Weekly Explore Minnesota fishing report: Mild temperatures have slowed ice growth across the state

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.

Here’s a look at fishing reports from around the state:

Northwest Region

Baudette – Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River

Anglers are having lots of success with walleyes and saugers on the south end of Lake of the Woods. Most angling is taking place in 23-28 feet of water. Jigging one line and using a bobber with a live minnow on another line has been best. Popular colors this week have been gold, pink, orange and glow red. While lots of smaller fish are being taken, some big walleyes measuring 28-32 inches long are being reported. In addition to a nice mix of walleyes and saugers, anglers are catching lots of jumbo perch, big northern pike, tullibees and eelpout.


On the Rainy River, ice fishing remains good overall, but morning and evening hours have been best for walleye action. Anglers must remember that ice conditions vary greatly on the river due to areas of current. For the most current conditions, work through a resort.

Up at the Northwest Angle, ice fishing has been excellent, with good numbers of walleye being taken. In addition to walleyes, anglers are pulling in lots of saugers and jumbo perch, along with an occasional northern pike, eelpout and tullibee. Anglers having the most success are fishing 20-26 feet of water.

A Northwest Angle Guest Ice Road is being constructed to offer guests access to the Angle and Island from the south. To view current conditions, check out the many Lake of the Woods web cams. Info: (800) 382-FISH; www.lakeofthewoodsmn.com.


Lots of anglers are heading out during these mild temperatures, with many pulling out their fish houses for the first time. Most lakes now have 13-17 inches of good, clear ice and vehicles are being used on the lakes. The walleye bite has been best during short windows of time early and late in the day. Jigging spoons with minnow heads, and dead sticks with a larger fathead or shiner are turning the most fish. The best depths have been the 12-14 foot breaks and 25-30 feet of water.

The perch bite has heated up, with fish biting throughout the day. For the most action, use spoons and minnow heads or tungsten jigs with waxworms or spikes. Bemidji, Irving, Plantagenet and Andrusia have been best for perch. Crappies have been active on Gull, Beltrami and Wolf lakes during early morning and late afternoon/evening hours. For nice numbers of bluegills, work the weed edges. Info: (800) 458-2223; www.visitbemidji.com.

Bena – Lake Winnibigoshish

As of Dec. 31, measurements of 10-12 inches of ice were reported for the south end of Lake Winnibigoshish, with ATVs used to access areas about two miles out. Lots of nice walleye and perch were being pulled from the structure in 18 feet of water, as well as from depths of 18-20 feet at Horseshoe Bar. Perch action was also strong on the flats in 12-14 feet. Northern pike were being taken from depths of 16-18 feet at the bars.

On the west shore, most measurements showed 11-13 inches of ice. Walleye continued to be taken late in the day over 18-20 feet of water. Good numbers of perch and northern pike were coming from the points and shoreline breaks in depths of 5-10 feet. Some bigger perch were found on deeper structure as well. www.lakewinnie.net

Walker-Leech Lake

On Leech Lake, most of the main lake has a consistent 11-14 inches of ice with 3-4 inches of snow on top. The only vehicle travel allowed was out of Andersons Pine Point Resort. Walker Bay ice is measuring 8-10 inches in the Sand Point area, as well as at the south end shoreline breaks. Measurements for the rest of the bay remain at 6-9 inches. Anglers need to use caution and check the ice often due to varying ice thicknesses in many areas. Only foot and ATV travel are recommended at this time.

Fishing remains very consistent throughout the lake. At Walker Bay, try Sand Point during the day in 10-12 feet of water for perch and walleye. Green or orange glow spoons have been best this week. A shiner or rainbow on a set line has also been a solid producer. There has been a consistent walleye bite just out from the city park and in the Cedar Point area during morning and evening hours in 18-25 feet of water. For the main lake, try the Grand View flats area out of Andersons Pine Point Resort for a consistent daytime perch bite, along with a morning and evening walleye bite in 12-14 feet of water. Set lines and tip-ups are outproducing active jigging. Rainbow chubs and golden shiners have been top producers. Stoney Point and Horseshoe Bay are giving up walleyes mostly during evening and overnight hours. Perch and walleye are being taken in the Battle and Sugar point areas. Some of the smaller area lakes have been best for crappie and bluegill action. Info: (800) 833-1118; www.leech-lake.com.

Detroit Lakes

Detroit Lakes-area lakes have roughly a foot of ice, covered by some snow. Since at least 15 inches of ice is needed to support a vehicle, do NOT drive out. Anglers are asked to stick to foot, ATV, sled or track vehicle travel at this time.

The panfish bite has been good in the shallow weeds of most lakes, and in the deeper, soft bottom areas with bugs on other lakes. The best walleye bite has been during low light hours early in the morning and at sunset. Most walleye are relating to the weed edges along the shoreline breaks and on the humps near the shoreline breaks. Jigging with vertical and horizontal baits is working well, but anglers will want to tip on minnow heads on the vertical bait for the most action. Dead sticks with jigs tipped with live minnows will also produce. Northern pike are responding to tip-ups with bigger minnows or shiners in areas with green weeds. Info: (800) 542-3992; www.visitdetroitlakes.com.


Walleye fishing remains hit or miss on many area lakes. Anglers having the most success are using loud Rippin’ Raps and buckshot spoons to call in aggressive fish during early morning and evening hours. Key depths have slipped a bit deeper to 20-26 feet of water.

Northern pike have been very active, with several pike measuring in the mid-30s reported. Interestingly, walleye anglers seemed to find more pike than walleyes. Pike can be found in depths of 10-30 feet of water during the day. Live minnows suspended just off the bottom have been the most productive.

Panfishing remained slow but steady for many anglers. As the weeds die back, panfish continue to slide deeper and deeper. Both crappies and sunfish can now be found in 20-30 feet of water. Small tungsten jigs tipped with wax worms or small soft plastics have been best. The smaller the bait, the better. Info: (800) 777-7281; www.ely.org.

Duluth-Lake Superior, St. Louis River and inland waters

Inland area lakes are giving up good numbers of fish, but it’s been important to spread out, fishing new areas of the popular lakes. Crappies and sunnies are responding well to simple hooks tipped with live bait. If the fish turn finicky, try jigging a tungsten jig and wax worm. Don’t be surprised if you connect with a random bass or northern pike. Walleyes continue to be caught, but the bite hasn’t been as fast and furious. Low light hours have been and will continue to be best for the next several weeks. Set up near the mid-lake humps or other structure, and rip a noisy bait with a dead stick nearby. As always, check ice depth often. Also watch for areas of slush on the larger lakes and stick to established trails.

The St. Louis River continues to be busy, but anglers must remember that the shoreland points and many other areas have unsafe ice. Many walleyes are being pulled from 5-7 feet of water at the shallow flats. Anglers will want to avoid the crowds and areas that have been popular fishing holes.

Anglers continue to enjoy open water fishing on Lake Superior due to mostly mild winter temperatures. Some lucky anglers have had success with near shore trout and salmon when using casting and jigging techniques. Info: (800) 438-5884; www.visitduluth.com.

Grand Rapids

Anglers are reporting good ice conditions on most Grand Rapids-area lakes. Vehicle travel, however, is not recommended. Many lakes are providing good numbers of panfish. Staying mobile and fishing a variety of lakes has been best for locating active fish.

Northern pike fishing has been good on area lakes and tip-up anglers are enjoying some of the best pike fishing of the season. Drill several holes move your tip-ups occasionally to locate active pike. With the use of your electronics and Lakemaster mapping, it’s easy to locate productive areas. The inside turns and cabbage weed points can be ideal spots. Set your tip-ups on the edge of deeper waters leading to shallow feeding locations. Some of the better pike lakes for numbers and size are Big Balsam, Big Jessie, Big Turtle, Pokegama, Big and Little Winnie, and Big Ball Club lakes; www.visitgrandrapids.com

Alexandria area lakes

A nice mix of fish are being pulled from Alexandria-area lakes. Walleye action has slowed a bit, but crappies, bluegills and perch are eager to bite. Anglers having the most success will want to drill lots of holes and stay mobile. Try to concentrate on secondary areas that aren’t receiving a lot of fishing pressure. Info: (320) 763-0102; www.explorealex.com.

Brainerd area lakes

Area lakes have a wide range of ice thicknesses, and many lakes are covered in slush. Anglers are asked to restrict travel to foot, ATV, UTV or snowmobile at this time.

Bluegills and crappies have been active for a couple of hours after sunrise and before sunset. Northern pike have been hitting northern suckers along the weedlines. Anglers have found that if you upsize the sucker minnow, you will upsize the pike. Walleye fishing has been tough. Some fish are biting during daylight hours but low light hours offer the best action. Gold flutter spoons with a minnow head have been best, especially at the base of the weedlines. Info: (218) 825-0410; www.visitbrainerd.com.

Isle/Onamia-Lake Mille Lacs

Most Lake Mille Lacs resorts are allowing ATV travel, but large snow drifts measuring up to 16 inches cover areas of slush. The ice is new and fragile so anglers must travel at a slow speed. Work through a resort for the most current ice conditions.

On the south side of Lake Mille Lacs, walleye are being pulled from 15-20 feet of water on the shallower reefs. Some anglers are also having success working the deeper edges.

Lake Mille Lacs anglers may keep one walleye measuring between 21 and 23 inches, or one fish longer than 28 inches this winter. Info: (888) 350-2692; www.millelacs.com

Minneapolis-St. Paul Area

The 2021 Winter Carnival’s 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. Details can be found at the Winter Carnival’s Ice Fishing Tournament web page.

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Families will also want to check out Ice Fishing at Lake Rebecca for a fun and safe morning of fishing at Lake Rebecca on Saturday, Jan. 9. Bait, tackle and poles will be provided, and all equipment will be thoroughly sanitized for participant safety. Holes will be pre-drilled and marked for participant convenience. Staff and volunteers will help with instruction. Drawings will be made throughout the program for door prizes from Rapala and Vexilar. All attendees can fish without a fishing license during this event. Pre-registration is required and must be made by contacting Hastings Parks and Rec at (651) 480-6182 or pmarschall@hastingsmn.gov. While there is no fee, donations are greatly appreciated.

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