“Best Start (to ice fishing season) Since 2005!”

Ice fishing has begun for many resorts and outfitters on Lake of the Woods.  Everyone is optimistic as the walleye and sauger bite has been excellent.  And the fish are not just in one area, they are being caught across miles of shoreline.  As one resort owner put it, and I quote, “Best start since 2005! (Even being late)”

Limit of walleyes and saugers_Lake of the Woods MN_ice fishingMost resorts and outfitters have been working on the ice for weeks now.  Their first goal is to keep you safe.  They have marked and groomed trails / roads on the ice where there is good ice.

The bite has been excellent with most anglers catching nice limits of walleyes and saugers.  Many of the fish being caught have been nice sized, with a lot of eaters.  There are also many comments about a lot of nice saugers this year, in that 14 – 16 inch range for the bucket.  In true Lake of the Woods style, anglers are reporting a mixed bag which also includes jumbo perch, crappies, pike, eelpout and even an occasional lake sturgeon.

Most who visit Lake of the Woods to ice fish use the services of local resorts and outfitters.  They do the work and have the know how so you can enjoy ice fishing and relax as this is your time away.

Some ice anglers who have equipment will being their ATV, side x side or snowmobile, pull out their collapsible fish house, drill their own holes, start their own heater, etc.  This is great for those who are dialed in on fishing on their own.  They will normally pay for ice access to one of the resorts / outfitters offering access from their land access to their well maintained ice trail.

Never ice fished Lake of the Woods, where do I start?

LIGHT RIG FOR LAKE HAULINGLook at booking with a resort or outfitter in the Lake of the Woods area who offers ice fishing.  That means lodging, fish house rentals, and transportation to and from the fish houses, or when the ice is thick enough, ice roads so you can drive your own vehicle if an ice road is offered.

1 .  Research various resorts and outfitters up at Lake of the Woods.  One consideration, “Will we use their services of renting a fish house and transportation to the fish houses, or, do we have all of the equipment and know how to do it on our own?”  Most who have not fished Lake of the Woods allow the professionals to do all of the work so they can relax.  Eat a good breakfast in the morning, be shuttled to a heated fish house that is strategically placed in a good fishing area, holes drilled and the heater set at 70 degrees.  This makes life easy and safe.

As mentioned, some resorts / outfitters offer access to their ice roads for the do it yourselfer.  This is great if you have your own equipment and want to go that route.

Joe Henry ice fishing2.  What Ice Fishing Equipment Do I Need?  In most cases, anglers will bring their own ice fishing rods and some tackle.  If you don’t have it, no worries.  Communicate with the resort or outfitter you are staying with as they may provide it.  Another option, purchasing a couple of rods / reels along with a few lures from a local Lake of the Woods bait shop is easy and doesn’t cost much.

Anglers ice fishing in Minnesota are allowed two lines each.  Fish houses on Lake of the Woods provide two holes per person.

Ice fishing electronics are helpful to see if fish are below you, where they are swimming in the water column and how they are reacting to your lures.  If you are new to ice fishing, and want to try some ice fishing electronics, many resorts and bait shops rent them for the day.

Ken Mar Ke Homemade Pizza3.  Besides lodging and ice fishing, what is your plan for food?  Many resorts offer great dining options for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  From a complete menu with steaks, prime rib and seafood on the higher end to some delicious favorites such as homemade pizza, taco night, smoked BBQ, Buffalo wings, specialty burgers, sandwiches, and wraps, etc.

There are so many good options.  Some groups do the American Plan, which means lodging, ice fishing and all meals are included in the package price.  Easy and delicious.

Some groups don’t want to haul food up, worry about cooking, etc. but maybe want to visit a few resorts while on their stay.  They will book lodging and ice fishing, and do meals on their own.  One night, they may eat at the resort they are staying.  The second night, maybe they try a resort they have heard of, but have never been there.  The third night, yet another resort.  This is a nice way to get to know the area and experience a variety of menu options.

Others choose to cook some meals on their own (assuming they are staying in lodging with cooking facilities) and maybe even eat out a few meals.  Lots of options.

4.  I don’t fish much, what about fish cleaning?  When you rent a fish house from a resort / outfitter, fish cleaning is normally provided or available for a small fee.  When you come off the ice, usually around 4:30pm, give or take, the ice guides will take your bucket of fish and and deliver to you your boneless filets.

Fish fry, River Bend Resort, Lake of the Woods5.  Experience a fresh fish fry!  A staple in these parts is a good fish fry.  Your fresh catch of walleye, sauger, jumbo perch and even some pike or eelpout is normally what anglers will catch fishing Lake of the Woods.

Some groups who do their own cooking in the cabins will put together their own fish frys.

The other option is have a local resort cook up your fish.  Each resort offers delicious batters they have perfected over the years.  Oh, and don’t forget the homemade tartar sauce.  Again, in many cases, from a recipe tweaked and tweaked to get just right.

Every resort is different, but some offer traditional fried, Cajun, broiled, etc.  They are all delicious!

6.  Make a Decision!  Once you have researched the many options, just make a decision and do it!  That is the best way to learn.  Ice fishing is a lifestyle in these parts and the livelihoods of the resorts, outfitters, staff and local community depend upon it.  Consequently, these folks have been doing this for years and they are darn good at it!

Put the address into your GPS and enjoy your drive.  Northern Minnesota is beautiful this time of year.

Bring along a good camera, which for most means keep your phone charged.  You are going to want to capture pics of the adventure, fish you catch, the fish houses, ice transportation, culture, and delicious food.  Don’t forget Willie Walleye in Baudette and the northernmost point buoy if you are headed up to the NW Angle.

What is my limit of walleyes and saugers?

limit-of-walleyes-and-saugers-in-fish-house_border-view-lodge1_As a reminder, the limit of walleyes and saugers on the Minnesota side of Lake of the Woods is a combined limit of 6 fish, with up to 4 of those 6 being walleyes.  There is also a protected slot limit for walleyes (which helps ensure sustainability of the walleye fishery).  All walleyes between 19.5 inches and 28.0 inches must be returned to the water.  Take a nice pic, feel good about releasing the fish and carry with you a wonderful memory.

Anglers can also keep one walleye over 28.0 inches if they wish.  There is no problem with this and most who keep a big walleye keep it to mount it.

Some anglers will take a few pics of a big walleye and release it, enabling it to reproduce and providing another angler the thrill, as graphite mounts have become more and more popular.  Either way, it is neat we can be talking about the chance to catch a walleye over 28 inches.

Possession limit in Minnesota is equivalent to one day’s limit.  That means if you some fish in your freezer and go out fishing, you need to know how many more fish you can keep to achieve and stay at or under one day’s possession.

Experience Ice Fishing.  If you haven’t ice fished or have ice fished very little, get out and enjoy this activity.  For many, it is as social as it is about fishing.  Pull together a group of friends or relatives and enjoy the benefits of a cold Minnesota winter!


Info about Ice Fishing Lake of the Woods

Lodging and Fish House Rentals on Lake of the Woods

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