Ice Fishing Tips on the Red Lake River

Ice Fishing Tips on the Red Lake River
Red Lake River is a major waterway in the northern end of Minnesota, flowing from Red Lake towards North Dakota. In the winter, much of the river's 190 miles freeze over. While it may seem placid and quiet, numerous fish species like trout and bass team below the frozen surface. Discover ice fishing tips for the Red Lake River to help you land a catch, even in Minnesota's notoriously frigid winters.

Get a License

Minnesota requires all anglers ice fishing on the Red Lake River to hold a current Minnesota fishing license. As of 2009, a license for residents costs $17 while non-residents pay $39.50. In addition, anglers must purchase stamps for specific fish species like trout, walleye or sturgeons. Such species-specific stamps start at $5 for residents and non-residents alike.

Fishing Seasons

Most fish available during the winter can be caught up to February of the proceeding year, though more common species such as trout may be available until April or later. Knowing the type of fish that are available can help you select the appropriate line test, bait and rod. Available fish species change annually according to the size of their population to help ensure sustainable fishing practices. Call the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources at (651) 296-6157 to determine which fish are available this year so you can adjust your fishing supplies accordingly.

Ice Hole Size

By December, ice on the Red Lake Rivers should be thick enough to safely support anglers. To reach the water below, use an ice auger. Due to the species typically available in the Red Lake River, a 6- to 8-inch hole in the ice should be sufficient except for all but the largest river trout.

Ice Fishing Bait

The Red Lake River's waterways are typically in more rural, wilderness regions. Thus, anglers should stock up on bait before heading out on their fishing expedition. Live minnows are a popular and successful bait while ice fishing. If you are traveling far and don't think live minnows will survive the trip, frozen minnows can be used as a substitute.

Red Lake River Ice Fishing Technique

After boring a hole with an auger, rig your line and drop to the bottom of the river. After a few minutes, shake the bait and raise it abruptly. Repeat every few minutes, raising the bait another foot toward the surface. This helps catch the fishes' attention in the winter when they are slower and more lethargic. Once the bait reaches the surface, drop it back to the bottom and repeat the process until you get a strike.


Be willing to change your location on the ice if you are in an area for several hours with no bites. The Red Lake River system is large and includes varied underwater terrain that may not be hosting much fish activity in your current location. If you have no bites, switch to a new position further up or down the bank.

Article Written By Josh Duvauchelle

Josh Duvauchelle is an editor and journalist with more than 10 years' experience. His work has appeared in various magazines, including "Honolulu Magazine," which has more paid subscribers than any other magazine in Hawaii. He graduated with honors from Trinity Western University, holding a Bachelor of Arts in professional communications, and earned a certificate in applied leadership and public affairs from the Laurentian Leadership Centre.

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