When it comes to ice fishing, there are only so many months out of the year when you can enjoy it. In the state of Minnesota, this time period is from December to March and there are plenty of places to go and drill a hole through some ice. Thanks to the state’s 11,800 lakes, there is no shortage of places to go either!
Minnesota offers a wide variety of fish to catch under the ice, including walleye, perch, pike, trout, crappie, and sunfish. It is no wonder why ice fishing is one of the most popular winter activities. Add in some beautiful landscapes and scenery, and Minnesota is one of the best places to be during the winter months.
If you have ever thought about trying ice fishing or are looking for some great places to toss in a line, here are 5 of the top locations for the best ice fishing in the great state of Minnesota!
Top Locations for Ice Fishing in Minnesota
1. Upper Red Lake
Upper Red Lake is not only the largest freshwater lake in the state of Minnesota, it is also the 16th largest lake in the entire United States. This lake covers around 288,000 acres and will give anglers plenty of room to explore and avoid the crowds.
This lake is one of the earliest to freeze over during the winter months and has an average depth of 84 feet. It is filled full of hungry walleye that will bite just about anything you throw at them, as well as some quality northern pike.
Upper Red Lake is a great choice for fishermen who want to avoid the crowds and stretch their legs, especially if they love catching walleye. This lake has just about everything you could ever want in an ice fishing area and consistently produces some big fish.
2. Sauk Lake
With an area of 2,187 acres, Sauk Lake is one of the smaller lakes in the region but is still a popular fishing and tourist destination year-round. It is fed by the Sauk River from which it gets its name, and a dam continually controls the lake water levels for most of the year.
The best feature of Sauk Lake is how easy it is to access and fish, whether you have experience ice fishing or not. Since it is small it is easy to get around but is still home to plenty of walleye, crappie, pike, and bluegill.
Sauk Lake also features plenty of places to rent cabins and ice shanties, as well as buy or rent any other fishing gear you may need. This lake is a great place to get started if you are a beginner or want something easily accessible!
3. Lake of the Woods
For anglers wanting the premier ice fishing destination in the entire state of Minnesota, look no further than the Lake of the Woods. This lake is over 70 miles long, with over 14,500 islands and 45 surrounding resorts, all of which cater to ice fishermen.
This lake is located right between Canada and the United States and is a popular destination from both countries. During the winter, you can expect to see anywhere up to 3,000 ice fishing houses set up and spread around the lake.
The Lake of the Woods is also known as the walleye capital of the world. There are giant schools of walleye that not only grow to big sizes, they are also always hungry and willing to bite just about anything. The Lake of the Woods is one of the best ice fishing destinations in Minnesota, as well as the entire country.
4. Gull Lake
Gull Lake covers an area of over 9,000 acres and is well over 15 miles long, making it another giant lake that freezes over in the winter months to provide ice fishermen with plenty of room to explore. The lake is around 80 feet deep, so it will usually ice over fairly quickly.
This lake has just about any type of fish you would want to catch, including walleye, pike, perch, bass, crappie, and bluegill. There is also no shortage of places to stay while here since the entire lake is surrounded by thousands of cabins and over 19 different resorts.
Gull Lake is probably most famous for the Brainard Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza, which is the largest ice fishing competition and event in the world. Thousands of fishermen flock here in January to compete, and many large fish are always caught.
5. Leech Lake
Last on our list but certainly not least, is Leech Lake. This lake is found in northern Minnesota and is the third-largest lake in the state, spanning over 100,000 and 11 islands. It is also one of the deeper lakes, with an average depth of around 154 feet.
Leech Lake is the place to visit if you are after giant perch. More big perch are caught here than almost any other place in the state. It is also home to walleye and is also famous for its night fishing of burbot fish, which school in giant numbers.
This lake is also home to another festival, the Eelpout Festival. In February, this large event draws many anglers from all over to fish for these abundant fish and compete against one another. Leech Lake is another great option for anyone looking to ice fish for the first time or wanting some easy accessible fishing areas.
How Much Is a Fishing License in Minnesota
Because fishing is so popular in the state, Minnesota offers many different options when it comes to fishing license structures and fees. A few worth noting are:
- 24-hour licenses for residents and non-residents costs $14.
- Nonresidents can purchase a 7-day license for only $43.
- Nonresidents and residents’ 14-day licenses are $54.
- Annual fishing licenses are $51 for both residents and non-residents.
For more information on fishing license fees and permits, you can visit the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources at https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/.
Where to Buy a Fishing License in Minnesota
The easiest and most efficient way to purchase a fishing license in the state of Minnesota is directly from the Department of Natural Resources website. If you would like to buy a license in person, there are multiple license vendors located around the state for your convenience. You can locate these vendors using the website at https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/licenses/agents.html or by calling a DNR office.
If you have ever wanted to try ice fishing, there is no better place to do it than Minnesota. Do not let the cold weather and ice scare you, it is a very popular activity that can be enjoyed during the winter months when there is not much else to do.
In addition to the ice fishing, you can also enjoy one of the many festivals and competitions throughout the state and meet like-minded anglers that share the same passion. No matter which lake you visit, Minnesota will not disappoint you!