The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has on its website a list of many lakes in the state. There is a variety of information on each lake, including fish population survey data, water depth and clarity, and the locations of public accesses, which can be helpful for ice anglers looking to get on the lake.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
The equipment used for ice fishing is generally smaller than that used for open-water fishing. Three feet is about the maximum length of an ice-fishing rod. The reels used to hold the line are smaller, too, since the most common size of an ice-fishing line is 2- to 4-pound test. However, fishermen should select their equipment based on the size of fish they are targeting. Light-action rods and thin line are good for species like sunfish and crappies, but anglers need to use thicker line and heavier rods for larger fish like pike and walleyes. Minnows are a popular winter bait, and anglers often fish them with a jig. Jigging spoons are another good option.
Proceed with caution
Many anglers want to get on the ice as soon as possible, since many believe first ice is the best time for ice fishing. But every year in Minnesota, some anglers fall through the ice, and it is usually those who try to walk or drive on it before it is sufficiently thick. The DNR advises anglers not to walk on the ice until it is 4 inches or thicker.
Follow the fish
A common winter sight in Minnesota is groups of fish houses that resemble a small town on the ice. Many anglers put these houses on the ice as soon as the ice is thick enough, then leave it there for the rest of the season. When the fish are in that vicinity, those anglers are likely to catch fish. But if the fish are not in the area, those anglers do not catch fish. Because fish move throughout the year, so, too, should anglers. Some of the anglers who experience the most success stay on the move, using their augers to drill holes in the ice until they find a spot where they catch fish. When the bite stops, they move again. Target likely ice-fishing spots like edges of underwater reefs, drop-offs and any green vegetation you can find.
Nearly any lake can be suitable for ice fishing, but some lakes are more popular than others. In general, a good fishing lake is good all times of the year, whether the water is open or ice-covered. Some lakes to keep in mind are Upper Red, Leech, Winnibigoshish, Mille Lacs, Lake of the Woods and Cass.