Winter is a painful thing for northern anglers stuck staring out across the frozen tundra (while folks down south are laughing their tails off). Fortunately though, once the water hardens up, some solace can be found in tapping the frozen waters on an ice fishing trip.
Ice fishing is fun, challenging, and let’s be real – it’s the only thing going across much of the Midwest once the holidays roll around.
To help you plan your winter, we thought it’d be a good idea to put together a list of the top ice fishing destination in the Midwest – to get your ice fishing juices flowing.
1. Devils Lake, North Dakota
Years ago, the lake that keeps on growing was considered a mythical destination for hard water anglers. Perch to 2 pounds were commonplace, and walleye limits before lunch were the norm. After a period of several down years, Devils Lake has come back with a vengeance. Leave the ultralight tackle at home, because these perch are more inclined to hit a shiner on a spoon or tip-down.
2. Bay de Noc, Michigan
As intimidating as big water can be, ice fishing on this northern bay of Lake Michigan is well worth the drive. Countless shallow rock reefs offer trophy walleye potential, and it also features a dynamite lake whitefish and burbot bite. If you haven’t tried fried burbot (or poor man’s lobster), you’re missing out.
3. The Upper Mississippi River, WI/IA/MN
If variety is what you’re looking for in an ice fishing experience, look no farther than Old Muddy’s top 100 miles or so. From Red Wing Minnesota down to northern Iowa, the Mississippi offers countless acres of frozen backwaters teeming with jumbo perch, huge crappies, and hand-sized bluegills. Add to that a tremendous tip-up bite for pike and bonus walleyes, and you’ve got a great ice fishing destination.
4. Leech Lake, Minnesota
No list of top ice fishing destinations would be complete without bringing up Leech Lake, which hosts the annual eelpout (burbot) festival, during which over 100,000 anglers participate in one of the largest ice fishing gatherings in the world. Although those anglers are chasing after the festival’s namesake, Leech is also a top trophy walleye and perch fishery.
5. Red Lake, Minnesota
Walleyes reign supreme at Red Lake, one of Minnesota’s largest inland waterbodies. Essentially a shallow basin, Red Lake walleyes are notorious for being extremely active under the ice. Don’t overlook the panfishing opportunities either, as both upper and lower Red feature excellent perch fisheries.
6. Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin
Many anglers come for the walleye and perch fishing, which can be excellent, but it’s the annual sturgeon spearing season that lands Wisconsin’s central giant on this list. Every year, thousands of anglers use specialized ice saws to cut squares in the ice and sit in spearing houses, waiting for a prehistoric giant to swim by. Each season there are sturgeon speared that top the 100 pound mark.
7. Lake Gogebic, Michigan
Seemingly lost in Michigan’s vast Upper Peninsula, Lake Gogebic is a sleeping giant to the ice fisherman. From jumbo perch to walleyes and crappie – Gogebic is worth the drive, and you’ll experience far less angler pressure than on other lakes on this list. If you’re looking for a Devils Lake perch experience closer to the east, Gogebic is as close as it comes.
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