Destination Lakes to Visit
Eskimo Ice Fishing
One of our favorite things to do each winter is plan a trip to a new destination on the ice. Winter brings a sense of adventure, amazing scenery, and of course, fun new places to fish. Not only is it exciting to see new places and fish new lakes, it’s also enjoyable to learn new ways to fish and compare local techniques. Haven’t been on an ice fishing destination vacation yet? Well, you’re missing out! One of the best ways to break up a long Winter is to take a vacation and embrace all that Mother Nature has to offer. These unique destinations and experiences provide not only great fishing but fun for the whole family—oh, and by the way, any one of these destinations could land you your next personal best fish.
Lake of the Woods | Ontario
Visit Sunset Country in Northern Ontario late in the season for some of the best Lake Trout fishing on Earth! Fish can be caught on hair jigs, tube jigs, spoons, and of course hanging dead bait. Lake Trout pushing the 20lb mark are not unheard of in this area, and Lake of the Woods also has very strong numbers. Keep an eye in the middle of the water column, as Lake Trout often relate to thermoclines and schools of bait fish roaming at various depths over deeper water, but can also move shallow to feed. A rod with a good backbone and a reel with a high-quality drag system are recommended if you are going head north and battle these giants!
Lake Cascade | Idaho
National attention was brought to this lake in 2016 when a new World Record Perch was caught that weighed over 2lb 15 ounces and had a girth of 13 ¼ inches. 12-year-old Tia Wiese caught the behemoth fish on a tip-up. The lake can be challenging to locate schools of fish, but a combination of hole hopping with a jig and setting out tip-downs or tip-ups are an effective way to find fish in the system. Several guides also service the lake and can help put you on the fish. This is one bucket list trip that could just fill that bucket…. with 2+ pound Perch!
Mille Lacs Lake | Minnesota
One of Minnesota’s most legendary fisheries, Mille Lacs should be at the top of your list if you want to experience some of the finest Walleye, Pike, and Panfish action in the ice belt. Rent a cabin lakeside or check out one of the 100’s of sleeper shack rental options and experience a weekend on the ice like no other. If you haven’t been woken up by the sound of a rattle reel being set off by a 28” Walleye at least once in your life, you owe it to yourself to do so.
Minocqua Area | Wisconsin
If you are looking for a fun, family friendly vacation with some ice fishing included, the Minocqua Wisconsin area could be just what you are looking for. With hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails, ski trails, legendary Supper Clubs, and a vibrant downtown area, Minocqua offers something for the entire family and is surrounded by great ice fishing and Northwoods beauty. If you’re looking for an ice fishing trip that has more than just fishing to offer, check out the Minocqua area this winter and bring the family to celebrate winter in the heart of Northern Wisconsin.
Mississippi River Backwaters | Wisconsin/Minnesota
The backwaters of the Mississippi River may be one of the best kept secrets in ice fishing. An angler must pay careful attention to ice conditions, as they are always changing on the river, but once the backwaters and sloughs are frozen and safe to travel, lots of big panfish move in and the action can be fast. The stretch of water spanning from Lake City, MN, over to Wisconsin and down into Iowa can all be productive water to fish, however an angler should pay attention to location to make sure they are following the proper state laws based on their geography. Fish tend to grow fast in this fertile system, and the panfish numbers have exploded in recent years.
Little Bay De Noc | Michigan
A hidden gem in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Little Bay De Noc offers some of the best big Walleye potential in the ice belt. This 30,000 acre bay on the northern tip of Lake Michigan offers the potential to catch a 12 pounder, and also has a healthy and abundant Perch population. The reefs between Kipling and Rapid River offer prime structure and are a great starting point for finding Walleye at various depths, while large schools of Perch are often found roaming the numerous sand flats around the bay.
Williams Fork Reservoir | Colorado
When looking for a scenic ice fishing destination, Eskimo Pro Staffer Matt Mascarenas suggests visiting the mile-high state of Colorado and checking out Williams Fork Reservoir for Rainbow Trout, Kokanee, and Northern Pike. This 1600 acre lake is right on the divide of the high country, and offers amazing scenery and great fishing. If fishing in the mountains of Colorado is on your bucket list, check out Williams Fork Reservoir along the numerous pristine lakes in the Granby area, surrounded by Rocky Mountain National Park.
Lake Simcoe | Ontario
Located about an hour north of Toronto, Lake Simcoe is a one of the most popular ice fishing destinations in all of Ontario thanks to its ease of access and reputation as a fishery. Yellow Perch are the top prize on Simcoe in the winter and fish from 12-15” are possible. Catches of Trout, Pike, and Walleye are also not uncommon. Safe ice fishing typically starts in January, and Perch can be caught on spoons, jigging minnow style baits as well as live bait.
Lake Sakakawea | North Dakota
Lake Sakakawea’s 1,500+ miles of shoreline and more than 380,000 surface acres offer phenomenal Walleye fishing and gets less pressured than many of the other lakes of this caliber. Sakakawea is the 3rd largest man-made reservoir in the country, so a guide is recommended on this vast body of water. Ice conditions can vary greatly, and the fish have plenty of places to hide. In 2017, biologists netted a 17 lb. Walleye while collecting survey data, with many other reports of 13+ lb. fish. Sakakawea could hold the next North Dakota State Record.
Lake Winnebago | Wisconsin
Sturgeon through the ice—yes, please! In 2012, the largest fish on record for Winnebago was taken, and it weighed 240 lbs. The Sturgeon Spectacular, held each year in February, creates a carnival like atmosphere on the ice with fireworks, comedy, softball tournaments, and even a chili crawl. Oh and don’t worry, if chasing Sturgeon isn’t your thing, Winnebago happens to hold one of the best Walleye populations in the state. Large Perch, Crappies and White Bass are available as well.
Red Lake | Minnesota
Located in Northern Minnesota, Red Lake covers over 440 square miles and is the 16th largest freshwater lake in the United States. Red is a favorite destination for anglers seeking early ice action. A very healthy Walleye population, and an underrated number of panfish make Red Lake an ice anglers mecca. Ample resorts, lodging, and on-ice rental houses offer something for everybody.
Devils Lake | North Dakota
Devils Lake is the largest natural body of water in North Dakota, covering more than 200,000 acres. Devils is arguably the best inland Perch lake in the United States, producing its fair share of 2+ lb. fish, but Devils also holds large numbers of Walleye and Pike, and is considered one of the best ice fishing lakes in the world! Day trips with guides and accommodations are plentiful. Check out Devils Lake Tourism for more information.
Lake Gogebic | Northern Michigan
Want to take a trip where you can have world class snowmobiling and ice fishing? Look no further than the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and Lake Gogebic. 2 lb. Perch and 300” of snow per year make this a winter wonderland that needs to be explored. The north end of the 14+ mile-long lake boasts excellent Walleye fishing, while the various Wiggler beds in mud flats of the main basin of the lake hold the key to catching a 2 lb. Perch.
Lake of the Woods | Minnesota/Canada Border
Lake of the Woods has shoreline in Minnesota, Ontario, and Manitoba, and many refer to it as the 6th great lake. With over 14,000 islands and an area covering 1,727 miles, Lake of the Woods offers many different experiences for ice anglers. Whether you rent a sleeper shack on the U.S. side and target Walleye and Perch day and night, or you want to venture miles down the lake on a snowmobile to catch 15” plus Crappies, the Northwest Angle & Sunset Country, Ontario—aka Lake of the Woods—should be on every ice anglers bucket list.
Lake Erie | Ohio
Lake Erie may possibly hold the best big Walleye potential in all of the Ice Belt, but its inconsistent freezing patterns make it a more difficult trip to plan. If the lake freezes—and you can get accommodations—you should definitely save a weekend in January to go chase these monster numbers of giant Walleyes as they migrate from the Eastern to the Western basin of the lake. It’s not an every year opportunity, but many who have done it say it’s a “once in a lifetime Walleye Day” opportunity.
Lake Winnipeg | Manitoba
Lake Winnipeg is a massive, relatively shallow lake located in southern Manitoba. Winnipeg is a Walleye fisherman’s paradise and is home to the famous Greenback Walleye. These fish are known not only for their voracious daytime feeding and huge size, but also their translucent green tint. Lake Winnipeg should be a top destination if you are looking to catch a 30” plus Walleye.
Sebago Lake | Maine
For a truly unique ice fishing trip, head East to Maine and check out all that Sebago Lake has to offer. At over 300 feet in depth, Sebago is home to various Trout and Salmon species, and provides wonderful Northern Pike fishing. If you want to make a weekend of it, check out one of the many Fishing Derbies on the lake throughout January and February that often include snowmobile runs and many fun events for the community.