While all species of fish are biting, panfish offer the hottest bite. Most anglers agree that low light hours have been best. Please remember that catch-and-release fish should be returned to the water as quickly as possible to prevent fish kill.
Ice anglers should still check ice thickness often, since conditions can vary widely, even on the same body of water. Anyone heading out should wear a life jacket and have ice picks easily accessible. Learn more about ice safety.
For rules, regulations and other helpful information on fishing in Minnesota, consult the DNR’s Fish Minnesota web page.
Visit the Explore Minnesota Fishing & Hunting page for information to help you plan your next Minnesota fishing trip!
Anglers are asked to fish lakes and rivers close to home, and practice social distancing. Learn more about safer ways to travel at Explore Minnesota’s COVID-19 Information page.
Baudette – Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River
Walleyes and saugers are moving farther from shore on Lake of the Woods, with most being pulled from 30-33 feet of water. Jigging lures that rattle or vibrate have been effective in both catching and attracting fish. Tip the lure with a live minnow and use a bobber to suspend the bait just off the bottom. Electronics are helpful to show suspended fish, and some bait shops and resorts will rent units for the day. Popular lure colors for stained waters are gold, bright and glow colors. Be sure to use a dead-stick as your second line. Some trophy-size walleyes measuring over 28 inches are being reported.
Up at the Northwest Angle, nice walleyes and saugers are being taken, with perch, eelpout, northern pike and tullibee also in the mix. When fishing the structure, morning and evening hours are best. During the day, hit the deep mud. Ripping raps and jigging spoons with a rattle are working well when tipped with a minnow head or tail. Use a plain hook with a live minnow on your dead-stick.
The Northwest Angle Guest Ice Road is now open, allowing guests to easily travel from the south edge of the lake up to the Angle. Info: (800) 382-FISH; www.lakeofthewoodsmn.com.
On the Rainy River, anglers are having success with nice-sized walleyes, especially during morning and evening hours. Ice conditions vary greatly on the river so anglers that aren’t familiar with the river should work through a resort. The river snowmobile trail that runs from Baudette to Wheeler’s Point and on to the Northwest Angle is staked and groomed.
Recent cold temperatures have helped solidify the slush on area lakes. Perch continue to bite on Bemidji and Plantagenet lakes, with spoons and minnow heads worked in 25-35 feet of water producing the most fish. For a few walleyes, use spoons and minnow heads or dead-stick with a shiner or large fathead minnow early and late in the day. Look to Gull, Big, Wolf and Midge lakes for crappies and bluegills. Northern pike anglers are taking nice numbers of pike when fishing just off the weed edges on most area lakes. Info: (800) 458-2223; www.visitbemidji.com.
Crappie fishing has been good throughout the day on many area lakes. Crappie minnows on a plain #6 hook under a bobber have been very effective most days, but a spike or waxworm on a small tungsten or lead glow jig are also productive, especially during low light periods. Depths of 12-25 feet have been best.
Walleye anglers are having success using ¼-ounce gold or silver jigging spoons. Northern pike are hitting shiner minnows suspended about 2 feet off the bottom in depths of 9-12 feet, especially at the weeds. Hook the minnow on a #2 chartreuse hook for added attraction. Bluegills can still be found in large numbers in the shallow weeds. For the most action, work the weed flats connected to shore near deep water in depths of 7-12 feet. A small puppet minnow will attract and catch the largest bluegills. 800-247-0054; www.parkrapids.com
International Falls – Rainy Lake and the Rainy River
Most Rainy Lake anglers are concentrating on Sand Bay, where walleyes are active during morning and evening hours. Successful anglers are jigging minnows just off the bottom in 25-30 feet of water, with walleyes, crappies and some other species being taken. To the east, northern pike anglers are having success in Black Bay when using a good-sized minnow along the shallow shorelines and breaks. Jigging with smaller minnows around the crappie cribs and structure is working well for walleyes and crappies. Most of the lake is accessible to anglers with snowmobiles and portable gear, and the snowmobile trails are all marked and groomed. Info: (800) 325-5766; www.rainylake.org
Lake trout fishing was slow much of last week, but some anglers had success when using 3/8- to 1/2-ounces bucktails tipped with a minnow in 25-35 feet of water. Tip-ups also accounted for a good number of lakers. Dead suckers or dead smelt laid right on the bottom produced nearly all the lakers taken on tip-ups.
Stream trout fishing remained very good on many stream trout lakes in the area. Angling pressure continued to be high, but anglers who downsized their presentations and tipped them with just a minnow head or waxworm did well.
While northern pike anglers have been few and far between, they had very good success with the pike last week. Medium to large suckers fished under a tip-up at the weedlines turned lots of nice-sized fish.
Crappies and sunnies continued to be found in 20-30 feet of water on many area lakes. Successful anglers concentrated on areas with soft mud bottoms where panfish were eating bugs coming up out of the mud. The more effective presentation was a green or pink jig tipped with a small waxworm or crappie minnow.
Walleye fishing remained slow last week, likely due to a number of fronts passing through. Anglers reported seeing walleyes on their cameras, but couldn’t get them to bite. Nearly all of the walleyes caught were taken on dead-sticks with a minnow in 20-25 feet of water, especially during evening hours. Info: (800) 777-7281; www.ely.org
Duluth – Lake Superior, St. Louis River and inland waters
The inland waters are producing some nice panfish for those that are fishing off the beaten path. The shallower back bays and depths of 5-12 feet have been good areas to target. Most big-lake crappies have dropped into the deeper basins. These schools will continue to grow as mid-winter bug hatches occur. Northern pike and bass are roaming the weed edges where anglers are nabbing them by placing a set line with a lively sucker or shiner minnow. The inland walleye has become more challenging but some anglers are having success at the mid-lake reefs and sunken island areas.
On the St. Louis River, walleyes are being taken during early morning and late afternoon hours on Puppet Minnows and nearby dead sticks. While some walleyes are still cruising the shallows, it’s best to set up in the mid-range depths. It won’t be long until even walleyes return to the river.
Lake Superior boat traffic has been almost nonexistent this week due to cold temperatures and difficulty launching boats, but some anglers continue to do well when fishing from shore. Long casting flashy spoons or looper bugs has been effective and will continue to produce fish going forward. Info: (800) 438-5884; www.visitduluth.com
Panfish anglers are having lots of success on Grand Rapids-area lakes, with a mix of fish being taken. Sunfish, crappies and yellow perch are often in the same areas – key locations are the deep weedlines, edges of the rocks and soft bottom areas. Lakes to check out include Pokegama, Burrows, Jay Gould, Little Splithand, Little Moose and Big and Little Balsam. Small 1/32- or 1/64-ounce jigs tipped with a waxworm, euro larvae or soft plastic are very effective for different species of panfish. Once fish are located, try to keep the bait just a few inches above the fish, since most species of fish feed upward. The best line weight is 4-pound, since it can handle the toughest panfish fight and usually larger fish. Soft tip rods are recommended when chasing panfish. www.visitgrandrapids.com
Otter Tail Area Lakes
Otter Tail County is devoted to maintaining its amazing bluegill population. Bag limits for bluegills may change from 20 fish to 5 fish on 13 lakes throughout the county on March 1. Look for yellow signs at the accesses explaining the new proposed bluegill regulations. Data has shown that by reducing the bag limit the average bluegill size structure improves. Info: (800) 423-4571; www.ottertailcountry.com
Alexandria area lakes
Panfish action remains best throughout the Alexandria lakes area, especially in the deepwater basins. Some of these fish are also coming from the adjacent structure such as sunken humps and islands during low-light hours. For good numbers of bluegills, crappies and perch, work these areas during the last hour of daylight and again during early morning hours. Use your electronics to locate fish and to determine where they can be found in the water column. Small tungsten jigs tipped with waxworms or spikes will often yield the most fish. Try holding the bait above the fish then slowly “tease” the fish up. Anglers are reporting lots of great fish dinners. Info: (320) 763-0102; www.explorealex.com.
Brainerd Area Lakes
Fishing remains fairly consistent throughout the Brainerd lakes area. Walleye anglers are doing well during low-light periods when working the edges of the weedlines at the tips of the points. During the day, anglers are finding a few walleye in the weeds on Gull Lake. The key is to stay on the move until fish are located, then aggressively jig flashy spoons tipped with a minnow head. Work the flats using a tip-up with a light northern sucker minnow for lots of northern pike action as well.
Crappies and bluegills continue to be found off the edges of the basins and in the weeds. Crappies have started roaming the deeper basin areas, especially during daylight hours. Panfish are responding best to 1/32- and 1/16-ounce jigging spoons. If the water is dirty, use a glow spoon instead of bright colors. Bluegills have been consistently hitting plastics, but some days, waxworms and spikes are turning more fish. Bring all three so you’re prepared for some hot panfish action. Info: (218) 825-0410; www.visitbrainerd.com
Isle/Onamia – Lake Mille Lacs
Lake Mille Lacs walleye anglers are taking fish during evening hours and overnight from the shallows, especially when remaining quiet. Last weekend, anglers did well in 12-25 feet of water. Expect good fishing this weekend due to a nearly full moon. The ice roads remain in good shape, partially due to anglers traveling at a slow pace, roughly 10-12 mph. The roads have roughly 17 to 20 inches of ice on the southeast side of the lake.
Lake Mille Lacs anglers may keep one walleye measuring between 21 and 23 inches, or one fish longer than 28 inches this winter. The DNR offers further information about fishing regulations specific to Lake Mille Lacs. Info: (888) 350-2692; www.millelacs.com.
Minneapolis-St. Paul area
The 2021 Winter Carnival Ice Fishing Tournament is underway. Compete by taking photos of yourself with your catch, then upload them via the FishDonkey app. The tournament runs through Feb. 7, the final day of the Winter Carnival. Cost is $10 per participant, and participants can enter images for as many categories as they want. Leaders will be awarded prizes in a variety of categories. To encourage the next generation of anglers (youth ages 12 and under), two random winners will be selected from the Kid’s Catch category each week. Further details can be found at the Winter Carnival’s Ice Fishing Tournament web page.
Waconia – Lake Waconia
Ice measurements on Lake Waconia show 10 to 13.5 inches in areas of the main lake where open water existed at the end of December. Areas checked are the Walleye Hump between the marinas, Harms Point, north of Pillsbury Reef and portions of Center Reef. Sadly, many readings showed only 10-11 inches of ice. The 2- to 3-inch blanket of snow has certainly slowed the development of ice. Travel has been fairly easy on the lake, and anglers traveling in Wagener’s and Waconia bays generally don’t need four-wheel drive. On the main lake, anglers are finding travel to be easy when walking or using ATVs. Remember, if you get hungry, food delivery is available to ice houses on the lake. Info: (952) 442-5812; www.destinationwaconia.org.