Ice Fishing in Red Lake, Minnesota

Ice Fishing in Red Lake, Minnesota
Red Lake is one of Minnesota's premier ice fishing destinations. Thousands of anglers flock to Red Lake every winter to catch walleyes, northern pike and black crappies. Resorts cater to ice anglers, placing heated fishing shacks on the ice for their guests. Creature comforts in rental shacks and the simplicity of Red Lake fishing make this a great place to stay warm and catch fish.

Upper and Lower Red Lake

Red Lake consists of two basins: Upper and Lower. All of Lower Red Lake and 60 percent of Upper Red Lake lie within the Red Lake Reservation, where only members of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa may fish. Non-tribal anglers are allowed on Upper Red Lake east of 94 degrees 43 minutes 12.0 seconds west longitude.


Upper Red Lake Makeup

Upper Red Lake has a maximum depth of 15 feet and spans nearly 120,000 acres. The water visibility is only a few feet. Fish roam the broad expanses of the lake, so anglers do best to sit and wait.

Lake Access

Red Lake's shallowness and northern orientation cause it to develop ample ice for winter travel. Resorts plow roads on the lake, allowing anglers to drive on the lake, usually by late December. Resorts charge a fee for ice access if you are not staying at the resort.


Most Red Lake ice anglers target walleyes. As of 2010, the lake supports a robust walleye population. After being closed for several years because of declining population, walleye fishing reopened in 2006 with conservative limits that fluctuate during the year, so anglers must review regulations at resorts or bait shops.

Northern Pike

Red Lake is one of the best places in Minnesota to catch a trophy northern pike. Patient anglers often tangle with at least one fish of 36 inches or more during a weekend of ice fishing.

Black Crappies

Red Lake produced phenomenal crappie fishing during the mid-1990s, but their numbers have declined. However, the size of fish is still large on average.

Fishing Shelters

Some anglers bring portable fishing shelters to get out of the wind and cold and remove them at the end of the day. Some bring permanent shelters, which look like enclosed trailers and include a heater, chairs and sometimes luxury items such as a generator, TV and a microwave. Most ice anglers rent "sleeper shacks" from resorts and typically stay for a weekend. The shacks have heaters, propane lights, a cook stove, bunk beds and an outhouse.

Fishing Methods

Red Lake fishing is generally laid-back. Most anglers hook a minnow on a jig and lower it to within a foot of bottom. Sleeper shacks have built-in spools that rattle when a fish takes the bait. This method accounts for lots of walleyes. Northern pike anglers hook large suckers, up to a foot long, on tip-ups placed outside the shack for trophy-sized fish. Crappies bite jigs with minnows, too. They often suspend between the ice and the lake bottom. Sonar units help anglers identify the correct depth.


Article Written By Joe Shead

Joe Shead is a freelance writer specializing in outdoor writing. He has written for numerous national and regional outdoor magazines on various topics from hunting to fishing to his pet subject, shed antler hunting.

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