35+ Best Ice Fishing Lakes in Minnesota

Best Ice fishing lakes in Minnesota - Kid kissing a fish

Welcome to our guide to the best ice fishing lakes in Minnesota. We are born and bred Minnesotans, and with that comes a love of winter and an affinity towards anything that gets us out of the house during those darker months.

One of our favorite activities, especially with our children, is ice fishing. It is an activity that is accessible to everyone and provides a great combination of action and anticipation, which are perfect for teaching kids (and adults!) patience.

Minnesota is named the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” for a reason. There are well over 10,000 lakes in the state, all of which are open to ice fishing.

So how do you choose? By reading this article! We’ve put together a list of the 35 best ice fishing lakes in Minnesota to help you zero in on the right lake for your next trip.

What are the Best Ice Fishing Lakes in Minnesota?

Best ice fishing lakes in MN - Kids jumping with the sunset in the background

This list of the best ice fishing lakes in Minnesota is broken down into five regions:

  1. Border Lakes Region – Lakes in the area around the US/Canadian Region, excluding the BWCA
  2. Arrowhead Region and BWCA – Lakes in the Arrowhead region of Minnesota, including the BWCA
  3. North Central – Lakes in the middle of the state, including the Brainard Lakes and Walker areas
  4. Twin Cities Metro Region – The Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis sit on a number of great ice fishing lakes
  5. Other – There are a couple of great ice fishing lakes that do not fit into the four regions above.

Hopefully this organizational structure helps you pinpoint areas that are interesting to you and to find the best ice fishing lakes in that region.

If you are looking to plan an epic ice fishing trip with a guide, then check out our Guide to Planning EPIC Ice Fishing Trips in Minnesota!

Border Lakes Region

Ice Fishing Trip MN - Kid jigging for panfish

The Border Lakes Region covers many of the larger lakes that straddle the US/Canadian border, but are NOT 100% in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. We saved the latter for a separate section.

Many of the best ice fishing can be found in these expansive border lakes. So if you are looking for a grand adventure, then consider this region.

Read More: 40 Amazing North Shore Campgrounds on Lake Superior

1. Lake of the Woods

Lake of the Woods is a legendary fishery with over 14,000 islands and 65,000 miles of shoreline. It is on the US/Canadian border, right in the middle of the state. There is a reason it is called “The Walleye Capital of the World.”

We recommend renting a sleeper house. They are the best way to experience Lake of the Woods’s iconic ice fishing.

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2. Lake of the Woods – Zippel Bay

Zippel Bay is on the southern end of Lake of the Woods where it feeds into the larger lake. It is one of the best lakes in Minnesota for walleye. In addition to Walleye you’ll also see large populations of northern pike, smallmouth bass, lake trout, perch, and panfish.

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3. Rainy Lake

Another US/Canadian border lake, Rainy Lake is known for is superb walleye fishing. It has plenty of resorts and cabins for rent and gives you a taste of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

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4. Crane Lake

Crane Lake is another great walleye and norther pike fishery located in Northern Minnesota. It is also the location of Voyageur National Park (Definitely worth a visit)! The lake is 3,088 acres and a maximum depth of 80 feet. It also has good populations of black crappie and smallmouth bass.

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5. Lake Kabetogama

Like Crane, Kabetogama is also located in Voyageurs National Park. The great upside is that it has low fishing pressure compared to nearby lakes. It is more akin to fishing remote BWCA lakes than the more popular (and populated) lakes in the state. It is our family’s preferred fishing experience.

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Arrowhead Region and Boundary Waters Canoe Area

Best Ice angling lakes in Minnesota - truck on an ice road near Ely, MN

The Arrowhead Region covers the area North of Duluth. It follows Lake superior on the east and cuts straight up approximately from Duluth on the West.

This region includes a number of great lakes, however most lie within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Ice fishing in the BWCA is spectacular, however you will need to pull all of your gear in via snowshoes and a sled or dogsleds. The area does not allow motors.

The fishing is well worth the extra effort!

Read More: 20+ Amazing Cabin Rentals in Ely MN for 2024

6. Lake Vermilion

Known for its idyllic scenery and rust-colored waters, Lake Vermillion has everything from muskies and northern pike to crappie, perch, small mouth bass and bluegills. In our opinion, it is one of the most beautiful lakes to fish given its location in Northern Minnesota

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7. Boulder Lake Reservoir

Boulder Lake is a 3,800 acre reservoir located 12 miles north of Duluth. It offers fantastic walleye, northern pike, crappie, bluegill, panfish, burbot, and yellow perch fishing. It is a popular spot among locals and many like to fish on the southern shore near the Boulder Lake Dam. Because the area is not extremely touristy, there aren’t a lot of options for renting fish houses.

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8. Lake Superior – St. Louis Bay

The St. Louis Bay estuary, which leads into Lake Superior, is a favorite ice fishing spot for locals in Duluth. Once the ice sets, you can walk right from the city out on to the ice. The bay covers 11,000 acres and is popular for bass, walleye, crappie, pike and perch. While most locals have their own gear, there area a couple of options for ice house rentals

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9. Basswood Lake

Basswood Lake is very popular and is often accessed via teams of dogsleds. Chances are you’ll see moose, wolves, otters, but not a single other human being. Add to that a great fishery with little fishing pressure and your bound to have an awesome time.

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10. Knife Lake

Knife Lake is another well-known BWCA lake that is popular with dogsled teams. Expect a similar experience on Knife as you would on Basswood. And get ready to catch fish in pure silence!

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11. Thomas Lake

Looking for a remote BWCA ice angling experience but are vieing for lake trout? Then Thomas is your place.

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12. Snowbank Lake

Snowbank is a great lake near Ely on the edge of the BWCA. It is nown fo rlake trout, walleye, northern pike, and ellpout. The non-BWCA side of the lake is accessible via snowmobile. The BWCA side of the lake requires dogs, feet, skis, or all of the above. Due to the dual nature of the lake, there are options for cabins right on the water’s edge.

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13. Gunflint Lake

Gunflint Lake is one of the most well-known lakes on the Gunflint Trail between Ely and Grand Marais. It is the edge of civilization and you can feel it. It is a large lake and known for lake trout, walleye, and northern pike. That being said, walleye is not the easiest to catch during the winter months.

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14. Moss Lake

Part of the Moss-Duncan-Daniels Trifecta, Moss Lake is a popular ice fishing lake on the Gunflint Trail near Hungryjack Lake. It is great for kids because it is easy to get to, close to the care, and comes with a high rate of fishing success. If the fishing is slow you can always take the kids for hikes to the other lakes or just explore the portage trails between the lakes.

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15. Duncan Lake

Part of the Moss-Duncan-Daniels Trifecta, Duncan Lake is a popular ice fishing lake on the Gunflint Trail near Hungryjack Lake. It is great for kids because it is easy to get to, close to the care, and comes with a high rate of fishing success. If the fishing is slow you can always take the kids for hikes to the other lakes or just explore the portage trails between the lakes.

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16. Daniels Lake

Part of the Moss-Duncan-Daniels Trifecta, Daniel’s Lake is a popular ice fishing lake on the Gunflint Trail near Hungryjack Lake. It is great for kids because it is easy to get to, close to the care, and comes with a high rate of fishing success. If the fishing is slow you can always take the kids for hikes to the other lakes or just explore the portage trails between the lakes.

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17. Caribou Lake

Caribou is a sneaky one. It is far less popular than others, but often is placed in the top 3 ice fishing lakes in MN. While you can catch just about anything, it is well known as a walleye and largemouth bass fishery. If you have kids, bring plenty of small jigs and wax worms as there is a wonderfuly panfish population just waiting to bite.

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North-Central Region

Kids pulling up a fish while ice fishing in Minnesota

The North-Central region includes some much of Cabin Country for folks living in the Twin Cities. There are some great chains of lakes with wonderful fishing. An added benefit is the tourism industry in these areas is well established so there are plenty of hotels, bars and restaurants.

Read More: 16 Amazing Breweries Near Grand Rapids, MN

18. Gull Lake

Home of the Ice Fishing Extravaganza, Gull Lake is a fishing mecca. Anglers come from all over the world to try their luck. It sits in the Brainerd Lake Region, which is home to thousands of cabins and great local towns like Nisswa and Brainerd.

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19. Lake Bemidji

Lake Bemidji is a 6,420 acre lake known for perch, walleye, pike, and muskellunge. The best part about spending some time around Lake Bemidji is there are over 400 other productive ice fishing lakes in the area, including the “Dirty Dozen” of Lake Andrusia, Lake Irving, Kitchi Lake, Big Wolf Lake, Cass Lake, Big Turtle Lake, Turtle River, Big Lake, Lake Plantangenet, Lake Winnibigoshish, Three Island Lake, and Lake Bemidji.

Read More: 20 Unforgettable Hotels with Water Parks in Minnesota

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20. Lake Winnibigoshish

Lake Winnie is one of the best ice fishing lakes in MN with world-class fishing for jumbo perch, walleye, and crappies. The lake is located in north-central MN on the Leech Lake Reservation and covers more than 67,000 acres.

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21. Mille Lacs Lake

Mille Lacs is the second-largest lake in MN and the closest large lake to the Minneapolis St. Paul metro area. It is the easiest if you are flying into MSP airport and holds good populations of Walleye, rock bass, pike, jumbo perch, muskie, and small mouth.

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22. Upper Red Lake

Upper Red Lake is Minnesota’s largest inland lake, covering more than 288,000 acres. It is split into Upper and Lower portions. The Upper portion is known for top-quality walleye fishing. The craziest part is the lake is only 15 feet deep at is deepest spot!

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23. Pelican Lake

Pelican Lake is a one of the most popular fishing lake s in the Brainerd Lakes area, located right outside of Pequot Lakes and Nisswa. It is well known for its outstanding bluegill and bass fishing. Walleye are abundant as are pike. There are tons of resorts on the lake that provide guiding and gear rental for your next ice fishing adventure.

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24. Leech Lake

More low-key than the Gull Lake, Leech Lake is known as having one of the world’s top walleye fisheries. It used to be home to the eelpout festival, which I attended with my Dad every year. If you are into night fishing, it is a great place.

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Twin Cities Metro Region

Fishing on a lake in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul are full of lakes with excellent fishing. They are the perfect reminder that you do not have to travel far to find world-class ice fishing.

Read More: 40 Best Outdoor Winter Activities in Minneapolis, MN

25. Lake Waconia

Lake Waconia is located about 40 minutes west of Minneapolis. It is a top destination for muskies, walleys, largemouth bass, and northern pike. The lake has tons of stucture and weedbeds that help make finding the fish a bit easier.

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26. Lake Minnetonka

Staying in the Twin Cities but would like to try ice fishing? Then Lake Minnetonka is for you. It is a great fishing lake and is only 15 minutes west of Minneapolis, which means easy access. You’ll spend your day catching fish and admiring mansions of Minnesota’s rich and famous!

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27. Lake Harriet

Lake Harriet is located in the heart of Minneapolis. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) stocks the lake with walleye each year. It is also a popular crappie fishing lake. It is located right next to a number of other urban ice fishing lakes.

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  • We are not aware of any guides serving this lake… so send them our way!

28. Bde Maka Ska

Bde Maka Ska combines a great ishing experience with great views of downtown Minneapolis. Local anglers arget muskies, bass, and walleye, especially in the channel leading to Lake of the Isles.

Guides & Outfitters:

  • We are not aware of any guides serving this lake… so send them our way!

29. Lake Elmo

Lake Elmo is a popular fishing destination north of the Twin Cities. The state record Tiger Muskie was caught on Lake elmo. It also has health large mouth bass, bluegill, crappie, trout, and tullibee populations. Its a great spot if you have your own gear and are based in Minneapolis or St. Paul.

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30. Lake of the Isles

Lake of the Isles is similar to Bde Maka Ska above. Same species and similar structure. It allso affords great views of downtown Minneapolis.

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We are not aware of any guides serving this lake… so send them our way!

31. Lake Phalen

Located in St. Paul, Lake Phalen is a great destination for a ice fishing fix. Its so close to town that you don’t even need to bring your ice house! It has healthy populations of most of MN’s fish, however it is probably best known for monster Blue gills!

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32. Lake Owasso

Lake Owasso is another urban lake on the north end of the Cities. Like the other urban lakes above, it is generally fished for musky, pike, walleye, and bass.

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Others

Kids checking their holes while ice fishing in Minnesota

This is just a catch-all for a couple of fun lakes that are not in the more popular regions.

Read More: 40 Best Winter Things to Do in Minneapolis, MN

33. Clearwater Lake

We’re biased. We have a family cabin on Clearwater Lake near Annandale, MN and know the lake extremely well. It is a relatively large lake with a lot of structure. It hosts a lot of summer bass fishing contests, but is also knwon for northern pike, panfish, and walleye.

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34. Big Stone Lake

This one is on its own on the MN/SD border, but is great for catching perch. If you are looking for something different, then Big Stone Lake is a great choice.

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35. Lake Pepin

Lake Pepin is unique. It is a naturally occuring lake smack in the middle of the Mississippi River. As a river lake, it has a slow but steady river current. It has just about everything, but is most well known for walleye. Just watch for sketchy ice conditions. Many ice anglers have run into trouble as the ice can shift quite a bit during the ice fishing season.

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Conclusion

Playing cards whileon a guided ice fishing trip in MN

So there you have it. 35 of the best ice fishing lakes in Minnesota. Hopefully you found what you are looking for and more importantly you’re geating ready to head out on some expansive frozen lake looking for the perfect place to drop a line.

And be sure to check out our Guide to Planning EPIC Ice Fishing Trips in Minnesota.

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