Ice fishing adventures abound across both the United States and
Canada. Some of these destinations are exotic and remote while other
hot spots are on a high cycle. Some locations are right down the road
for some anglers while other fisheries require a road trip.
For many reasons, ice anglers are beginning to travel further away
from home. More anglers are traveling to destination fisheries each
Ice anglers have so much more Intel today with social media and web
forums. The equipment just keeps getting better and more reliable.
Factor in more dependable snowmobiles, GPS and more rugged and durable
equipment and there is no surprise that many ice anglers today are much
more venturous than even a decade ago. The world is indeed smaller with
today's technology and equipment.
This ice fishing season, make a point to explore some of these
destinations. We have traveled across the northern tier extensively
chasing some of these hot bites and here are some of our favorite
adventures from the past few years.
Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba
Lake Winnipeg guide Jason Hamilton with a greenback walleye that choked on a Salmo Zipper.
This massive body of water produces some massive walleye. In fact, I
dare say that in a week of fishing, you will probably hold more 10 lb
plus fish in your hands than what you would from ice fishing over a
decade on any other inland body of water.
Lake Winnipeg is not for the feint of heart. You will need either
tracks or a snowmobile but you will see a few crazy Canucks bouncing
around in pickup trucks. The expanses of hard packed snow can be hard
The conditions can be brutal. If you can break something, you will
break it on "the Big Windy." This ice fishing hot spot is ground zero
for the rattle bait craze but over the last few winters, big flutter
spoons have become the hot presentation.
Once you get a taste of the big "green-back walleyes" this water is
famous for, you will want to do this for the rest of your life.
This rugged reservoir on the Missouri River in eastern Montana is
remote and I have often joked that I felt like I was fishing in Jurassic
Park because so many of the fish are just so big and old. Massive
northern pike, walleye and lake trout create the ice angler's predator
Because of the amount of rock along the shorelines, you will need an
ATV but snowmobiles suffice some winters when there is more snow.
Fort Peck requires diligence with ice conditions as the water can
fluctuate and there is moving water along with methane gas pockets that
can create unsafe ice.
We often targeted primary points and reefs in the Dry Arm out of Rock
Creek and found good fishing while hardly seeing any other ice anglers
for days at a time. For the less adventurous, the Duck Creek Area is
less remote but can produce.
Lake of the Woods is a special place and always a fun adventure. Of
course there is great fishing state side and there is plenty of great
water to explore out of Baudette and Warroad, I love the diversity
further up north and the scenery is striking.
Within 50 miles of Nester Falls is some of the best easy to drive to
lake trout water available in my opinion with fish over 20 lbs a real
Ice anglers can also find untouched schools of crappie along with
hoards of walleye. If you love to snowmobile and love to fish, this
destination is tough to beat.
If you were to look at a map of northeastern South Dakota and draw a
line from Brookings to Aberdeen, you are looking at the heart of the
Glacial Lakes Country where there are literally hundreds of lakes.
Small town Americana at its best, there are numerous little towns with
really friendly people. Several hotels and lodges are scattered
throughout the area and there are so many lakes to fish.
The jumbo perch put this region on the radar for ice anglers and no
doubt that the perch fishing is as good as you will see anywhere with
fish over 2 lbs possible from places like Bitter Lake and Swan Lake but
don't overlook the multi-species opportunities for walleye, bluegill and
I have spent a lot of time in this area and still don't feel like I
have scratched the surface. This is an unbelievable area for ice
This sliver of a lake in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is an
adventure. With average snowfalls each winter that measure over the top
of your head, people sometimes use snowmobiles to get to work.
This fishery is one of North America's top bodies of water for
consistently kicking out perch over the magical 2-lb mark. You will
probably catch more perch in the Dakotas but there is perhaps no better
place to specifically target that caliber of fish.
Expect to encounter a finesse bite that requires a methodical
grinding approach where anglers often score the biggest fish by dead
sticking with mayfly wigglers.
Anglers are traveling to destination fisheries like never before. The
author Jason Mitchell highlights some of the regions top ice fishing
destinations right now.
A longtime popular ice fishing destination, this massive natural lake
in North-Eastern North Dakota can be simply incredible. The good days
are as good as it gets with trophy class perch, pike and walleye all a
For perch over 2 lbs, I am partial to Lake Irvine and Lake Alice,
which is connected to Devils Lake through the Mauvais Coulee. Good
fishing can be found throughout the entire system however and with a
walleye season that doesn't close, late ice can be prime time. All the
fish seem to share that incredible girth and the walleye numbers in
particular are off the charts.
While the Milwaukee Harbor remains open through the winter and
provides incredible fishing for kings, browns and steelhead, there are
some really cool ice fishing opportunities on some of the smaller
harbors and tributaries for both brown trout and steelhead.
We have filmed a few times on the Sheboygen River for steelhead and
these small streams and harbors have become a true destination for ice
anglers across the Midwest. Perhaps the best brown trout fishery on ice
for fish that can exceed 20 lbs. Also one of the best bets for icing
big steelhead you are going to find.
This Missouri River Reservoir starts south of Bismarck, North Dakota
and winds all the way to Pierre, South Dakota. The upper end of Oahe in
recent years has seen an incredible explosion of crappie and these fish
often surpass 14″.
This fishery is riding on an incredible year class of fish that will
die of old age in a year or two but for right now, this fishery reminds
me of the Red Lake glory years.
Focus on creek channels that have submerged brush in any of the
larger bays like Beaver Bay, Four Mile Bay and Porcupine Bay. Walleyes
can also be reckless as well and there is a really good chance of
tangling with pike that can surpass forty inches.
Of course there are so many great destinations we didn't get to cover
in this article. Places we hope to explore soon. Bay of Quinte
walleyes come to mind. There are the pike and walleye of Tobin Lake and
other road trip fisheries for giant lake trout like Clearwater Lake in
Of course the closer to home standbys like Minnesota's Upper Red Lake or Nebraska's Valentine Refuge Lakes are always fun.
One particular ice fishing adventure we hope to film soon is sheefish
in Alaska. Many of these destinations can be fairly affordable
particularly with a handful of friends and can truly add to your life