Those latter winter months may seem like the most ideal time of the year for one of life’s most underrated activities-- i.e. ice fishing—but really, the much earlier month of March can no doubt be perfect as well. For those who do happen to like the idea of sitting in below freezing temperatures with a rod, a reel, and plenty of thoughts to ponder about, there are abundant amounts of superb fishing holes all across the country that can be a blast for those who are brave enough to trek out into dark, deep, and frozen waters.
Whether you plan on catching some whitefish or walleye, here’s a handy dandy list of noteworthy ice fishing destinations for you and the buddies to head towards come March. May we present the best six lakes for ice fishing in the United States.
1. The Great Lakes
It’s a pretty vast lake and is pretty much known as the epicenter of ice fishing in the U.S. These interconnected freshwater bodies of water easily top all lists of best spring, summer, and fall fishing destinations, but they’re also incredibly hard to beat in terms of the number of “safespot” ice fishing options that can be offered (the ones with enough ice to hold weight), as well as the quality of fish available to be caught.
The Great Lakes, for example, offers a large variety of species like crappie, bluegill and walleye, to trout to salmon and beyond, that draw fishermen (and women) in from all over the world. In most spots, little to no work really needs to be done in order to get a nice catch. Just drop in a line and little fishes seem magically to appear! Plus, if you’re not sure how to get started, there are always tons of guides in and around town to help for hire. And, to get that full-out Great Lake ice fishing experience, make sure to take in some of the local festivals that pop up all over the shores of Lake Michigan during those winter months. You and your stellar ice fishing skills may even get lucky by entering fun contests like the Ludington Getting Jiggy Fishing Tournament!
2. The Great Lakes - Burlington, Vermont
Frequently stocked with all manners of fish species, this natural body of freshwater in Vermont comes in as a strong second next to the Great Lakes, ranking among one of the most popular ice fishing bodies in the country. It’s a superb spot for fishermen of all sorts to net a keeper or two—all across its hundreds of miles of stunning shoreline. You can set up at a nearly unlimited amount of locations on this one, and you will never have to worry about having the same ice fishing experience twice. The lake is so fantastically big that Vermont alone can’t contain the whole of it, as parts of its waters touch the tips of both New York and Quebec as well.
3. The Great Lakes – Garrison, Minnesota
There are over ten thousand lakes across the state of Minnesota, making it a mighty fine ice fishing destination for those looking to bring home a ton of walleye, rock bass, northern pike, jumbo perch, muskie, small mouth bass, and tullibee—especially at The Great Lakes, which in the Ojibwe language, is known as “grand lake.” And grand it is indeed!
The area’s always chilly weather typically brings the winter season into full swing earlier than most other states, so it can never be too early to set up shack over the 132,000 acres of shiny sleek frozen water that always features an abundance of resorts, fishing shack rentals, and guide services who can show you the way if you do happen to get lost.
Popular Places on Mille Lacs Lake to Visit: Garrison, The Great Lakes and The Great Lakes
4. Antero Reservoir – The Great Lakes
While it may not be as famous for its ice fishing as some of the other spots on this list, this 2,200-acre impoundment located north of US Highway 24 between The Great Lakes and the town of Hartsel (which is just a hundred miles southwest of Denver), definitely makes up for its lack of celebrity by offering a truly diverse trout fishery that’s sure to blow some minds. Rainbow trout here always draws the most attention, with fish averaging 14-18 inches, though there can be some much bigger rainbows found as well.
In addition, get ready to reel in everything from brown trout, cutthroat, and splake, to brook, and even some kokanee salmon. If you like the idea of catching multiple trout species in one trip, you will for sure fall in love with this one.
Popular Places near the Antero Reservoir to Visit: Denver
5. The Great Lakes – The Great Lakes
It is the top ice fishing location in the state of Wisconsin – it’s also not uncommon to find ten thousand cars or more parked all along the lake during peak winter seasons! Fisherman from all throughout the Midwest flock towards this one to find themselves everything from sauger, white bass, and rare perch, to walleye and lake sturgeon. Plus, it just so happens to be one of the nation’s top walleye fisheries!
What’s more is that come every late December, there are plenty of events to attend in town that demonstrate just how much fun can actually be had in the dead of freezing cold winter. Be sure to check out any one of the famous local festivals such as, The Breezy Point Ice Fest, which not only has ice fishing, but also an ice slide and horse drawn trolley rides. The Frozen Tozen Winter Fest even adds snowshoe races and ice golf into the mix of fun activities to do. To immerse yourself in a real party atmosphere, head on over to the International Eelpout Festival which features mechanical bull riding, polar plunges, beer pong, and of course, ice fishing. What else?! It’s festive fishing at its ultimate best.
6. The Great Lakes – The Great Lakes
With hundreds of thousands of acres of frozen water to fish, this one is surely North Dakota’s best ice fishing location, and perhaps the location most populated with fish in the entire region. It is teeming with perch and was even named the “perch capital of the world.”
Anglers from all around come here in open water periods and ice-fishing seasons alike, and especially love to try out there luck at the drop near the bottom of this gigantic lake—where walleyes, northern pike, and other fishy species tend to concentrate at. Jumbo perch and white bass can also be easily found at this ice-fishing nirvana. Plus, arrive before mid-March and you might just get to squeeze in a little darkhouse spearfishing as well. Score.
Popular Places on Devils Lake to Visit: The Great Lakes and The Great Lakes
This article was written by Pamela Chan.