Go to MN DNR Fishing Regulations page HERE for full current limits
The limits for Walleyes and saugers change a few times through-out the year. The limits are listed below with dates and locations at certain times of the year.
There are many different habits of the Walleye on Lake of the Woods. This may be due to the diversity of the enormous lake. There are many different types of structure and solids that make up the bottom surface, as well as many different ranges and variations of depth around the lake. This allows Lake of the Woods to be diverse in its ability to reproduce and sustain different species of fish and create many different but simultaneous patterns of activity on one body of water.
There are many locals that would explain there are two different kinds of Walleye in Lake of the Woods, river Walleye and a lake Walleye. Although we know that a Walleye can travel further than an Indy car in its life span there are some people that believe a portion of the Walleye never leave the lake or never leave the river. Although we try to figure them out with all different thoughts and data there are a couple things we all can agree on. One is that you can find the Walleye when you find their food source, the other is gold is always a staple color for tackle on Lake of the Woods.
Starting at fishing opener in mid-May the Walleye seem to be closer to shore and actively feeding on bait fish in the sandy areas. Jigging is a popular method at this time of year, whether it is anchored or drifting presenting live or frozen bait in 6-18 feet of water is generally the best tactic. As we move into June we start to move a little deeper and try different presentations. Usually we will switch to a spinner rig, generally a 30″ Snell is used. Minnows, Leeches, and Crawlers are all effective and some days one of them is better than another. We either fish in sand or rubble areas, or try some of the rock reefs that hold the Walleye. Still looking for the feeding areas, generally bait fish, leeches, and sometimes the freshwater shrimp.
It is usually toward the beginning of July that a large number of the Walleye are in the deeper water (30-36 feet). This is a great time of year to work different types of plug baits. There are also many Walleye in the reef areas as the rocks tend to hold a cooler water temp. This can be great for drifting with the spinners or even trying some slip bobber fishing. There are many trophy sized fish caught at this time of year through August. This time of year we see the feeding pattern to be more leeches, freshwater shrimp, and bugs. In September & October the Rainy River and Four Mile Bay experience a shiner run. This shiner run generally lasts through the formation of ice. The Walleyes follow the shiners into the Rainy River providing high Walleye concentrations. This is some of the best close in Walleye action of the year.
The ice fishing season runs from early December through March for Walleye and Sauger. On average we have our houses out on the 15th of December and have them out until the later part of March depending on weather conditions. We are usually starting off in the shallower water, the sand bottom and number of bait fish in the area at this time of year can produce incredible action. As the season progresses we move out deeper and deeper and the bottom becomes a mud structure. At times we are 15 miles north in 36 feet of water. Also, in February we start to bring some houses to some of the reef areas. This can be a test of timing and skills as you move to different depth and bottom structure to find the feeding area.
Sauger have a lighter brown color that the Walleye does not they also they do not get as large as a Walleye. An average size for saugers is in the 11-14″ range but recently we have seen some get as big as 20 inches. There are some other differences with the Walleye, one is the Sauger lacks a solid black area at the back of their dorsal fin. Another main feature to a sauger is the black dots on the fins. Generally while targeting Walleye there are plenty of Saugers around. Not many Saugers seem to enter the river but spawn on the lake about a week or two later than the Walleye. Feeding patterns seem to be the same as Walleye and generally there are more Sauger caught when we are fishing deeper on the lake in the winter. Some guides say the sauger do not roam as much as walleyes on the lake. The sauger limits coincide with the walleye limits so please direct your attention to the walleye limit picture above.
The most popular time of year to fish Sturgeon is in April and early May. This is during their annual spawning run in the Rainy River. Also, Walleye season is closed during this time. The early season runs from April 24th – May 7th and allows for one fish to be kept between 45-50″ or over 75″ per year. There is also another keep season, catch and release seasons, and a closed season listed below. A great day of Sturgeon fishing in the spring can mean boating 10-30 of these monstrous fish. Potential state record sturgeon have come out of the Rainy River/Lake of the Woods already. The current state record is 94.4 lbs. A keeper fish over 75″ would surely break that mark. See the MN DNR’s projected age and weight chart for Sturgeon.
A rough fish, that are extremely similar to a Whitefish. There is no limit on tulibees. We typically see more caught in the winter months. An average Tulibee run from 11-15 inches. As far as eating, they are best smoked.
Smallmouth Bass can be found in the Rainy River and Four Mile Bay, also around some of the shallower rock structure near Zipple Bay and up in the Northwest Angle. Smallmouth bass season also never closes on LOW and the Rainy River.
Northern Pike on Lake of the Woods can reach sizes larger than 40 inches and weigh more than 25 pounds. Having this trophy caliber fish creates a huge buzz to catch these monsters especially in the late winter and early spring months when they are staging for spawning. Tip ups are common to catch pike on late ice. Pike season is continuous on LOW which means it never closes. The limit for pike is 3 fish with one fish being 40+ inches and pike 30-40 inches must be immediately released. Pike can be caught all year all over the lake including the main basin, the Northwest Angle, the Rainy River, and bays.
Crappies on LOW can reach sizes of up to 18 inches with an average size of 11-14 inches. The crappies are mainly targeted in the winter months up at the Northwest Angle. Most fishing of these slabs is done in Ontario waters up at the Angle. Typically the crappies are found in holes with steep drops off islands in 25-33′ of water. In recent years studies have shown that the crappies have a high mortality rate after being caught in such deep water. It is advised that anglers move on to another species after the limit has been reached and to not catch and release these fish. The season for crappies on LOW is continuous with a limit of 10 fish.