesota DNR recommends a minimum of 4 inches of clear, solid ice for ice fishing. If the ice is thinner than this, it can be dangerous to walk and drive on.
- Know the regulations: Make sure to familiarize yourself with the Minnesota fishing regulations for the lake you’re fishing on. This can include things like the daily limit for fish and the types of bait that are allowed.
- Be patient: Ice fishing is oviously a slow and methodical process, so it’s important to be patient!
Plan a Minnesota Ice Fishing Trip this Winter!
We highly recommend ice fishing in Minnesota if you’ve never been before. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or just starting out, the state literally offers hundreds of excellent ice fishing opportunities. With proper planning and preparation, a successful ice fishing trip in Minnesota can be a fun and rewarding experience that you will remember for years to come. So, gather your gear, bundle up, and head out to one of these beautiful Minnesota lakes for an unforgettable ice fishing adventure.