Ice development has stalled due to unseasonably warm temperatures, and the ice on some of the larger bodies of water has declined. The small, shallow bodies of water in the northern half of Minnesota offer the thickest and most consistent ice. Please remember that ice is never 100% safe, and ice conditions can change daily, especially this time of year.
Anyone choosing to head out must check the ice often using a spud or ice pick, and wear a life jacket. Learn more about ice safety.
For rules, regulations and other helpful information on fishing in Minnesota, consult the DNR's Fish Minnesota web page.
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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.
Ice conditions remain excellent on area lakes with a solid 4-8 inches of ice reported across the area. Four-wheeler tracks are being seen at more accesses recently.
Walleye fishing remains slow on the larger area lakes, but good to excellent on many of the smaller walleye lakes. Anglers are having the most success using tip-ups with shiner minnows in 17-23 feet of water. Jigging spoons and rippin' raps are also triggering walleye bites during the evening hours.
Northern pike have been eager to bite. Tip-ups with large minnows set at the mouth of shallow bays or along the weedlines have been the most productive. Depths of 10 feet of water or less have been best.
Crappie action was on the slow side last weekend. Anglers marked lots of fish but could not get them to bite. The best location depended on the lake being fished. In some lakes, crappies were found in 18-24 feet of water. In other lakes, fish were shallow, in and around the green weeds, mixed in with sunfish. Info: (800) 777-7281; www.ely.org.
Duluth - Lake Superior, St. Louis River and inland waters
Ice development has stalled due to unseasonably warm temperatures. In some cases, there has been a decline in ice thickness and quality, especially on the larger bodies of water and the St. Louis River. Also, many shorelines have softened, making access a challenge on certain lakes. Looking forward, temperatures will turn colder, and ice will build once again.
Some anglers have been walking out onto the inland lakes. One successful tactic is to set up a run of tip-ups, and jigging other nearby holes in the shallow, ice-locked areas. Use 20-pound nylon leading to a 10-pound monofilament with a split shot, brightly colored bead, hook and walleye sucker for the tip-ups. Be sure to suspend the live bait in the bottom half of the water column. The tip-ups have been good for some northern pike, bass, and an occasional walleye. On the jigging poles, use small tungsten jigs tipped with plastics for bluegills, crappies and perch. When fishing exclusively for walleye, use a small buck-shot rattling spoon tipped with a minnow head.
A few salmon anglers are heading out onto Lake Superior once again, and having success when slowly trolling near shore. Some anglers using long rods and casting from shore are also taking fish.
Ice was developing on the St. Louis River, but high winds and warm temperatures took a toll on the little ice that had formed. Some anglers had been fishing the shallow back bay sloughs in search of panfish. Once solid ice reforms, anglers will want to slowly and quietly work the shallows using small forage minnows tipped with soft plastics or wax worms. It can be helpful to have a small crappie minnow suspended nearby. Info: (800) 438-5884; www.visitduluth.com.
Ice is forming a bit later than usual on area lakes so all ice anglers must use extreme caution, checking ice thickness often and wearing some sort of flotation device. Ice cleats are recommended due to a lack of snow, and lots of thawing and refreezing taking place recently. Anglers are asked to tell someone where they plan to fish and bring a buddy, if possible.
Most of the smaller lakes in the Grand Rapids area have been frozen for a couple of weeks, and anglers have been heading out to take advantage of the warm temperatures. Some of the lakes supporting foot travel are Little Splithand, Little Cutfoot, Little Bowstring, Bass and Dunbar. While lakes Pokegama, Bowstring and Winnibigoshish still have areas with open water, there are back bays where anglers can access by foot. For the most consistent ice measuring 4-6 inches, however, stick to the smaller area lakes. Info: www.visitgrandrapids.com.
Baudette - Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River
Resorts on the south shore of Lake of the Woods are busy checking ice thickness and conditions, and some are starting to mark trails. Since some areas of the lake do not have quality ice just yet, each resort will open their trails and roads at different times. For this reason, anglers are asked to check with individual resorts where they plan to fish before venturing out. Angers are also asked to stick to marked trails and roads once ice fishing begins since conditions for these trails and roads are monitored closely.
While the Rainy River is covered with ice, most anglers prefer to fish the main lake where current is less of an issue. Again, anyone wanting to fish the river must call ahead for the most current conditions.
Lower than normal water current has led to better than average and more consistent early ice conditions in the Northwest Angle area of Lake of the Woods. As usual, ice conditions are always changing, and many areas are still unsafe for ice travel. With the forecasted cold temperatures and little snowfall, the ice should continually improve and become more stable across the lake. At present, fish houses have been placed on 8-11 inches of ice, just minutes from shore. Anglers report a very strong morning and evening bite, with good action in between. Active fish are attacking rattle baits, and most fish are responding to a jig and minnow.
To follow the progression of ice development, check out the many Lake of the Woods web cams. Ice anglers will also want to check out the Guide to Ice Fishing Lake of the Woods. Info: (800) 382-FISH; www.lakeofthewoodsmn.com.
Ice development in the Detroit Lakes area continues to be very slow due to mild temperatures. Some of the ponds and very small, shallow lakes are covered in ice ranging from 6-9 inches thick. On the larger and deeper lakes, ice thickness ranges from 3-5 inches. Anyone wanting to head out must check the ice closely using a spud or ice chisel, and wear a life jacket. Crappies and bluegills have been active at the deep edge of the weedlines out to the deep holes in up to 30 feet of water. The walleye may not be eager to bite until there is some snow covering the ice. Info: (800) 542-3992; www.visitdetroitlakes.com.
Brainerd Area Lakes
Ice is developing nicely on the smaller area lakes. The ice in Hole in the Day Bay on Gull Lake, however, just opened back up again. Due to varying ice conditions, anglers are asked to use extreme caution when venturing out onto any size lake.
There are reports of walleyes biting on Round Lake. Gold spoons and natural-colored jigging raps are turning fish. Some walleye are also coming in on dead sticks with shiner minnows. Panfish action has been good on North Long Lake, as well as a variety of smaller lakes in the area. Info: (218) 825-0410; www.visitbrainerd.com.
Isle/Onamia - Lake Mille Lacs
As of Wednesday, Dec. 9, ice development had stalled on Lake Mille Lacs due to the unseasonably warm temperatures. While ice thickness was estimated at 3-4 inches near shore on the southeast side of the lake, ice sheets were shifting so thinner, unstable ice was likely nearby. With temperatures cooling toward the end of the weekend, ice development should pick up again.
Lake Mille Lacs anglers will be able to keep one walleye measuring between 21 inches and 23 inches, or one fish longer than 28 inches this winter. Further information about Lake Mille Lacs fishing regulations is available on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/millelacslake.
Info: (888) 350-2692; www.millelacs.com.
Minneapolis-St. Paul Area
Stillwater-St. Croix River
Ice is developing on the St. Croix River, but some anglers continue to venture out by boat. For saugers and walleyes, try jigs tipped with minnows or plastics, stick baits, blade baits, jigging raps, or even buckshot rattle spoons. Info: (651) 351-1717; www.discoverstillwater.com.
Lanesboro/Preston - Southeast Bluff Country trout streams
As of Monday, Dec. 7, area streams were mostly clear with low water levels. Anglers were out fishing but no reports were provided. Very little snow covered the ground. Midges were hatching on the South Branch Root River within Lanesboro.
Please note that the stream trout catch-and-release season is open from Sept. 16, 2020, through April 16, 2021, within the following state parks: Beaver Creek Valley (East Beaver Creek); Forestville (Forestville Creek, Canfield Creek, South Branch Root River) and Whitewater (Middle Branch Whitewater River, Trout Run Creek); and also within the city boundaries of Chatfield, Lanesboro, Preston, Rushford and Spring Valley.
All designated trout streams in the seven counties of southeast Minnesota will open for catch-and-release angling on Jan. 1, 2021.
Info: (800) 944-2670; www.lanesboro.com.
Ortonville-Big Stone Lake
The ice was measured at Meadowbrook, County Road 68-Ben Hines and Schmidt's Landing on Big Stone Lake on Monday, Dec. 7, and ice thickness was a consistent 3½ inches near shore. Some open water areas were observed south of the islands and where geese congregated. A few ice heaves and cracks had also developed. A couple of days of 50-degree highs were in the forecast so the ice was expected to melt a bit. The long-range forecast, however, called for more seasonable, ice-building temperatures.
Info: (320) 839-3284; www.bigstonelake.com.
Visit the Explore Minnesota Fishing & Hunting page for information to help you plan your next Minnesota fishing trip.