The angling year of your lifetime starts right here, right now, with 36 unbelievableopportunities across the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Get on the water -- now!
Get out that black book with all the calendar pages and start filling them in! It's going to be a great season for fishing, and if you don't pencil in the hotspots now, something else -- like raking leaves, fixing the car, painting the deck -- is going to squeeze into that time. Book your days on the water now, before it's too late!
Found virtually all over Minnesota in rivers and in lakes, smallmouth bass provide a solid fight and plenty of acrobatics.
Photo by Tim Lesmeister.
Crappies -- Island Lake
There's a lot of structure on 3,000-acre Island Lake, but it's the crappies you're after, so stay in the deep water between those sunken islands. One hotspot is to the west of Elmwood Island, a cone-shaped hole that pulls in the crappies and stacks them up. Also, be sure to visit that deep water on the north side of the lake.
Walleyes -- Lake Reno
Lake Reno has a well-deserved reputation as a great walleye lake, so you can expect some fishing pressure there. Successful ice-anglers will be the ones who stay mobile. With little bottom structure, it pays to drill lots of holes and stay on the move.
Crappies -- Lake Rabideau
Head for the deep basin on the west end of the lake and start drilling. Use the sonar to look for telltale signs of suspended crappies. When you spot them on the sonar, send down a horizontal jig tipped with a tiny minnow.
Bluegills -- Crystal Lake
There is a lot of vegetation in Crystal Lake, and the bluegills will hang near the edge of it throughout the hardwater season. Drill holes along the weedline and work the edge with a tiny jig tipped with a micro-plastic body. Carry some maggots in case the bluegills get finicky.
Lake Trout -- Snowbank Lake
Lake trout are fun to catch on the ice. Watch the sonar and see the fish swim up to the bait. Part of Snowbank Lake is in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, so take along a GPS so you know where not to fire up a gas auger.
Bluegills -- Centerville Lake
Big bluegills come out to play in the wintertime on Centerville Lake and while there might be a few stationary shelters where the hotspots are, there are plenty of nice fish throughout the lake.
Perch -- Ash Lake
Perch are interesting to catch in the wintertime. The biggest, gaudiest, shiniest spoons tipped with a couple of maggots will often solicit bites from fish that are barely bigger than the lure. That's what makes perch fishing so much fun, and on Ash Lake there are plenty of perch willing to cooperate. Drill a lot of holes and keep moving until you find them.
Bluegills -- Shields Lake
While many lakes are on the downswing by March, Shields Lake will be showing no sign of letting up when it comes to the great bluegill fishing there. Move off the community spots to find some active fish.
Crappies -- South Big Pine Lake
It's all deep water on South Big Pine Lake. Drill a few dozen more holes than you think you'll need, and search with the sonar while your fishing buddies test the holes where you saw some fish.
Crappies -- Little Rock Lake
In April, the ice goes out and the crappies move into the shallows, where anglers can suspend a minnow below a bobber and catch some of the big fish that are looking for baitfish. On Little Rock Lake, there are plenty of cuts and bays where crappies stack up to feed on the minnows that hide there. Take plenty of bait.
Bluegills -- Lake Washington
It takes a bit longer for the bluegills to move out of the deeper water into the shallows, so use an ice-fishing approach to fish the deep weed edges in the eastern basin of Lake Washington. You'll find lots of fish have made it past the ice-anglers who were there when the water was hard. Make sure you have an anchor with you.
Crappies -- Lake Marion
Test the shallow basin first for crappies on Lake Marion in April. If there are no fish there, move to the deeper side. The crappies move quickly into that shallower water when the ice goes out, and if they are there, you'll find some biters.
Walleyes -- Lake Benton
The prairie pothole lakes always open well. They should -- they warm up fast and are full of walleyes. Lake Benton has a tremendous walleye population, and they tend to bite readily in May, if you figure out the right approach. That could be casting crankbaits while drifting, slip-bobbering a larger minnow while drifting or pitching a quarter-ounce jig tipped with a 3-inch plastic grub body while drifting.
Walleyes -- Lake Andrusia
Deep and clear is how you will find Lake Andrusia. While these characteristics don't always bode well for early-season walleye fishing, anglers who tie on a jig tipped with a Power Grub and pitch it into the shallower vegetation will find walleyes there, and they do bite!
Crappies -- Lake Independence
Hit the bays with bobbers and minnows and you can load up with a limit of decent-sized crappies. The numbers are high, the size is OK, and the fishing is steady. It's a great place to take a young angler for fast action.
Walleyes -- Green Lake
There are so many anglers chasing the crappies and bass on Green Lake that they don't realize there is some decent walleye fishing to be had there. Tie on a live-bait rig, tip the hook with a leech or small sucker minnow and zigzag through that 15- to 25-foot range. Soon you will know what depth those walleyes are using.
Walleyes -- Gull Lake
It's hard to fathom that the fishing on Gull Lake can get any better, but it does. Walleye fishing on this lake not only produces lots of action, but the fish are of nice sizes too. There is so much structure in the lake that it's hard to decide where to start. Gary Roach often jokes that he has worn a groove in the bottom at 19 to 22 feet of water with his Roach Rig.
Largemouth Bass -- Lake Minnetonka
Minnetonka is still the king when it comes to Minnesota's largemouth bass. All the tournament pressure may be conditioning the bass to artificial lures, but you can always use a leech or night crawler on a live-bait rig and pull it along the edge of the vegetation to catch huge bass.
Northern Pike -- Lake Carlos
Everyone leaves the pike alone on Lake Carlos, so now there are some big fish roa
ming the clear water in this lake. There is plenty of bulrush and cabbage to pull in the pike, and a well-defined weedline where vegetation is present is always a good place to pull a big crankbait. There are plenty of pike in the shallows.
Walleyes -- Lake Plantagenette
Some people have a tough time pronouncing the lake name, but no one will argue the great walleye fishing there. Plantagenette gets a lot of boats stacking up on the two sunken islands, but walleyes spread out over the deep-water regions holding on the edge of the bottom just above the thermocline.
Bass -- Upper Mississippi River
Kayak fishing is getting popular and the rivers are now starting to see a little more fishing pressure. There is one stretch of the Mississippi River from Sauk Rapids to St. Cloud that has easy access and lots of smallmouth bass. It's the perfect spot for a kayak or canoe with a couple of rapids and plenty of great fishing for bass.
Northern Pike -- Lake Sylvia
There is both a West Sylvia and an East Sylvia -- two basins that are loaded with nice northern pike. These fish are going to get bigger due to the special regulations that established a protected slot, but if you just want to go out and catch and release a bunch of feisty pike, check out the great pike fishing in these two basins.
Walleyes -- Lake Shagawa
Bill Slaughter is a guide in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness out of Ely. Where does he go when he's not guiding? Lake Shagawa for walleyes. He likes to work a jig and minnow around rocks off the points and sunken islands.
Largemouth Bass --White Bear Lake
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty held his opening day event on this lake in 2009, and while the walleyes were not cooperative, the bass showed everyone why this lake maintains a reputation as one great largemouth spot. Low water has concentrated the fish on the weedlines, and anyone who knows how to work a Texas-rigged plastic worm will catch plenty of big largemouth bass.
Largemouth Bass -- Chisago And South Lindstrom Lakes
How these two lakes didn't start out as one is anyone's guess. There are many lakes in Minnesota that are two basins with a narrow channel between them that are considered one lake, but not this pair. Both lakes are loaded with big largemouth bass, and while these fish do get some educated pressure in the form of tournament anglers, they fall easily for a leech or night crawler.
Walleyes -- Pine Mountain Lake
Want to get into some big walleyes on a small lake? Check out Pine Mountain. At a little over 1,500 acres, Pine Mountain Lake grows big fish quickly. The walleyes there are shaped like footballs, and there are plenty of year-classes in this lake as well.
Smallmouth Bass -- Zumbro River
Fifty or more smallmouth bass per day. Saugers that are huge. Walleyes, muskies and no one else around you. That's what you find on the Zumbro River in September. It requires a canoe. The fishing is outstanding through the summer, but September is the best for those big smallies.
Muskies -- Lake Miltona
October is the best month to be on the water for muskies. You are going to find a little competition on the best lakes, but the fish are biting, and there is plenty of water for everyone. A favorite for big muskies is Lake Miltona where a south breeze will blow you right over the flats in the middle of the lake. Get out those big topwater lures and plan on getting a workout.
Smallmouth Bass -- Lake Mille Lacs
If you want a shot at the biggest smallmouth bass of your life, then hightail it up to Mille Lacs with a bag of 1/8-ounce jigs and some plastic tube and shad bodies. The 20-inch-plus smallmouths move up to the top of the rocks and are put on that last feedbag before the water gets cold. There might be one or two anglers on those southern rockpiles, but there is a lot of bottom on this huge lake.
Muskies -- Detroit Lake
There are numerous options on Detroit Lake for muskie anglers chasing big fish. Topwater lures work great around the edges of the bulrush beds. There is plenty of vegetation where muskies will sit on top and wait to ambush prey, and the shoreline tapers in spots where sand intersects with rubble, rock and boulder. Lots of options in both lure and location.
Walleyes -- Lake Okabena
Everyone thinks of this prairie pothole lake as a springtime walleye spot, but this lake is also quite productive in the fall. The best time to fish Okabena is when you have a slight breeze to drift you over the water. There is no structure to speak of in a pothole lake, although Okabena can brag of some bottom contour. Just drift the open water and cast plastic-tipped jigs or small crankbaits.
Muskies -- West Rush Lake
There are always muskie anglers on the water in November. They've slowed down the presentation, but they know the ice is coming soon and there's not much time left to get onto just one more big pike. West Rush Lake is just small enough (1,575 acres) and holds lots of big muskies to make it a desirable lake for anglers who want to work some structure.
Northern Pike -- Sand Lake
Northern pike seem to get more active in November, feeding voraciously as the water cools. It's a good time to be on a great pike lake, and Sand Lake is a great one. The MDNR, while instituting a protected slot, lets you keep nine fish per angler if they're outside the slot. It can be fast and furious for northern pike on Sand Lake, even in November.
Perch -- Lake Winnibigoshish
In the morning, head out to the tops of the reefs with 1/4-ounce jigging spoons and a bucket of minnows. As the sun rises higher and the bite slows, move to the deeper edges of that structure and follow the perch. They never quit biting on this lake; they just move.
Northern Pike -- Clearwater Lake
Drill some holes in that early ice and get some tip-ups right on the edge of the deep vegetation. You'll discover that Clearwater has some very large northern pike. They come out when the water is cold and slip along the edge of the vegetation looking for an easy meal.
Walleyes -- Leech Lake
Walleye numbers are higher than ever on Leech Lake, and the fishing has never been better. Lots of resorts are open year 'round up there, so pick some structure near where you're staying and start exploring with the underwater camera. You'll spot some walleyes quickly and can get them out on the top of the ice with a jigging spoon and minnow.