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Minnesota Fishing: The Complete Guide

Mar 9, 2023 | 9 minute read Comments
Reading Time: 9 minutes

The Land of 10,000 Lakes or the Star of the North – which one would you rather choose for your next fishing destination? Whether you’ve opted for exploring acres of freshwater or relied on the beacon of light to guide you, either way you’ve placed your bets on Minnesota. Both nicknames are rightfully awarded to this stunning state. If you decide to go fishing in Minnesota, you’ll be having the time of your life.

An aerial view of Lake Vermilion in Minnesota and the various islands in it, on a sunny fall day

Believe it or not, Minnesota is truly home to thousands of lakes – 11,842 to be precise! The lakes that are on everyone’s bucket list, including Lake Superior, Mille Lacs Lake, Red Lake, and Leech Lake, are right here. It comes as no surprise that world-renowned freshwater species like Walleye, Northern Pike, Musky, Bass, and Trout inhabit these waters.

With unlimited angling options and countless fishing spots, it can be difficult to know where to start. But don’t worry, we have you covered! In this post, we’ll go through the most popular fish species, the best sites to target them, and regulations that apply to this area. We’ll also treat you to some inside tips on how to go about ice fishing. So, let’s dive into Minnesota’s fishing world!

Top Catches in Minnesota

Saying that Minnesota’s waters are brimming with life is probably an understatement. You can cast your line at any time of the year and reel in an impressive specimen. However, what’s on offer and regulations change depending on the weather and seasonality. Let’s have a look at the local favorites together and see what you can expect throughout the seasons. 


Walleye are arguably the most sought-after fish in Minnesota! They move with temperature changes and in search of food. This elusiveness is the number one challenge anglers are looking for. Add exquisite table fare on top of it, and it becomes clear why they’re on everyone’s radar, and should be on yours, too. 

A proud angler in a camo hat and a sweatshirt, standing on a boat, holding a Walleye he caught with both his hands

May officially marks the beginning of the Walleye season. The prime time, however, for going after them is most definitely in summer, when waters are warm and their stomachs are empty. While determined to keep their whereabouts low-key, Walleye won’t be able to resist your minnow bait. Align your trip with the golden hour, and low light will guarantee a Walleye spectacle. 

Did you know that Minnesota has more than one place that could be considered the “Walleye Capital of the World”? The entire northern part of the state features world-class Walleye opportunities. Mille Lacs Lake, Leech Lake, Lake Vermillion, Red Lake, and Lake Winnibigoshish are among the premier Walleye fishing spots in the world. 

Northern Pike

The second species worthy of your attention are Northern Pike. They’re as formidable opponents as Walleye, but bigger and more aggressive. Northern Pike can reach over four feet in length and some of the state records were caught on Basswood Lake and Rainy River. They’ll put up a good show and make an excellent bragging story!

Two smiling anglers standing on a boat, posing with a Northern Pike they caught fishing in Minnesota with waters visible behind them

Their season overlaps with Walleye, but you’ll have to adapt your fishing approach to Northern Pike’s hunting habits. Unlike Walleye, they stick to mild temperatures up to 65°F, navigate weedy waters, and prefer to feed during daytime. Bright-colored lures are the best way to attract them. Northern Pike are predators and they won’t be afraid to attack your bait in an instant. 

Muskellunge (Musky)

The “Fish of 10,000 Casts”! Throughout the years, Musky have earned a worldwide reputation of being extremely elusive and scarce. And as the largest Pike in North America, they never cease to amaze their fans with their size and strength. Minnesota is home to 50-pounders and the largest specimens usually show up during October. 

A happy angler with a baseball cap and a long red beard, holding a huge Muskellunge with both hands with waters visible behind him

Recently, the Musky population has been thriving, so they’re easier to catch. Lake Vermilion, Leech Lake, Lake Minnetonka, Fox Lake, and Green Bay are just a few of the Musky hotspots. But, even if you get lucky and catch Muskellunge, you’ll probably have to release them since giants are rare, and the minimum size limit for keepers is 54 inches.


The good news for Crappie enthusiasts is that Minnesota’s lakes and rivers are stocked with them. Unlike the rest of the fish royalty we talked about, Crappie reeling opportunities are strong year-round. In terms of angling traits, they’re similar to Walleye. They love a solid cover and low light while feeding. So, focusing around sunken trees during dawn and dusk to snatch this delicious fish adds a lot of excitement. 

An angler in sunglasses and a Vietnam veteran baseball cap holding two Crappies on a sunny day, with waters and the American flag visible behind him

Crappie’s diet changes with their growing stages. Insects are the main dish for young Crappie, while senior Crappie crave smaller fish. Choosing the right bait and habitat might help you lure bigger specimens out of hiding. Red Lake, Sand Lake, Lake Andrew, and Bowstring Lake all have rich Crappie supplies. But even at the best of times, remember that there will be a limit to how many Crappie you can keep. 

… And More!

We only covered the tip of the fish iceberg. With a lake in almost every county, Minnesota is the home of over 150 different species of fish including stars of the show such as Bass, Trout, and Salmon. And the list goes on and expands to Sturgeon, Sunfish, Bluegill, and Perch, too.

A proud angler kneeling in a shallow stream, holding his Rainbow Trout catch with both hands and smiling

Bass season is the best in spring and fall. Leech Lake is ideal for targeting Largemouth Bass, while Rainy Lake is more suitable for Smallies. Passionate Trout anglers, on the other hand, shouldn’t miss the opportunity to hit Minnesota’s southeastern streams in search of Browns and Rainbows. The truth is, wherever you cast your line, you’ll be in for a treat. 

Best Ways to Fish in Minnesota

Charter Fishing

With thousands of lakes to fish on, it’s difficult to decide where to start. If you’re visiting Minnesota for the first time, this will almost be an impossible mission. Luckily, you can rely on the locals to help you. Minnesota fishing guides have been fishing these waters their entire life. Who better to show you around than seasoned anglers born and raised in Minnesota?

A Phoenix Bass charter boat riding towards the shore in the early morning in calm waters

The best way to experience the chill and thrill of fishing in Minnesota is by spending the day aboard a boat. Not only will the guides take you where the fish are biting, but they’ll also provide you with tips on how to reel in Minnesota’s finest. From fly fishing for Largemouth Bass to ice fishing for Trout, skillful guides will share their expertise with you. 

Kayak and Canoe Fishing

Minnesota has more than 4,500 miles of kayak and canoe trails for true nature lovers. The scenery is simply stunning and the only way to fully enjoy the state’s wilderness is to be a part of it. Another advantage of kayak and canoe fishing is the stealthy approach it allows, thanks to which your fish will be less easily spooked.

An angler fishing from a kayak in a lake facing the forest

The best waters to fish by kayak or canoe are the Mississippi River, St. Croix River, Red River, Lake Vermillion, and Big Fork. Remember that this fishing approach requires exceptional balance while casting and reeling, so it might not be ideal for a novice. 

Shore and Pier Fishing

For those who would love to spend the day fishing at the lake but might be prone to motion sickness, shore and pier fishing are the perfect alternatives. Bank fishing is the best in spring when shore vegetation isn’t thick and Sunfish and Crappie’s stomachs are empty.

An aerial shot of an angler in Minnesota fishing on a lake, with grass fields and forests visible in the background

Minnesota is mindful of its residents and visitors with disabilities, so many shore fishing sites are barrier-free and accessible by wheelchairs. For more information on the shore and pier fishing locations visit the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and take a look at their interactive map. 

Ice Fishing

Winter here is everything but the season of slumber. With temperatures plummeting below 30°F, the anticipation for Minnesota ice fishing intensifies. Entire lakes across the state become populated with fishing huts from December through February. Remember this the next time you plan your winter getaway.

An ice fishing angler holding Trout with one hand above an ice fishing hole

In theory, ice fishing sounds simple – you cut a hole and lure your target. In reality, it can be challenging. The crucial part of successful ice fishing is finding the right spot. While Lake Superior offers a unique opportunity to fish for Salmon, it only partially freezes. This means that it can be dangerous if you don’t know where to drill. The safest solution is to team up with Minnesota ice fishing guides.

Top Fishing Spots in Minnesota

By now, you know that there’s no shortage of fishable waters and species in Minnesota. The question is – how should you go about choosing the right spot for you? Depending on whether you want to pursue your dream catch, explore a specific area, or practice a certain fishing technique, you’ll focus on different sites. Let’s go through the list of the best fishing spots in Minnesota together.

An aerial view of Minnesota's Lake Winnibigoshish and the surrounding forest nature
  • Lake Minnetonka: Minnetonka means “great water”. It has more than 16 interconnected lakes, each having designated shore and pier fishing spots. If you want to stay dry at the dock but still target Bass, Pike, and Musky, Lake Minnetonka is your go-to place. However, the best way to move around is by boat and there are a lot of great fishing guides in Mound and Spring Park.
  • Mille Lacs Lake: If you’ve set your eyes on the premium Walleye experience, then Mille Lacs is the lake to be. While large, the lake can be very shallow, which makes it perfect for winter fishing. Mille Lacs ice fishing is the activity everyone looks forward to come winter. If you prefer pier fishing, there are two very good spots in Father Hennepin State Park.
  • Twin Cities: Easy fishing access is the main advantage of the area between Minneapolis and St. Paul. Almost without leaving downtown, you can fish on a boat or from the bank. The Mississippi River is perfect for cruising in search of Bass, whereas Snelling Park is ideal for spending the entire day with your family swimming, kayaking, and chasing Bluegill. And in winter, the St. Paul Ice Fishing Show is a must-see!
  • Cass County: This county is home to two exceptionally prolific fisheries. Leech Lake is Minnesota’s favorite fishing destination for Bass, Walleye, and Musky. Leech Lake ice fishing is all the rage during the winter. Lake Winnibigoshish is famous for Minnesota’s record-breaking Musky. Both lakes offer a range of leisure activities too.
  • Lake Superior: Did you think our list of top fishing spots would be complete without it? Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes. Luckily for you, Minnesota has access to its angling opportunities. Besides being a Trout hotspot, this is probably the only place in Minnesota where you can fish for Salmon. Duluth is the best starting point for conquering Lake Superior. 

Minnesota Fishing Regulations

While fishing opportunities in Minnesota are endless, overfishing is taken seriously. The Land of 10,000 Lakes is mindful of its fisheries. Minnesota will give you top-notch angling sites, but to ensure you get the most out of each location, plan your trip ahead of time. Different rules apply if you’re a resident of the state or a visitor. Also, there are additional fish regulations.

An infographic showing Minnesota's state flag along with text that says "Minnesota Fishing Regulations What You Need to Know"

All visitors to the state must obtain a freshwater fishing license before heading out. Minnesota’s residents qualify for the license when 16 or older. The good news for Minnesotans is that you can fish for free in most state parks. However, if a Trout stamp is required, you’ll need the license regardless of whether you’re shore or lake fishing. Check if you need Walleye stamps and Sturgeon tags, too. 

Depending on whether you’re fishing alone or with family, you can buy individual or family fishing licenses. You can opt for daily, weekly, bi-weekly, and annual permits. It sounds complicated, but luckily, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has an extensive list of licenses explained in detail on their website. 

Minnesota: The Land of 10,000 Possibilities

A lovely fall landscape in Minnesota showing a waterfall and surrounding foliage

Already booked your Minnesota vacation? We feel you! Be it summer, fall, or ice angling frenzy, fishing in Minnesota will have you hooked for life. We’re not exaggerating when we say that you can spend the rest of your life exploring these waters in search of the perfect Walleye, Pike, or Musky corner. Calm waters, raw nature, untamed wilderness, acres of angling, kayaking, and swimming sites, ice fishing shows and tournaments, northern hospitality – Minnesota has it all!

Have you ever been fishing in Minnesota? Do you agree that Minnesota has more than one place that could be considered as the “Walleye Capital of the World”? What’s your go-to fishing spot? Go wild in the comment section below. We’re dying to know! 

Comments (2)
  • Robyn Dwight

    Aug 4, 2022

    It’s time to talk about the human waste left behind – in the TONS. Go to URLAA – Keep it Clean – to find out what you can do about it.

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      Aug 4, 2022

      Dear Robyn,

      You’re absolutely right!

      Minnesota’s nature is beautiful beyond words! Let’s do whatever we can to keep it that way. So, fellow anglers out there – take good care of our fisheries and nature!

      Thanks for bringing this up Robyn.

      Tight lines!

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