If you’re one of the 1.5 million people fishing Minnesota this year, chances are you already know just how good the state’s angling really is. If not, you’re in for a real treat. The Land of 10,000 Lakes is widely-recognized as one of the best places on the continent to take on Walleye
, Bass, Muskellunge, and a host of other freshwater species.
Minnesota has more than earned its watery nickname. In fact, 10,000 is probably selling it short! From remote Northwood lakes to the vast open waters of Lake Superior to the heart of Minneapolis, anglers battle the incredible gamefish all across the state.
Around one in four Minnesotans holds a fishing license. That’s how big a deal sportfishing is here. The annual Minnesota fishing opener has grown beyond the start of the fishing season and is now more of a state holiday. And they don’t let the winter stop them! Some lakes are so popular in winter that entire villages pop up on the ice. No matter when you visit, you’ll be in for epic angling alongside an entire state of like-minded anglers. What more could you want?
Minnesota Fishing Spots
You can wet a line in any stream or puddle from Ontario to Iowa and find at least a panfish or two. Some spots are incredible even by local standards, though. Here are a few places you absolutely have to visit while you’re in the North Star State.
Mille Lacs Lake
With its sloping, shallow floor and its sandy and rocky bottom, Mille Lacs
seems custom-built for amazing Walleye fishing. The lake is considered one of the best fisheries on the planet when it comes to Walleye. And the Pike, Musky, and Smallmouth Bass fishing here is almost as good! Late spring and fall are the top times to charter a boat out onto Mille Lacs. It’s also an amazing place to try the ice fishing
Minnesota anglers love so much. Every winter, thousands of huts are set up on the ice, ranging from simple shacks to elaborate cabins complete with stoves, beds, and even hot tubs. People just can’t get enough of fishing here!
Lake Of The Woods
Lake Of The Woods has long rivaled Mille Lacs for the title of “Walleye Capital of the World.” But there’s a lot more to target here than just one species. Walleye and Sauger make for incredible spring battles, heading to deeper waters as the summer rolls on. They could just be staying away from the monster Muskellunge that dominate the lake throughout the summer, though. In the winter, this is also one of the most productive Pike fisheries in North America. Again, come sun or snow, anglers take to the lake. You won’t be short of guides whatever the season.
It’s about time we mention the elephant in the room. Lake Superior
is the largest in the world by area and is also the deepest of the five Great Lakes. There’s a lot of water here, is what we’re saying. Lake Superior also has arguably the best Lake Trout fishing in Minnesota, which local anglers go crazy for throughout the spring and fall. Alongside the Lakers, you’ll find plenty of Rainbow Trout
, as well as decent numbers of Coho and Chinook Salmon. Duluth
has the best charter fleet if you want to take a boat out in search of tasty Salmonids.
But what if you want to catch huge fish without ever leaving town? You’re in luck! The Minneapolis-St. Paul area actually has some of the best fishing in Minnesota. Spend the spring battling Bass in Lake Minnetonka
. Head to Lake Calhoun, Harriet, or Owasso to wrestle Muskies in the summer and fall. Over winter, the Mississippi River offers an awesome Walleye bite in spots like Pool 2, right next to town. Just want some family fun? Visit Coon Lake to spend the day pulling in panfish with the kids. They don’t call it the City of Lakes for nothing.
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
Roadless, untouched, off-limits for all motorized vehicles – you couldn’t find a more scenic fishery than Minnesota’s northern wilds. There are hundreds of lakes in the area. Some are full of Walleye, Pike, Bass, and Trout, some aren’t. You really need a knowledgeable guide to get the most out of these waters. The only way to explore the area is by canoe, which adds to the sense of wonder every angler feels as they take in the area’s staggering beauty.
We weren’t joking when we said 10,000 was selling it short! Head to Leech Lake for Muskies, Rainy Lake for Bass and Crappie, or Lake Kabetogama for Walleye. You can also fish the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers for Walleye, Smallmouth Bass, Pike, and so much more. Wherever you go, you’ll find skilled guides, big fish, and unbeatable nature.
You can fish a lot of different ways for a lot of different fish in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. There’s one set up that works wonders for many of Minnesota’s top species, though. Jig-and-minnow rigs are the go-to tactic for anything from Walleye and Perch to Crappie and Bass. They work best in spring and fall, when the waters are cooler, but can be adapted for deeper water, too. Northern Pike react well to large spoons, crankbaits, and minnows, while the best Muskie fishing is done with heavy jerkbaits or topwater plugs. They will also demolish well-placed bucktails during the hot summer months, making for some of the most exciting fly fishing Minnesota has to offer.
These techniques are all great when the water’s wet, but don’t do much when there’s a foot of ice between you are your fish. Swimming lures and flash spoons will be your winter wonders out on Minnesota’s frozen lakes. Use them to jig up anything from Pike to Perch.
Need to Know
You will need a Minnesota fishing license to enjoy any of the state’s waters. You may also need a special stamp or tag, depending on your target species. If you’re heading into the wilderness areas, you will also need special permits and reservations before you can enter.
The closed season for each species can change year on year and is often different from one body of water to another. Minnesota fishing guides will know all the rules and make sure you stick by them. If you’re heading out on your own, be sure to ask in a local bait shop to make sure you fish by the book.
Minnesota really is a paradise for freshwater fishing. From the smallest pond to the biggest river, the state’s fisheries have been well managed, and it shows. People here care about their fish and their fishing, and whether it’s the middle of summer or the depths of winter, you’ll find anglers out in force looking for their personal best. So if you want unbeatable angling with a view to die for, take a trip up to the North Star State. We warn you, you’re not going to want to leave!