Fishing

Introduction

Fishing in NE Minnesota can be very rewarding. Lake Superior’s tributary streams yield seasonal trout while inland lakes produce great walleye and bass fishing… and don’t forget about those prehistoric-looking lake sturgeon!  For a breakdown of North Shore trout waters, check out the DNR’s Lake Superior and North Shore Trout Streams Guide. For a list of lakes and rivers in Lake Superiors Arrowhead region, refer to our Lakes and Rivers page. To ensure you are ready to hit the water, follow our fishing checklist:

  • Buy a license. (Purchase in MN / Purchase in WI)
  • Be safe. (Sunglasses for eye protection, life preservers, sunscreen, etc.)
  • Prepare your boat. (Plug in, working lights, charged batteries, etc.)
  • Pack food/water.
  • Tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return.

Suggestions

Shore Fishing: Island Lake bridge and dam for walleye. St. Louis River for walleye and bass. Fish Lake bridge for walleye, pike and panfish. Two Harbors break wall with spoons for salmon and lake trout

Smelting:  Park Point with seine nets in the spring when water is about 42 degrees.

Seasons

Minnesota Fishing Seasons

Wisconsin Fishing Seasons

Regulations

Minnesota Fishing Regulations

Wisconsin Fishing Regulations

*Remember: Steelhead are catch and release only.

Species

Largemouth Bass

  • Food: Underwater insects, other fish, frogs, snakes and ducklings.
  • Habitat: Lakes, ponds, rivers and wetlands. Fish weed lines or in the shade of trees, boulders, or other debris.

Smallmouth Bass

  • Food: Plankton, underwater insects, crayfish and other fish.
  • Habitat: Lakes, ponds and rivers. Fish cool and clear water in the Arrowhead Region.

Channel Catfish

  • Food: Crayfish, insects, snails, small clams, worms, fish, seeds from elm and silver maple trees. They typically feed at night.
  • Habitat: Lakes, rivers and ponds. Primarily in large rivers.

Flathead Catfish

  • Food: Insects, invertebrates, fish.
  • Habitat: Lakes, rivers, ponds. Primarily near sunken logs in muddy backwaters of slow rivers.

Burbout (Eelpout)

  • Food: Minnows, other fish, insects.
  • Habitat: Deep, clean lakes including Lake Superior.

Crappie

  • Food: Small fish, aquatic insects.
  • Lakes, rivers, ponds. Most common in deeper, cooler, clearer water.

Lake Sturgeon

  • Food: Bottom food including crayfish, snails, clams and aquatic insects.
  • Habitat: Large rivers and lakes. Lake Sturgeon stay near the bottom.

Muskellunge

  • Food: Other fish, ducklings and small muskrats.
  • Habitat: Lakes and rivers. Fish lake weed beds and river shoreline.

Northern Pike

  • Food: Other fish, ducklings and small muskrats.
  • Habitat: Lakes and rivers. Fish lake weed beds and river shoreline.

Salmon

  • Species: Chinook (king), Coho, Kokanee, Pink.
  • Food: Insects, crustaceans, zooplankton, smelt.
  • Habitat: Lake Superior. In the fall they swim up rivers to spawn.

Sauger

  • Food: Zooplankton, insects, larvae, other fish, leeches and crayfish.
  • Habitat: Lakes and rivers. Primarily cloudy, moving water.

Smelt

  • Smelt are small fish (about 20 centimeters) resembling salmon. They swim in schools from Lake Superior into tributary rivers when water temperatures warm above 40 degrees. They typically travel at night. To catch them, all you need is a net and knee boots. Smelt often rest behind boulders and rocks… dip your net in those areas. The best places to catch smelt are: Lester, Knife, Gooseberry, Split Rock, Beaver, Baptism, Cross, Temperence, Poplar and Cascade River.
  • Rivers closed to smelting: French, Sucker, Little Sucker, Silver, Encampment and Crow.

Panfish

  • Species: Blugill, Crappie, Perch, Pumpkinseed and other sunfish.
  • Food: Primarily insects and larvae.
  • Habitat: Lakes and rivers. Fish the weed lines and shallow water in the fall and spring, fish deeper water (10 feet of greater) in the summer and winter.

Brook Trout

  • Food: Aquatic insects, land insects, fish, leeches, mollusks, crustaceans, amphibians, snakes and mice.
  • Habitat: Lakes and streams. Clean, cool water. Lake Superior tributaries.

Brown Trout

  • Food: Insects, crustaceans and other small fish.
  • Habitat: Warmer water than Brook Trout (65 to 70 degrees F). Lake Superior and its tributaries.

Lake Trout

  • Food: Plankton, insects, ciscoes and smelt.
  • Habitat: Deep lakes. Cold water (45 to 55 degrees F). In the summer they hunker deep, close to 100 feet.

Rainbow Trout

  • Food: Insects, crustaceans and other fish.
  • Habitat: Cool lakes and Lake Superior tributaries.

Walleye

  • Food: Minnows, leeches and other small fish.
  • Habitat: Large lakes and rivers. Walleyes are very sensitive to light and the best fishing is at night.

Yellow Perch

  • Food: Insects, minnows and other small fish.
  • Habitat: Lakes, rivers and ponds. Perch, like most panfish, move in to shallow water in the spring.

Tips

Walleye

  • Spring: Fish shallow. Walleyes move to shallower rock piles, sandbars and river mouths in the Spring (places more ideal for spawning). Fishing with a small jig and minnow/leech/nightcrawler will work well.
  • Summer: Fish points, weedbeds and rock reefs. This might be a good time to try a minnow-immitating baits such as Rapalas. Slow trolling with Lindy rigs is also a safe bet.
  • Fall: Fish weedbeds and rock humps (places baitfish might gather). Jig along the bottom deep during the day and shallow at night.
  • Winter: Fish shallow bays and shorelines. A jig and minnow is a sage bet.

Northern Pike

  • Spring: Fish shallow, weedy bays and points. The north side of lakes warm faster and will likely yield better fishing early on after the ice melts. Classic pike lures like spoons and spinnerbaits will work just fine (anything flashy).
  • Summer: Fish deeper in the summer along weed edges and drop-offs.
  • Fall: Fish shallower again; along weedlines, rock bars and near rapids.
  • Winter: Fish shallow bays near points and drop-offs. A jig and minnow will suffice.

Largemouth Bass

  • Spring: Fish shallower water with good structure. Spinnerbaits and plastic worms work great.
  • Summer: Fish close to manmade structures. Pitch a plastic under a dock or near a rocky shore with overhanging trees. Look for the shady shallow spots.
  • Fall: Fish deeper weed lines. Crankbaits, Texas rigs and  jigs work well.
  • Winter: Mostly inactive during cold months.

Smallmouth Bass

  • Spring: Fish rocky shallows and flats. Crankbaits and jigs are ideal.
  • Summer: Fish points and humps and try shallower water at night or during low light conditions.
  • Fall: Fish rocky flats, humps and edges with slow presentations like jigs.

Muskies

  • Fish weedbeds and places with good vegetation. Larger baits like bucktails and spinners are typical. Cast a lot: muskies are notoriously hard to catch.

Best Bets

Sportsman’s Connection put together a list of the best lakes and rivers to target the game fish listed above.

Walleye

  • Rainy Lake
  • Lake Winnibigosh
  • Lake Saganaga
  • Upper Red Lake
  • Lac La Croix

Bass

  • Leech Lake
  • Lake Vermillion
  • Big Turtle Lake
  • Lake Ely
  • Island Lake

Northern Pike

  • Pelican Lake
  • Prairie Lake
  • White Iron Lake
  • Kabetogama Lake
  • Ball Club Lake

Muskie

  • Lake Vermillion
  • Leech Lake
  • St. Louis River
  • Deer Lake
  • Lake of the Woods

Trout/Salmon

  • Lake Superior
  • Burntside Lake
  • Snowbank Lake
  • Gunflint Lake
  • Kimball Lake

Panfish

  • Upper Red Lake
  • Bass Lake
  • Big Splithand Lake
  • Murphy Lake
  • Pelican Lake