Frozen

Woman holding fish caught while ice fishing
Enjoy the uniquely northern sport of ice fishing.

With a motto that aptly states, “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” well, we all know just how important those glistening and gleaming bodies of water are to us in the bold north. We swim in them, we boat on them, we picnic around them, we catch fish in them. And we don’t let Old Man Winter, with his decidedly-icy-and-sometimes-irritatingly-long-grip, deter us from dropping a line and catching a big one—nope!

In fact, we relish it.

We bundle up. We head to the frozen lake. We drill a hole. We bait a hook and drop a line. And we hope for a hungry or inquisitive fish to find that bait just so dang irresistible that it takes a nibble and, voila, fish on.

This process of catching fish on a frozen body of water, of course, has been going on for at least two millennia as a way for folks to eat when the weather cooled and food became scarce. But now, ice fishing is mostly done as a hobby, a way to spend time relaxing alone or with friends or family, or for sport. Many Minnesota cities and towns hold well-attended ice fishing contests; the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) notes they issue nearly 400 permits for ice fishing contests and tournaments statewide each year.

Standing with auger on lake

Jenny Anderson, founder of Girl of 10,000 Lakes, says ice fishing makes fishing deeper waters more accessible because you don’t need a boat! “People picture it as being really cold and just waiting around for a bite,” says Anderson. “But things have really changed with fish houses and heat sources that are easier to use.” She started with just an auger, rods, hooks and bait. But she later procured a vintage fish house/camper that can be used in all seasons and helps her little family of three maximize their time on the ice. “Having a fish house is a game changer,” says Anderson. “I light candles, play music, hang twinkle lights and make hot cocoa. It’s an awesome experience where you can relax and enjoy without the pressure of thinking ‘it’s freezing,’ or ‘where are the fish?’ If the fish don’t bite, you’re still warm and comfortable and had a great experience.”

The DNR’s website (dnr.state.mn.us) is chockfull of information, facts and regulations about ice fishing (and a whole lot of other stuff, too, but we’ll focus on ice fishing) in the approximately 4,500 fishing lakes in our neck of the woods. We’ve culled a few of those fish-inspired nuggets to inspire you to don your mukluks and your warmest winter gear, grab your fishing supplies and an auger, and, whether you plop yourself down on an overturned bucket or inside an elaborate icehouse, create a fish tale of your own.

What you’ll need

Ice fishing rod: Typically, 24”–36,” which is smaller than your warm weather fishing rod, as you need the leverage because of the confined space. 

Ice fishing reel: More compact than a typical reel.

Ice fishing line: This line is created to withstand frigid temperatures and jagged ice.

Lures and bait: Research the type of fish you want to catch and adjust lures and bait accordingly.

Tackle box: Yep, a way to keep all your small items secure and organized. 

Ice auger or drill: A must; no hole = no fish. 

A spot to sit: On a 5-gallon bucket or inside an icehouse.

Warm clothing: Make sure to dress in layers.

What to Catch

It’s probably no surprise that the favorite fish to catch in Minnesota, the most beloved, is—you guessed it—the walleye. It doesn’t hurt that it’s the official state fish and, well, just think of the best plate of grilled walleye you’ve ever eaten—with that subtle sweetness and delicate, flaky texture—and you’ll understand why Minnesotans adore this fish species, which is part of the perch family and is named for its distinguishable pearlescent eyes.

Did you know the bluegill, named for its large “gills,” is the most commonly caught fishin Minnesota?

We have two species of crappies in Minnesota, black and white, and they tend to hang out—not near the surface or the bottom of a lake— but, according to the DNR’s website, “somewhere in between.”

When you’re hankering to catch a big fish, one that fills the bill for a great fish tale, northern pike may just be the one. They’ll give you a run for your money, as they’re known to put up a fight as you bring them in. The state record is 45 pounds, 11 ounces, so you’ve got your work cut out for you.

For more information: Head to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website (dnr.state.mn.us) for complete ice fishing information, ice thickness safety, specific lake information (regulations, lake maps, fish species, stocking reports, etc.), where to find fishing groups, and a whole lot more. Three Rivers Park District (threeriversparks.org) also has lots of great information about ice fishing, often including classes.

Share Your Fish Photos!

Tag @edinamag #edinamag on your Instagram ice fishing photos, or email them to [email protected] for a chance to have your pics published in future issue of Edina Magazine.

Follow Jenny Anderson at girlof10000lakes.com
@girlof10000lakes