Ice fishing on Minnesota’s Lake of the Woods, Rainy River and up at the NW Angle 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 productive fishing area.
Lake of the Woods is the largest inland freshwater lake in the contiguous 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, hotels, rentals and sleeper fish house outfitters 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.
Resorts offer full service accommodations. From the traditional American Plan with lodging, full service fishing and meals all included to simply renting a cabin or hotel room and using your own equipment, there are many options.
Fish Houses are Heated and Ready!
Resorts and outfitters on Lake of the Woods make ice fishing simple. They provide easy ways to get out to heated fish houses in some of the best ice fishing areas in the Midwest.
It’s important to work through a resort or outfitter as ice conditions vary around the lake.
Early in the ice fishing season, resorts and ice fishing providers have worked hard checking, marking and grooming ice roads and trails. It is important to work through these providers and not venture off on your own for safety reasons.
As ice thickens, each resort or ice fishing provider will communicate weight limitations on their ice road or trail. Please know conditions vary from ice road to ice road, trail to trail, due to a variety of factors.
Initially, walking out only is allowed, often for spearing or tip up fishing pike in back bays. When conditions allow, ATV’s and snowmobile traffic is allowed with collapsible fish houses. Eventually, side by sides, small day houses, GEO Trackers and Suzuki Samurais and eventually sleeper houses, SUV’s, then pick ups and finally full sized pick up trucks. Again, each ice road is different, communicate with provider for weight limitations.
Before vehicle traffic is allowed, many resorts offer “light ice rigs” to transport out guests to their day houses (a hard sided heated fish house not offering bunks, thus smaller and lighter) in heated comfort.
Some resorts offer heated transportation out to their fish houses in specialized ice transportation. Others provide plowed ice roads so you can drive yourself.
Most ice roads sell an access pass and can give you additional details on the ice road and fish activity at that time. Resort Facebook Pages or a quick call up will help you better understand conditions and the many varying ice road reports. There are many roads available on the south shore of the lake so check out your options.
Resorts and outfitters on Lake of the Woods go to great efforts to provide ice roads. Constant plowing, adjusting roads due to ice conditions, ice bridges, driving the ice roads early in the morning to check conditions and broken equipment due to the harsh conditions Lake of the Woods dishes out are all part of the routine to make ice roads safe and smooth as possible.
It is important to stay on the marked roads, drive slow (as high speeds send a wave under the ice that can wreck the ice) and communicate with the ice road providers about current conditions. Ice fishing is happening and the fish are biting. This is a special time of the year for so many. Have fun and be safe!
Fish caught in the winter typically consists of walleyes, saugers, northern pike, eelpout, 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. It is recommended to work through a resort or outfitter for safety.
As the ice fishing season gets in full swing around mid-December depending upon Mother Nature, resorts and outfitters mark ice roads and trails to the best fishing areas. They set up fish houses, drill out the holes and turn the heater on, all ready for guests to step in and start fishing.
Resorts and outfitters do a nice job of following the fish throughout the winter. Often times during the mid winter, fish houses will be miles from shore in order to stay on fish and be productive.
Some resorts will transport you to their heated fish houses while others will provide an ice road with signage on the ice and instructions once the ice is thick enough.
Ice fishing usually continues through March with permanent fish houses being pulled off the ice by March 31st.
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 that can be found, 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″.
The Walleye Capital of the World is a well known ice fishing destination. The catch rate is high. Saugers add additional action. The stained waters of the lake set up mainly a daytime bite for walleyes. And it helps there are literally millions of fish.
Resorts offer fish cleaning facilities. If you are ice fishing with a resort, fish cleaning is often provided. In some cases, it is included in your package, in other cases, is offered for a nominal fee.
Walleyes, saugers, perch, eelpout, pike and crappies are a few of the delicious, cold water fish which ice anglers catch on Lake of the Woods.
At the end of the day, don’t forget about a delicious fish fry of fresh walleyes and sauger.
Some guests enjoy preparing their own fish fry back at their cabin, while others choose to have their fresh catch cooked up by a resort.
Area resorts offer walleye dinners at take pride in their time tested batters, seasonings, and tartar sauce. Fresh fish from Lake of the Woods is a delicacy to many and delicious!
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 about Lake of the Woods, Click Here.
You can download the official Minnesota Fishing Regulations on the Minnesota DNR web site.