Skip to main content

Try Rainy River, Lake of the Woods, for a mid-summer dream trip.

Try Rainy River, Lake of the Woods, for a mid-summer dream trip.

Summer Family Fishing in Midwest: A Minnesota Mixed Bag

Jody Rae Anderson gives this Rainy River sturgeon the TLC treatment after a tough battle from a Hobie kayak. (Photo by Mike Pehanich)

"Getting away from it all" is a relative concept, particularly when the topic is family vacations. But a family adventure to the Minnesota-Ontario border waters in the vicinity of Baudette and International Falls, Minn., offers the opportunity to do just that.

The border town of Baudette, which proudly calls itself the "Gateway to Lake of the Woods," presents a variety of on-the-water adventures. My last trip to the area, with several writers and members of the Hobie pro staff, generated some unique kayak fishing opportunities and a lifetime of memories.

Midwest Fishing
Sturgeon in Rainy River can reach weights in excess of 100 pounds and can tow sizable fishing craft with their powerful runs. (Photo by Mike Pehanich)

We lodged at River Bend Resort (800-292-3084; on the Rainy River. The scenic riverside setting offers doorstep access to the beautiful and bountiful border river, and Lake of the Woods—world-renowned for its walleyes, muskies and smallmouth bass, along with northern pike, lake trout, burbot, perch, sturgeon and sunfish—is a short drive away.


Rainy River’s spring walleye run draws anglers from a wide radius, but it’s the smallmouth bass population that provides the bulk of the summer action. The river also hosts big-time bass tournaments.

Midwest Fishing
Barb Carey, president and founder of WI Women Fish, hefts a Rainy River sturgeon. (Photo by Mike Pehanich)

Kayak fishing has mushroomed in popularity on these border waters, and on the Rainy River in particular. There we experienced a bucket-list adventure—catching giant lake sturgeon from kayaks. These prehistoric monsters are remarkable fish, as fascinating in appearance and habit as they are formidable at the end of a fishing line. Powerful runs and athletic leaps characterize battles with these river giants. While most anglers still take on sturgeon from conventional fishing craft, the high adventure of a kayak hunt has become increasingly favored.

Midwest Fishing
Sturgeon are amazing survivors with ancestry dating back more than 200 million years. Note the vacuum mouth, which it employs on assorted forage to satisfy its voracious appetite. (Photo by Mike Pehanich)

Using an interesting buoy anchor system, we positioned our kayaks in prime mid-river locations, working gobs of nightcrawlers sweetened with emerald shiners on bottom rigs. Sturgeon fishing gives you plenty of time to commune with nature. The rhythms of the river are broken periodically by the breaches of giant lake sturgeon, often just a stone’s throw away. Better yet is the jarring rush of a hooked sturgeon and the exciting tugboat ride that often follows.


Minnesota is synonymous with walleyes, and Baudette’s proximity to the bountiful Lake of the Woods’ marble-eye fishery is its biggest draw.

"The fishing is phenomenal," says Paul Johnson, guide and River Bend Resort owner. "It’s just plain lights out [this time of year] for both numbers and big fish."

Midwest Fishing
Kevin Nakada of Hobie triumphs in his face-off with Lake of the Woods smallmouth. (Photo by Mike Pehanich)

Johnson captained one of my most memorable Boundary Water adventures two seasons ago when I joined him and Hobie’s Kevin Nakada on the big lake. We loaded three kayaks onto Johnson’s “mother ship” and ventured to an island area just south of the international boundary. There we cast crankbaits and tube jigs for muscular smallmouth and pedal-trolled along long rock-strewn structure for walleyes, smallmouths and an occasional northern pike. As incredible as the fishing was, a shore lunch of freshly caught walleye fillets was the highlight.

Midwest Fishing
Shore lunch is a favorite Northwoods tradition and always a vacation highlight. (Photo by Mike Pehanich)


Bookending the Rainy River on the east end is Rainy Lake, another outstanding getaway fishery. Rainy Lake offers idyllic Laurentian Shield settings and game fish aplenty, with the added wonder of beautiful Voyageurs National Park on the southeastern corner of the lake.

With 360 square miles of surface water, explorers and anglers have plenty of room to roam. Smallmouth bass and walleyes are the leading targets, with northern pike, crappies, trophy muskies and even largemouth bass there for the taking.

Midwest Fishing
Paul Johnson, River Bend Resort owner and guide, shows off a northern pike caught while filming a Hobie kayak fishing adventure. (Photo by Mike Pehanich)

The International Falls area features fine lodging and resorts, but many find the best way to enjoy Rainy Lake is via houseboat. Billy Dougherty, co-owner of Rainy Lake Houseboats (800-554-9188; located outside of International Falls, led my most recent multi-species outing to the fabled fishery. Billy anchored our spacious houseboat in a quiet cove that we were happy to call “home” for several days. While smallmouth bass got most of our attention, we managed to take a pair of trophy walleyes, including one legitimate double-digit fish, while trolling for muskies and northern pike.


Midwest Fishing
Photo by Mike Pehanich

A word to the wise: Be careful to keep your craft on the U.S. side of the border. Canada’s border patrol can be quick to pounce on anglers, even those who have unwittingly crossed the invisible line.

Additional motel lodging in the Baudette area is available at River Bend Walleye Inn (218-634-1550).

For additional information on Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River, contact Lake of the Woods Tourism (218-634-1174;

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Sometimes you have to fish a bait that allows you to cover a lot of water efficiently. When you're on the search for bass that have moved into deeper water off the bank and away from obvious holding spots, a swimbait can locate them.

On the Search with Swimbaits

One of the best imitations of a wounded baitfish is the soft-plastic jerkbait, or fluke. A fluke darting just beneath the surface can be too much for a bass to resist. Rig it and fish it according to water conditions and cover to make this great bait even more effective.

Fun with Flukes

There are three models in SPRO's Outsider crankbait series: 55 (runs 3-4 feet), 60 (7-9) and 80 (19-21). Professional bass angler Jonathan Kelley goes over the specifics at ICAST 2022 in Orlando.

SPRO's New Outsider Crankbait Series: First Look

Professional bass angler Jonathan Kelley highlights the features of SPRO's new lures at ICAST 2022 in Orlando.

New Essential Series Spinnerbaits and Buzzbaits from SPRO

Syd Ribes with Sea Falcon highlights four new lures for saltwater fishing. At ICAST 2022 in Orlando.

New Lineup of Lures from Sea Falcon

Syd Ribes highlights two new saltwater lures from SPRO: Flutter Tail Shrimp and Cannon Ball Jig. At ICAST 2022 in Orlando.

New Saltwater Lures from SPRO

AFTCO's Matt Florentino highlights the features of the new Barricade cold-weather suit, a Best of Category winner at ICAST 2022 in Orlando. With Game & Fish's Adam Heggenstaller.

New from AFTCO: Barricade Cold Weather Tactical Gear

Three-time ICAST Best of Category winner Bubba covers it all with new knives set. With Bubba's Matt Kinamore and Game & Fish's  Adam Heggenstaller at ICAST 2022 in Orlando.

4-in-1 Bubba Multi Flex Cutlery Kit

The innovative landing net will weigh and measure your catch while it's still in the net. Best of Category winner at ICAST 2022. With Game & Fish's Adam Heggenstaller.

Award-Winning Frabill Witness Net 'Keeps You Honest'

Game & Fish Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now