It is winter season from December to March in Minnesota, and waters in lakes quickly freeze over into ice. Ice fishing is perhaps one of the top winter outdoor activities in Minnesota. This Northern state is known for its great landscapes and abundance of lakes. There are more than 11,800 lakes in Minnesota. All these lakes are sweet spots for fishing and some of the best kinds of fish, and during winter some of the fish species such as walleyes, bass, crappie, northern pike, muskies, tullibee, smallmouth bass, jumbo perch, and bluegills are found in abundance in Minnesota’s lakes.
Of all this fishing spots some of these lakes are favorites spots for many people for many reasons. In Minnesota bigger is most often better, so larger lakes are some of their favorite spots due to availability of resources and for having deeper spots. Also availability of resorts, ice fishing house rentals, and tour guides in the surrounding contribute a lot to anglers favorite spot.
Below we have prepared 5 best lakes of our choice for ice fishing this season. So make sure you pack your car and stock your fishing tackle box and bags and head north for an amazing winter getaway where you will join the ice fishing fun as well as enjoy delicious fried fish.
1. Lake of the Woods
Lake of the woods is one of the top ice fishing destinations in Minnesota housing more than 45 resorts some of which offer ice fishing tours. The lake is over 70 miles long and wide and has more than 14,552 islands and 65,000 miles of shoreline. The lake is shared between United states and Canada and occupies Canadian provinces Ontario and Manitoba and Minnesota in the USA. During winter, the lake sees 1,500 to 3,000 ice fishing houses set up.
Lake of the Woods is home to walleyes, northern pike, perch, sauger, crappie, panfish, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, lake trout, lake sturgeon, and muskellunge. In fact, the lake is recognized as the walleye capital of the world. The south shore is known best for schools of walleyes and saugers that bite all day. You will be fishing a variety of sizes reaching 16” with the smallest reaching 13” and the big ones even reaching above 40”. This lake is home for vacationers and fishermen, and the lake becomes a world class pike fishing destination during the match ice period.
2. Upper Red Lake
Upper Red Lake is known to be the largest natural freshwater lake that lies within the border of Minnesota and is the 16th largest lake in the United states. The lake covers an area more than 288,000 acres and has a maximum depth of 84 feet. It is located in northern Minnesota in Beltrami county.
The lake has an upper and lower section. The Upper section is pinched into a narrow region that divides it from the lower part. The Upper section is the place to go as it is filled with top quality walleyes. Other fish found in this lake include the northern pike and crappie. The one thing about it is that it is usually among the earliest lakes in Minnesota to have fishable ice. The walleye’s are so abundant that they literally bite anything you lure them with.
3. Sauk Lake
Sauk lake is a popular fishing lake and a tourist destination on all seasons. The lake is located on the Todd/ Stearns county border close to Sauk Centre, boyhood home for Sinclair Lewis. The lake spans over an area of 2,187 acres. The lake is fed by Sauk River, and there is a dam that controls the lake water levels. The lake also has a heavily developed shoreline. Though smaller than all previously of the mentioned lakes, this lake offers a great ice fishing spot with abundance in fish such as northern pike, walleyes, bluegill, crappie, largemouth bass, and Sunfish.
During Summer tourists flock the lake to enjoy the beautiful sceneries around the lake and in the city, enjoy lots of free concerts in the Sauk Centre Parks and to learn more about the historical town where Sinclair Lewis grew up. During winter, Sauk Lake provides a perfect place for ice fishing and ice fishing houses are erected all over as anglers and tourists take advantage of the large numbers of walleyes. The city is also perfect for snowmobiling fun during winter with snow trails being prepared for tourists who wish to participate.
Big Sauk Resort, Birchwood Resort, and Gateway Resort among others offer a great place for those on vacation and looking forward for great ice fishing fun. The weather is always temperate during the day with natural barriers sheltering the lake. You can also get a ice fishing rental house. Fletcher's Bait shop and other bait shops will offer you all the fishing equipment you might need. Visit Sauk Centre and no matter your stance, a good fried fish recipe will get you to enjoy wild-caught walleyes.
4. Gull Lake
Gull lake is a lake located in Cass county and Crow Wing county in Minnesota and is the largest lake in the Brainerd lake region. The lake span over an area of over 9,947 acres, is 15 miles long, and is 2 miles wide with a maximum depth of 80 feet. The lake has a large shoreline with each shoreline mile containing 27 home and cabins. The lake has 19 amazing resorts including the famous Cragun's, Madden's, and Grand View Lodge. Ice fishing houses, equipment, and tour guides are abundant in the areas surrounding the lake and in the resorts.
The lake is home to large schools of walleyes, northern pike, bluegill, rock bass, largemouth bass, and crappie. The lake is famous as it holds the largest ice fishing event in January, The Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza.
5. Leech Lake
Leech lake is home to top walleyes fisheries. Located in north central Minnesota, in Cass county, Leech lake is the third largest lake spanning over 102,947 acres, 195 miles of shoreline and has a maximum depth feet of 154 feet. Leech lake hosts 11 islands all covering a total of 1,617 acres.
The lake is home to a multi species fisheries including walleyes, Jumbo perch. The beautiful thing about the lake is you can fish at night and enjoy the best ice fishing fun. At night in the winter Eelpout or burbot fish are in a mind blowing abundance.
Leech lake in February is home to the International Eelpout Festival.
Never tried Ice fishing? Don’t let the winter cold weather or anyone intimidate you. Come out and plan a winter getaway in one of these areas or join the festivals and have fun. Just know that ice fishing ranks as one of the best outdoor winter sports or activities in Minnesota! So come on up and enjoy yourself!