While the gamefish season has ended for inland waters, trout action in northeastern Minnesota”s inland lakes remains excellent. And don”t forget that March is typically the best month of the winter season for large sunfish, slab crappies, and jumbo perch!

Anglers are encouraged to bring along a friend and some long rope. If venturing out alone, wear a life jacket and let someone know where you are going. No ice is every considered fully safe – please check with local bait shops and resorts for the most current ice conditions before venturing out. The Department of Natural Resources states that 4 inches of new, clear ice is the minimum thickness recommended for travel by foot. Ice safety guidelines also recommend a minimum of 5 inches of new, clear ice for snowmobiles and ATV”s, and 8-12 inches of new, clear ice for cars and small trucks. And please remember that ice is never considered totally safe – contact a local bait shop, resort or visitor”s bureau for the most current ice conditions before traveling.

Please check out the Minnesota DNR Ice Safety page for helpful, and potentially life-saving, ice safety tips.

Fishing opener dates for the 2011/2012 fishing season for most inland waters in Minnesota are as follows: walleye, sauger, northern pike and lake trout, May 14; largemouth and smallmouth bass, May 28; and for muskie, June 4. The fishing season for crappies, sunnies, perch and catfish is continuous.

Northeast Minnesota

International Falls -Rainy Lake & the Rainy River

Walleye are hitting jigs tipped with minnows in 35 feet of water around Sand Bay; look for the larger fish further east. Just some of the popular fishing spots include the areas around Dryweed Island and Cranberry Bay. If you travel further east, stick with the Lost Bay portage and avoid the current area of the Brule Narrows. Snowmobile trails are in great shape, with some of the best riding of the season. Groomers continue to head out regularly; watch for logging activity. 1-800-325-5766; www.rainylake.org


On Lakes Kabetogama and Namakan, the ice surfaces are in great shape for sleds and wheelers. Look for Kabetogama to give up some crappies, with Lost Bay, Lost Lake and the Ash River all being good areas to check. Anyone anxious to continue fishing for walleye should head to Namakan and Sand Point which have a longer fishing season, with walleye fishing open through April 15. The northern pike season is continuous. For walleye and crappies, use a small glow jig tipped with either a whole minnow or just a minnow head. The best success for most species has been in approximately 28 feet of water. 1-800-524-9085; www.kabetogama.com


The crappie bite is slowly gaining momentum, and sunfish action is also on the increase. Crappies continue to hug the bottom in most areas, but they can be teased up to strike by anglers using small crappie minnows at or near the bottom, or a jig tipped with a small waxworm. Sunfish are hitting small larvae-tipped jigs near the structure such as weeds and rock piles. Trout anglers continue to do well on Miners Pit Lake, with rainbows up to twenty-three inches long being taken. For a more adventurous excursion, head to High and Dry lakes, where anglers report nice catches. Tofte Lake is still producing limits of rainbows early in the day, followed by a great splake bite for the remainder of the day. Other good options are Ojibway and Glacier Ponds on Highway 169. While lake trout numbers have dropped a bit, a few continue to hit jigs and minnows on Burntside and Snowbank lakes. 1-800-777-7281; www.ely.org

Cook/Tower – Lake Vermilion

1-800-648-5897; www.lakevermilionresorts.com

Cook County: Lutsen-Tofte, Grand Marais, Gunflint Trail, and Grand Portage

While the season for walleye has closed, trout action on the inland lakes remains excellent. The Gunflint, Sawbill, and Arrowhead trails” backcountry lakes and ponds contain both native and stocked brook, rainbow, and brown trout. Many of these waters also hold splake, a hatchery-produced cross between brook and lake trout. On these waters, ice fishing enthusiasts can drop a line in solitude, with plenty of three-pound fish and an occasional lunker being taken. Greenwood Lake is giving up fish to anglers using a jig or spoon tipped with a minnow in 60 foot depths. Trout Lake, just out of Grand Marais, is producing fish in 35-40 foot depths, with rainbows hitting in 17-22 feet of water; use waxworms on small spoons or ice jigs for the most fish. On Mink Lake, hit depths of 12-22 feet using salted minnows or small spoons. For easy access to brookies, check Carrot Lake off the Gunflint Trail, and Sawbill Lake north of Tofte; anglers are taking the most fish when using small ice jigs tipped with waxworms in 8-14 feet of water. And at the end of the Gunflint Trail, lake trout are biting right in front of the Gunflint Lodge on a nearby reef on Gunflint Lake, with many of these fish running 3-10 pounds. www.VisitCookCounty.com

Grand Rapids


Northwest Minnesota

Baudette -Lake of the Woods & the Rainy River

On Lake of the Woods, walleye continue to be taken, however a jig and vexilar are extremely helpful at the end of the winter season. Use a gold or pink jig tipped with a minnow during afternoon hours for the most fish. Fish can be found suspended in a variety of depths throughout the lake. At the Northwest Angle and Islands area, depths of 24-30 feet have been producing a nice mix of walleye and sauger. Anglers having the most success are using a gold, pink, or orange jig tipped with a minnow. 1-800-382-FISH; www.lakeofthewoodsmn.com


March is a great time for panfish action, and the ice conditions are about as good as they have been all winter. Most panfish have been sluggish during the recent cold spell. This weekend”s warmer temperatures should revive these fish, and result in a move to the shallows. Many anglers have been catching perch in 18-24 feet of water off the sides of the mid-lake bars or humps, as well as along the edges of the large shoreline flats. Try jigging lures for perch, but down size if they are not actively feeding. Crappies have been feeding on the edges of the deep holes, with most of the fish found suspended well off the bottom. A good day bite is being reported for the crappies, so anglers may have to keep drilling holes and using their electronics until they locate fish. The sunfish are either on the shallow weed flats or holding on the edges of the mid-depth flats. For the most success, use a small bait and light line with a waxworm or Euro Larvae. Eelpout should be spawning soon on top of chara covered humps or shoreline points with direct access to deep water. Look for groups of fish feeding during low light hours or after dark, with larger spoons tipped with minnows the best bet for catching these fish. 1-877-250-5959; www.visitbemidji.com

Walker – Leech Lake

The best ice fishing action for large sunnies, slab crappies, and jumbo perch generally occurs during the month of March! Ice conditions are the best that have been all winter, with the ice ranging from 17-24 inches thick on Leech Lake and many other area lakes. Lots of crappies continue to be pulled from the 20-30 foot depths, and most of these fish are suspended 5-15 feet off the bottom. Sunfish can also be found suspended in the deeper waters, however the sunnies are suspended 5-10 feet under the ice. Once the snow starts melting and the water runs back through the fishing holes, move to shallower waters near the shorelines, concentrating on depths of 6-12 feet of water. 1-800-833-1118; www.leech-lake.com

Cass Lake/ Deer River – Winnibigoshish & Cutfoot Sioux lakes

Perch action has been good on Pike Bay Lake. Anglers are pulling fish from 15-18 feet of water on fatheads and waxworms. 1-800-356-8615; www.casslake.com

Park Rapids

1-800-247-0054; www.parkrapids.com

Detroit Lakes

Travel conditions on Detroit Lakes area lakes are the best they”ve been this winter, and the ice should remain solid for a couple of weeks. The perch, sunfish, and crappie bites remain good. Tullibee and whitefish are expected to become more active as days grow longer and temperatures turn warmer. Anglers report finding active fish at the shallow weed tops on the edges of large flats that extend into main lake areas with deep drop-offs. Others have found fish suspended over basin areas in depths of 20-32 feet. Small jigs and jigging spoons tipped with waxworms or crappie minnows have been best, especially on Little Detroit, Cormorant, Pelican, Melissa, Toad, Island, Cotton, Height of Land, and Floyd lakes. 1-800-542-3992; www.visitdetroitlakes.com

Central Region

Otter Tail Lakes Area

1-800-423-4571; www.ottertailcountry.com


This weekend”s more moderate temperatures should be good for crappie and sunfish action. Overall, the panfish have been elusive, and anglers are choosing to fish the shallows in order to sight fish in depths of 4-8 feet; keep changing jigs and bait to find what works best. Try drilling a number of holes and check each one closely. Hard work and patience will be rewarded. 1-877-833-2350; www.VisitLakeMiltona.com

Pine River Area Lakes

Channel areas and areas where rivers or streams flow in and out should be avoided at this time. Panfish are biting on days with rising or lowering barometers. Sunfish are more active during the day, and crappies are biting just before dawn and just at dark. Panfish and perch fishing should continue to improve as spring approaches. Please be aware of changing ice conditions, especially at the access points. 1-800-728-6926; www.pinerivermn.com

Whitefish Chain of Lakes Area

Crappie and sunfish action has been good on all area lakes. Fish are hitting glow jigs tipped with minnows or waxworms. Look for fish to be suspended roughly 14-16 feet down. The bite remains best around dusk, and later. www.whitefish.org

Brainerd Lakes Area

1-800-450-2838; www.explorebrainerdlakes.com

Isle/Onamia -Lake Mille Lacs

On Lake Mille Lacs, the perch and tullibee bite has been good in waters more than 32 feet deep. Perch can also be found in depths of 18-24 feet. For the most fish, find an area where you can drill several holes and move from hole to hole until you locate fish. A small, glow rattle spoon or a frostee has worked well. Some of the better locations include Tullibee Hole, Spirit Island, Greg”s Flat and Hennepin Island. 1-888-350-2692; www.millelacs.com


1-800-845-8747; www.seeyouinwillmar.com

Twin Cities Greater Metropolitan vicinity

Northeast Metro/Chisago Lakes Area

Ice conditions are good, and plowed roads are available on many area lakes. Sunnies are biting during the day on the south end of Chisago Lake around the A-Frame and at the Eagle”s Nest. Crappies are biting in the middle of South Lindstrom in 22-25 feet of water during evening hours, with crappie minnows, waxworms and Euro Larvae working best. Use small jigs and 2- to 4-pound test line for both the sunnies and crappies. 651/257-1177; www.chisagolakeschamber.com

White Bear Lake Area Lakes

651/653-5122; www.ExploreWhiteBear.org


952/442-5812; www.destinationwaconia.org

Southern Minnesota

Lake City -Lake Pepin/Pool #4 Mississippi River

Fishing on Lake Pepin has been fair to good, but somewhat inconsistent. The backwaters are best for bluegill, crappie, and perch action – for the most fish, try jigging with waxworms. 1-877-525-3248; www.lakecitymn.org


As of Thursday, March 3, all area streams and rivers are reported to be running clear and normal. This next week will provide some ideal weather conditions for winter angling, with highs in the upper 20″s F. Winter black stoneflies have been hatching in Forestville State Park and on the Root River in Lanesboro. A nice midge hatch was observed on Duschee Creek earlier this week. The Middle Branch Whitewater behind the Whitewater State Park Head Quarters Building is giving up plenty of fish. Streams open to winter fishing in the Lanesboro vicinity include Diamond Creek, Etna Creek, Gribben Creek, North Branch Creek, South Fork Root River, Torkelson Creek and Wisel Creek in Fillmore County. Those in Houston County include West Beaver Creek, Bee Creek, Crooked Creek, Daley Creek, Swede Bottom Creek and South Fork Crooked Creek. Consult the 2010 Fishing Regulations booklet, or check with the DNR for the entire list of winter trout fishing streams. Clear and normal conditions are reported for Camp Creek, Canfield Creek, Duschee Creek, Forestville Creek, Gribben Creek, the South Branch Root River at Lanesboro, Coolridge/Hemmingway Creek, and the East Beaver Creek within Beaver Creek Valley State Park. 1-800-944-2670; www.lanesboro.com

Faribault Area Lakes

1-800-658-2354; www.visitfaribault.com

Albert Lea

1-800-345-8414; www.albertleatourism.org

Fairmont Area Lakes

While fishing has been very good, travel has been difficult on many area lakes. Most anglers are getting around by foot, snowmobile, or ATV – vehicle travel is discouraged. On Fox Lake, anglers are pulling crappies and perch from 12-16 foot depths. Amber Lake is producing crappies and perch in 12 feet of water. Sisseton Lake anglers are taking crappies and bluegills from 12-15 foot depths. And on North Silver Lake, look for perch in depths of 3-6 feet. 1-800-657-3280; www.fairmontcvb.com

Ortonville -Big Stone Lake

1-800-568-5722; www.bigstonelake.com
Source: “The information in this report is provided courtesy of community organizations throughout Minnesota. This report is brought to you by Explore Minnesota Tourism.”