Most people assume that the fishing season ends once the weather cools down, but for many fishermen and women, the best part of the angling season is just getting started in the wintertime. While there are hundreds of great places to ice fish all over the U.S., there’s no question that the Midwest is home to some of the best ice fishing around. For the cold weather loving fishing enthusiasts, we’ve compiled a list of the best lakes for ice fishing in the Midwest.
Where to Go Ice Fishing in the Midwest
Image Credit: Adam Excell
1. Lake of the Woods - Minnesota
Lake of the Woods offers 65,000 miles of shore line, and is recognized as the walleye capital of the world. It has also been called one of the most scenic lakes in the United States. In addition to its abundance of walleye, the lake also supports a healthy population of northern pike, sauger, muskie, rock bass, largemouth bass, lake trout, and sturgeon. With more that 45 resorts offering all inclusive ice fishing tours, this Minnesota hot spot is a must-visit destination for ice fishing fans. Lake of the Woods has a long fishing season, running from early December through late March.
2. Lake Winnebago - Wisconsin
Excellent ice fishing awaits you at Lake Winnebago, the largest inland lake in Wisconsin. Its waters host walleye, perch, white bass, and sturgeon, which attract anglers from all over the country. The mix of deep and shallow water areas makes Lake Winnebago a great place to hone your ice fishing skills in different depths. Share your passion with locals at the annual Battle on Bago family ice fishing tournament, complete with food, music, and dancing. Cities around the lake include Oshkosh, Fond du Lac, and Appleton. The season here runs from mid or late December to the end of February.
3. Higgins Lake - Michigan
This 9,600-acre Michigan lake, located in the center of the ‘mitten’s’ upper half, is an ice fisherman’s dream. With deep water, Higgins Lake is slow to freeze, and as a result, the ice fishing season usually doesn’t begin until late January. The fishing here is worth the wait. Home to yellow perch, lake trout, rainbow trout, and brown trout, Higgins Lake has some of the most consistent ice angling in the area. It’s common for fishermen to hit a fifty-fish limit when catching perch, and a handful of 20 pound trout are caught every year. The nearest town is Higgins Lake City.
4. Devil’s Lake - North Dakota
Covering more than 200,000 acres, Devil’s Lake is the largest natural body of water in North Dakota. This bountiful Midwestern lake is home to a large number of walleye, northern pike, and white bass. Devil’s Lake has also earned the reputation as the “Perch Capital of the World”. In fact, ice fishers often catch perch weighing more than two pounds, and fortunately for visitors, the 2016 season has the best perch outlook since 1992. The ice fishing season here typically runs from December to March and the city of Devil’s Lake offers plenty to do and see when you’re not on the ice.
5. Lake Mille Lacs - Minnesota
Situated just north of St. Paul, Lake Mille Lacs is the second largest lake in Minnesota. This massive Midwestern ice fishing spot, home to walleye, rock bass, northern pike, jumbo perch, muskie, and small mouth bass, spans 132,000 acres and three counties. Experienced fishing resorts and tour companies surround the lake, making this popular destination the perfect spot for those new to ice-fishing. Conveniently for fishers, the best fishing areas are not limited to one particular area of the lake. The season runs between mid-December and February.
6. Waubay Lake - South Dakota
This 1,600 acre lake, located in the Glacial Lakes region of northern South Dakota, is home to world class walleye fishing as well as an abundance of smallmouth bass, crappie, and jumbo perch. In fact, the fishing has been so good in South Dakota over the last few years that anglers often hit the 25 fish limit in just a couple of hours. The Waubay Lake ice fishing season starts in late December and runs through March. The beginning and end of the season are said to make for the best fishing, so ice fishers can visit in both winter and spring.
7. Gull Lake - Michigan
This lake in Kalamazoo County offers ice fishers a wide variety of fish to catch. Rainbow trout, bluegill (consistently 7-9 inches), giant northers, and yellow perch are all common in Gull Lake. The waters here are deep, so local fishermen recommend using a flasher to attract fish in the dark water. The season starts in January, when the ice freezes, and continues through February or March, when the weather starts to warm up. The nearest cities are Kalamazoo, 11 miles to the southwest, and Battle Creek, 13 miles to the southeast.
8. Mississippi River - Iowa
Many of the lakes in Iowa offer one or two species in big numbers, but the top pick among Iowa ice fishers is the backwaters of the Mississippi River. Favorite spots along the river include Bussey Lake, Mud Lake, and Sunfish lake, where the lake has been dragged. This offers the deeper water most fish seek out in the cold winter months. Fishermen can expect to catch perch, bluegills, crappies and panfish. The best time to go is from mid-December to February, but the ice can sometimes last through March. The closest town to the Mississippi River backwater lakes are Guttenberg, Dubuque, and Sabula.
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This article was written by Alexis Hartmann and edited by Lexi Perman.