Best Fishing Spots in Minnesota

A serene lake surrounded by lush forests, with a fishing boat anchored near a calm inlet.
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Minnesota boasts an array of pristine waters, each offering a unique angling experience. As an angler, you’re spoilt for choice ranging from the vast expanse of Red Lake, renowned for its abundance of crappies and the mighty northern pikes, to the serene shores of Lake Minnetonka, a haven for bass fishing. The natural beauty of the North Star State, coupled with its rich fish diversity, makes it a premier destination for fishing enthusiasts.

Your exploration of Minnesota’s fishing spots will reveal well-kept secrets like the Mississippi River’s 195-mile stretch within the state, dotted with numerous shore fishing opportunities. Away from the riverbanks, Lake of the Woods invites you with its intricate maze of islands and depths that create the perfect habitat for walleye. With such a variety of locations, your pursuit of the day’s catch is as much about the thrill of discovery as it is about the sport of fishing.

Lake of the Woods

Lake of the Woods is a premier destination for anglers like yourself seeking a variety of fish species. Spanning over 1,700 square miles and straddling the border with Canada, it’s a vast area offering fertile fishing grounds.

Popular Fish Species:

  • Walleye: Known as “The Walleye Capital of the World,” you can expect exceptional catches.
  • Northern Pike: With Zippel Bay and other spots, you’re in for sturdy fights and potential trophies.
  • Lake Sturgeon: A legendary fishery, some sturgeons here can weigh hundreds of pounds.

While fishing, indulge in the local tradition of a shore lunch prepared by some guides, featuring the day’s catch with the mild and flavorful walleye being a delightful treat.

Fishing Techniques:

  • Use live bait for walleye to increase your chances, especially in stretches 30 miles upstream from Baudette.
  • For sturgeon, sturdy tackle is crucial due to their substantial size.

Noteworthy Locations:

  • The river stretch from the mouth to approximately 30 miles upstream is a hot spot for multispecies fishing.
  • Zippel Bay is a renowned section of the lake for northern pike.

Your fishing experience at Lake of the Woods will be nothing short of memorable, with the region’s bountiful waters and scenic surroundings.

Mille Lacs Lake

Mille Lacs Lake is a premier fishing destination in Minnesota, known for its abundant fish populations and varied fishing experiences throughout the year. As Minnesota’s second-largest lake, it spans over 132,000 acres, offering you ample space to find your perfect fishing spot.

Popular Fish Species:

In summer, you’ll enjoy the lake’s ample shoreline and deep waters that are home to a variety of fish species. Smallmouth bass fishing is particularly exceptional, with Mille Lacs being a nationally recognized bass fishery.

When winter arrives, ice fishing takes center stage. Larger bays like Vineland, Isle, and Cove become hot spots for catching walleye and northern pike. For safety, always check ice conditions before heading out and consider the services of local ice house rentals for a comfortable experience.

Bait and Tackles Shops:

  • Reeds Family Outdoor Outfitters
    • Address: 38556 US-169, Onamia, MN 56359
    • Phone: +1 320-532-7333

Lake Pepin

Location: Spanning the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin, Lake Pepin is a naturally occurring lake on the Mississippi River, renowned for its fishing opportunities and picturesque landscapes.

Size: At approximately 24,550 acres, you’ll find ample space for angling adventures.

Accessibility: Numerous public boat launches and parks provide you with convenient access to the lake.

Species You Can Catch

Fishing Tips:
During early season, consider taking advantage of the abundant bass and panfish populations. Focusing on areas with structure such as downed trees or varying depths can yield better results.

Amenities: You’ll encounter various marinas, fishing guide services, and a selection of lodging options to enhance your Lake Pepin experience.

Note on Water Clarity: Be mindful that water clarity is classified as low, which can influence fish behavior and your fishing techniques.

Lake Winnibigoshish

Lake Winnibigoshish, often referred to as “Lake Winnie,” is a premier fishing destination situated in north-central Minnesota. Spanning over 67,000 acres and with an average depth of 15 feet, it presents you with numerous opportunities to target a variety of fish species.

Walleye Fishing:

  • Best Times: May, June, September, and October
  • Bait Tips: Use live minnows or artificial lures that mimic natural prey.

Panfish Pursuit:
Known for its yellow perch, you can explore the expansive waters that provide a productive panfish habitat.

Northern Pike Hotspots:
This lake’s unique terrain, which includes areas that drop to over 60 feet, fosters an excellent environment for northern pike.

When you’re planning your fishing trip to Lake Winnibigoshish, remember that the lake’s structure and seasonal changes affect fish behavior, making local knowledge an invaluable resource. It’s spread across Cass and Itasca counties and provides you with both sizeable open water and various smaller bays and inlets, suitable for different fishing techniques and experiences.

Gull Lake

Gull Lake, nestled in the heart of Minnesota, offers an exceptional fishing experience. Your exploration of Minnesota’s best fishing spots would be incomplete without considering Gull Lake’s abundant opportunities. Spanning an impressive area, it provides a diverse habitat suitable for various species.

Key Features:

  • Size: Approximately 10,000 acres
  • Depth: Averages 30 feet; maximum 80 feet
  • Habitats: Abounds in shallow and deep water areas

You’ll find nearly a third of this expanse is 15 feet deep or shallower, creating ideal conditions for certain fish species. As for license requirements, ensure you secure a fishing license before you cast your line.

Popular Fish Species:

To maximize your chances, use the variety of structures such as weed lines, drop-offs, and reefs as natural fish attractors. Regarding accommodations, Gull Lake is surrounded by resorts, catering to different preferences and budgets.

Locations to Consider:

  • Northern Pike: Seek out weed edges and drop-off points.
  • Walleye: Try fishing in both shallow and deeper waters, especially during low-light conditions.
  • Bass: Explore the docks and structure-rich shallows.
  • Panfish: Look for reedy and vegetated areas for bluegill and crappie.

Lake Vermilion

As a fishing enthusiast, you’ll find Lake Vermilion a top destination in Minnesota. It boasts over 1,200 miles of shoreline and encompasses more than 40,000 acres. You have access to numerous islands, with the number reaching beyond 360, which create diverse habitats for various fish species.


  • Smallmouth Bass: Considered a trophy fish in these waters.
  • Largemouth Bass: Abundant and provides exciting catches.
  • Muskie: Notable for the success of stocking programs.
  • Northern Pike: A challenging catch, prevalent in the lake.
  • Walleye: Historically the most popular and sought after.
  • Crappie & Perch: Offers enjoyable fishing for all skill levels.

Noteworthy Features:

  • Structure: Lake Vermilion features abundant structure such as reefs and drop-offs, perfect for gamefish habitats.
  • Two Basins: The west end (Cook End) and the east end (Tower End) are distinct fishing zones, with Oak Narrows in between.

When planning your trip, remember Lake Vermilion’s vast size might require a boat to explore effectively. Seasonal variations influence fish activity, so time your visit for peak seasons to target specific species.

White Bear Lake

White Bear Lake is regarded as a prime fishing destination in Minnesota. When you cast your line here, expect to engage with a variety of fish species actively sought after by anglers.

Key Species

  • Largemouth Bass: These are plentiful and the main attraction during the summer months.
  • Northern Pike: Easy to catch; however, they often fall in the smaller size range, typically 18-22 inches.
  • Walleye: Best times to fish are early season and fall.

Fishing Tips

  • Early morning or late evening may increase your chances due to lower recreational boating traffic.

Competing Activities

Be mindful of recreational boaters, especially on weekends and holidays, which can impact the fishing experience.

Access Points

  • Shore fishing can be as productive as boat fishing, with several public docks and piers available.

Lake Minnetonka

Lake Minnetonka, located in Hennepin county, is a premier fishing destination in Minnesota. With over 14,500 acres to explore, you’ll find a variety of fishing spots suited to both novice and experienced anglers. The lake’s diverse habitat includes grassy areas, which are particularly beneficial for bass fishing.

Seasonal Fishing Guide:

  • Spring: An excellent time for walleye fishing. Use live bait such as earthworms or minnows.
  • Summer: You can enjoy successful bass fishing using techniques such as flipping and pitching into heavy vegetation.
  • Fall: As temperatures drop, fish migrate to different lake areas, presenting the opportunity to experiment with various fishing methods.

Notable Fishing Spots on Lake Minnetonka:

  • Maxwell Bay, Orono: Known for a variety of fish, including musky and walleye.
  • Grassy Areas: Ideal for bass, often best approached by boat for accessibility.

Here are some tips to enhance your fishing experience on Lake Minnetonka:

  • Visit the lake during the early morning hours for a serene and potentially more productive fishing session.
  • Familiarize yourself with the lake’s structure and vegetation to identify potential fishing hotspots.
  • Consult local fishing reports for up-to-date information on which areas are yielding good catches.

Otter Tail Lake

The sun sets over Otter Tail Lake, casting a warm glow on the calm waters. A few boats are scattered across the lake, with fishermen casting their lines from the best fishing spots in Minnesota

When you’re angling for an excellent walleye fishing experience in Minnesota, Otter Tail Lake is your destination of choice. Nestled in Otter Tail County, this impressive lake is not only the largest in the region but also replete with fishing-friendly features. You’ll find a variety of structures beneath the surface—flats, holes, humps, and breaklines, all providing ideal conditions for fish habitats. Weedbeds are notably abundant, making the ecosystem beneath the waves a vibrant scene for underwater life.

Otter Tail Lake’s unique topography plays to your advantage. The majority of the lake is relatively shallow, with 57 percent of the waterbody being less than 15 feet deep, yet it also reaches depths of up to 120 feet. These variances in depth create rich and diverse spots for you to test your skills.

Your fishing tactics can adapt to the array of options Otter Tail Lake offers:

  • Weed Flats: Prepare to battle walleye amidst the lake’s substantial weed growth.
  • Deep Holes: These are excellent for finding larger game during the hotter months or when the fish go deep.
  • Ice Fishing: Come winter, the lake is known as one of the best spots for perch.

For the passionate angler, Otter Tail Lake doesn’t disappoint. The lake encompasses over 13,725 acres and allows you to embrace the quiet splendor of Minnesota’s landscapes while you angle for that prize catch. Whether you plan a solitary day of fishing or a weekend retreat, Otter Tail Lake is a place where memories of the catch will be as grand as the landscape itself.

Rainy Lake

Located near International Falls and bordering Minnesota and Canada, Rainy Lake is a premium fishing destination that you might not want to miss. With Voyageurs National Park enveloping a large portion of the area, your fishing experience is merged seamlessly with breathtaking natural views.

Species Availability:

  • Walleye: Rainy Lake is renowned for its abundant walleye population, making it an essential spot for enthusiasts of this species.
  • Other Fish: Apart from walleye, you have the chance to catch other species such as northern pike and smallmouth bass.

Fishing Calendar:

  • Spring: Noted to be one of the last lakes to thaw, the anticipation for ice-out is high. The frenzy kicks in around May 12, coinciding with the Minnesota fishing opener—a key date for targeting walleye.

While the area isn’t overflowing with lodging options, you’ll find enough to meet basic needs, ensuring you devote maximum time on the water.

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