Article content courtesy Explore Minnesota. Learn more about fun things to do in every season in Northwest Minnesota at ExploreMinnesota.com/Northwest.
Springtime Ice Fishing in the “Walleye Capital of the World”
Come winter, this sprawling inland freshwater lake, second in size only to the Great Lakes in the continental U.S., turns into a city of fish houses with ice roads as wide as interstates, complete with road signs and speed limits. It’s a sight to behold for experienced ice anglers and newcomers alike.
While most fish houses are off the ice by early-March, the jig isn’t up on Lake of the Woods until nearly April. So, as the rest of Minnesota was getting ready for spring, my husband Nick and I ventured up north for a final ice fishing foray in the “Walleye Capital of the World.”
“THE BEST WAY TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TIME WHILE ICE FISHING IS TO SLEEP WHERE YOU FISH.”
Ice Fishing for Walleye and Sauger in a Camper
The Minnesota-Canada border water has been on our bucket list since we started ice fishing together. It’s known for its abundance of walleye and sauger. When the weather gets cold, the bite is hot. Plus, the area embodies the beauty of northern Minnesota with towering pine trees, no light pollution and the possibility of seeing the northern lights.
The best way to make the most of your time while ice fishing is to sleep where you fish. Nick and I fixed up an old fish house camper a few years ago. It has five holes for fishing, two beds, a camp stove and, most importantly, heat.
The Bite is Hot in Ice Fishing Houses and Cabin Rentals
If you don’t have your own setup, surrounding resorts offer ice fishing house rentals. You can drive to the fish house by taking the ice road or catch a ride on one of the bombardiers, which are basically tanks. They’re hard to miss. If you only want to fish for a few hours, resorts offer day-use cabins too. They make fishing easy by pre-drilling your holes in the ice, warming up the fish houses to 70 degrees and getting all your fishing gear ready. If Lake of the Woods is your first experience on the ice, you’re in good hands.
We loved waking up in our cozy fish house, stepping outside for a spectacular sunrise and fishing through the day and night. There were moments when two or three lines at a time had walleye and sauger on them. We’ve never experienced anything like it before— we enjoyed fish fry every night. The “Walleye Capital of the World” truly lives up to its name!
More Ways to Make the Most of Your Lake of the Woods Trip
Hook a Guided Fishing Service
There are over 50 resorts on Lake of the Woods and the majority of them offer guide services and outfitting for both ice fishing and the open water. If you don’t want a guide, don’t be afraid to ask the resort for fishing tips! Find ice fishing guides and houses here.
Snowmobile on the Trails
Lake of the Woods is home to over 300 miles of groomed snowmobile trails. The big lake is staked and groomed with trails for miles. Be sure to stop by the warming house on Garden Island and check out the scenery.
Grab a Cold One
Whether you’re a diehard ice angler or just appreciate warm camaraderie, the Igloo Bar, operated by Zippel Bay Resort out of Williams, is a must-stop. The one-of-a-kind igloo-shaped tavern is three miles out on Lake of the Woods and serves drinks, hot food and buckets of minnows for ice fishing at your bar stool.
Cross-Country Ski and Snowshoe in State Parks and Forests
Enjoy the beauty of Lake of the Woods while getting some exercise on snow-covered trails. You can find groomed trails from beginner to intermediate at Zippel Bay State Park 10 miles northeast of Williams, Franz Jevne State Park in Baudette and Lake of the Woods School, also in Baudette. Snowshoers can even trek through fresh powder at Beltrami Island State Forest and Pine Island State Forest.
Find more information about cross country skiing in Lake of the Woods here.