What to Look For
With so many great lakes for walleye fishing in Minnesota, it's hard to cast a line in a bad one, but knowing what to look for can make finding walleyes easier. The DNR says the best lakes are more than 1,000 acres, have gravel shores or rubble shoals, and the shallower, the better. The bigger lakes generate larger waves that help keep the shoals and shoreline clean for spawning, and shallow lakes are cloudier. Because walleye avoid sunlight, cloudier lakes keep the walleye active all day.
Most Productive Lakes
The six most productive lakes for the best Minnesota walleye fishing include Mille Lacs, Leech Lake, Lake of the Woods, Winnibigoshish, Vermilion and Rainy Lake. More than 40 percent of the annual walleye catch occurs on these lakes. Because of their popularity, they see lots of traffic, so pressure can be heavy. Explore Minnesota says savvy anglers run downriggers, like those used on Lake Superior, to keep their bait in the 15- to 25-foot range. This technique may help land fish when the pressure is on and the strikes are slow.
A lucky angler caught Minnesota's record walleye on the Seagull River in Cook County in 1979. This lunker weighed over 17 pounds and measured 35 inches. Just visiting the location where the state record was set is reason enough to go, but the easy access to the best pools makes it a popular fishing spot. Although, the Seagull River is more of a series of rapids punctuated by pools than a real river, the U.S. Forest Service ramp at the End of the Trail Campground launches directly into one of the best pools.
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a remote federal wilderness area on the Canadian border, offers hundreds of lakes with excellent walleye fishing. Anglers looking for trophy fish need to look no further than Basswood. The 2005 Minnesota fish survey found walleye up to 29 inches on Basswood, plus hundreds the perfect size for a little shore lunch.