Ice fishing on Minnesota’s Lake of the Woods & Rainy River area truly offers a unique and satisfying winter experience. Each year more visitors return to the area as they hear by word-of-mouth from their friends or relatives about this exciting wilderness area. Sprawling Lake of the Woods is the largest inland freshwater lake in the continental U.S. next to the Great Lakes and is truly considered “big water” country. Even so, it doesn’t take long to get out on the ice where the action is waiting.
There are over 50 resorts, sleeper services, and hotels in Lake of the Woods County. A wide range of winter services are offered. Visitors can have all the conveniences of home as they stay in a warm cabin, condo, motel, or sleeper fish house. Travel is available in heated track vehicles: van, bombardier (which seats 12); or by conventional trucks on plowed roads across the ice.
Many Lake of the Woods resorts and outfitters have fine tuned ice transportation. From Bombardiers to tracks on trucks to heated people hauler trailers, it is interesting to see how ice transportation has evolved. Most transportation is equipped with some form of flotation for safety purposes. Ice three to four feet thick during mid-winter is not uncommon. However, it is always good to check with the locals and use the resorts and outfitters plowed and maintained ice roads and/or transportation for safety.
Resorts and their ice rigs will pick you up and drop you off at pre-heated fish houses and then pick you back up with your bucket of fish and bring you back to the lodge for supper.
Ice Roads are operated by various resorts around Lake of the Woods. Check with each resort or outfitter for current conditions.
-Ice road at NW Angle from Jerry’s Restaurant to Flag and Oak Islands used primarily for transportation to islands.
The winter take usually consists of limits of walleye, saugers, northern pike, eelpout as well as jumbo perch and tulibee; which is good smoked. Up at the NW Angle, whitefish and crappies are abundant as well.
At the beginning of the season, usually around December 1, depending on the weather, there is a lot of action in the frozen bays and shoreline areas, with the majority of ice fishing kicking into full gear mid December. Popular baits are jigs and jigging spoons tipped with a shiner minnow. Anglers use a much shorter pole for ice fishing. The resorts usually furnish all the gear you need for a relaxing day on the ice.
As the ice fishing season gets in full swing a metamorphosis takes place. As if by magic, a whole community of shacks of all shapes and sizes mysteriously appear. Mushrooming near the fishing hot spots, approximately 1,500 to 3,000 are set up at any one time. This may sound like a lot, but with a huge lake like Lake of the Woods, there is no overcrowding. Like vagabonds, the houses will follow right along with the fishing patterns. Many are portable or come with skis which can be easily moved.
Dark house spearing for northern pike is another popular activity. The first ten days in December are extremely popular and productive. Spearing continues through February. Found along the shallow bays, the northern pike at Lake of the Woods are of trophy proportions.
Ice fishing continues through March with permanent fish houses being pulled off the ice by the end of March. Fish are putting on the feed bag this time of year and are ready for an active spring spawn. In addition to the great walleye and sauger fishing, northern pike are staging at the mouths of creeks, small rivers and other typical spawning locations. This is a great time to use tip ups and catch a trophy pike over 40″.
Sleeper Fish Houses
Fishing out of a sleeper fish house is almost like ice camping. You are in a spacious and cozy fish house for 2-3 days with friends and / or loved ones. Regardless of the temps outside, inside the fish house is nice and balmy. Fish from your bunk bead or with slippers on if you would like. Good times to break up a long winter season.
Ice Fishing “How To” Videos
For more information, feel free to contact the Lake of the Woods Area Tourism Bureau or one of our many resorts/hotels/outfitters.
To order additional information Click Here or call 1-800-382-FISH.
You can download the official Minnesota Fishing Regulations on the Minnesota DNR web site.