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ASK THE DNR: What are options for staying overnight at Minnesota state parks in winter? Do catfish go dormant in winter?

Q. What options are available for staying overnight at Minnesota state parks in the winter?

A. Some state parks and recreation areas have campsites available for winter camping, often with electricity. If you're looking for warmer accommodations, heated camper cabins are another option. Camper cabins have bunk beds and mattresses—just bring your own sleeping bags or blankets. Some state parks and recreation areas also offer all-season yurts or guest houses, and Itasca State Park has modern suites.

For more information, or to make reservations, visit

Amy Barrett

Barrett is a DNR information officer for Minnesota state parks and trails.

Q. Do Minnesota's catfish go dormant in the winter?

A. During the winter months, the two large catfish species present in Minnesota behave differently. Channel catfish remain active and will congregate in loose schools in the rivers and lakes they inhabit. Anglers can target these fish through the ice (if ice is thick enough), or even in open water in deeper, slow-moving areas of rivers.

The Horseshoe Chain of Lakes near Cold Spring, Minn., is a popular destination for anglers looking to target channel catfish through the ice.

(Editor's note: It should be noted that catfish rarely are caught through the ice on either the Red or Red Lake rivers.)

Flathead catfish, on the other hand, migrate to wintering areas when the water temperatures dip down to 50-55 degrees F. They congregate in deep holes in the rivers, out of the current, and essentially go dormant until the water warms in the spring. Many dozens of these large fish can stack up on top of one another in groups and are highly vulnerable to illegal snagging. A change in Minnesota fishing regulations has closed the angling season for flathead catfish from Dec. 1 to March 31 to protect these large, dormant fish from being overexploited.

Joel Stiras

Stiras is a DNR fisheries specialist