Red Lake Fishing, Size, Depth, and More

Upper Red Lake, Minnesota - Ice Fishing in Minnesota
© Dan Thornberg/

Written by Lev Baker

Published: April 26, 2023

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Red Lake, nestled in northern Minnesota, is a stunning and natural body of water with a rich history. The largest natural lake in the state, Red Lake offers visitors a range of experiences, from adrenaline-fueled adventures to peaceful escapes. It’s not just the breathtaking beauty of the lake and rugged shoreline that draws people in. The area around the lake has been home to thriving Native Americans for many generations. Those who visit the region have the unique opportunity to experience and appreciate its vibrant culture firsthand. 

Exploring the natural wonders of the American Midwest is incomplete without a visit to Red Lake. 

Red Lake Location

Red Lake, a stunning freshwater lake nestled in northern Minnesota’s Beltrami County, is the state’s largest natural lake. With its impressive size, it ranks as the 16th largest lake in the United States. 

The lake is divided into two distinct sections by a prominent peninsula that nearly cuts it in half on the eastern side. The charming community of Ponemah is situated on the peninsula, adding to the area’s allure. The lake’s two parts are referred to as Lower Red Lake and Upper Red Lake. The lower part of Red Lake falls entirely within the boundaries of the Red Lake Indian Reservation.

The Red Lake is divided into two distinct sections by a prominent peninsula that nearly cuts it in half on the eastern side.

©Sentinel Hub, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

Red Lake History

The area surrounding Red Lake has a captivating history that extends back to ancient times. This region has been home to the Ojibwe people, who have treasured the lake’s abundant resources throughout the generations. The lake’s significance to the local indigenous community is immense. Their customs and traditions are deeply linked with the natural splendor of the nearby lands.

The U.S. government decided to designate a reservation for the Ojibwe people, which led to the formation of the Red Lake Indian Reservation in 1863. This reservation includes Lower Red Lake and several other bodies of water nearby.

The early 1900s ushered in substantial changes to the region, such as founding commercial fishing operations on the lake and building roads and additional infrastructure. 

Presently, the lake serves as not only an essential component of the Ojibwe people’s heritage but also a crucial resource for surrounding communities. The lake’s flourishing fish stocks, scenic vistas, and abundant cultural history continue to draw visitors from around the globe. 


Spanning 444 square miles, Red Lake boasts a maximum length of 30 miles and a maximum width of 24 miles. As a fairly expansive body of water, this lake offers ample space for various leisure activities. 


Red Lake’s average depth ranges from 12-15 feet, which makes it a relatively shallow lake. However, it does have a maximum depth of 37 feet. This provides some depth variation and habitat for a diverse range of aquatic species.

Water Level

Red Lake has an average water level of 74.3ft, with a variation of plus or minus 1ft. This means that the water level of the lake can fluctuate slightly around this average level. Since record-keeping began in 2007, the lowest recorded water level was on January 22, 2023. Its levels receded to 71.09 ft. On the other hand, the highest recorded water level was on June 1, 2011. Its levels reached 77.95 ft.

Fishing in Red Lake

To avoid encroaching on tribal waters, state anglers at Red Lake should be aware that the lower part of the lake belongs to the native tribes. They should not venture beyond the longitude coordinate of 94 deg. 43′ 12.0″. However, the Upper Red Lake region spanning approximately 48,000 acres of water is available for recreational fishing by state anglers, with the rest of the lake reserved for tribal use.

Red Lake is considered an easy lake for fishing. Many anglers can start fishing without worrying about specific locations. Schools of baitfish and game fish can be found using electronics. Pike are also found in the vicinity, preying on the baitfish. During the summer, fish can be found in deeper waters, while they move to shallow waters during the fall and spring.

The walleye fishery at Red Lake is highly acclaimed. Anglers can catch a large number of walleye, and there are some big fish to be found as well. The lake also has good populations of northern pike, including some very large specimens measuring over 40 inches.

Perch and crappie fishing at Red Lake can be a bit unpredictable, as there have been years with great populations and years with poor populations. The fishing regulations in place may play a role in this in the future.

Upper Red Lake is one of the best spots for ice fishing come wintertime. The best time for ice fishing is in December. Red Lake is especially known for the great early bite rate for walleye during this time. The relatively shallow depth of the lake, which is only 15 feet, allows for quick freezing over, creating excellent conditions for ice fishing. Walleyes remain active throughout this period despite their nocturnal habits.

Walleye fish - catch and release.

The walleye fishery at Red Lake is highly acclaimed.



It is worth mentioning that comprehensive information on Red Lake’s geology is limited because of insufficient research. Yet, according to some available sources, it appears that the lake lies within a glacial moraine. This landform results from the buildup of glacier-transported sediments, which include a variety of materials like sand, gravel, and clay. The moraine is believed to have been formed during the Wisconsin Glaciation, which occurred approximately 10,000 to 75,000 years ago.


Embarking on a boating adventure on the expansive Upper Red Lake promises an unforgettable experience as you immerse yourself in the stunning natural landscape. The lake’s vast size ensures ample space for boaters to navigate without feeling cramped, guaranteeing a tranquil voyage across the water.

Numerous boat launching sites are available around Upper Red Lake, including Red Lake Rentals and Ryans’s Red Lake Rentals. Visitors have the option to either bring their own watercraft or rent one from these trusted establishments.

Located in the Waskish region, Red Lake Remote is a reputable boat rental service offering an extensive selection of well-kept boats for rent. Their high-quality vessels guarantee a pleasant and seamless experience on the lake.

Keep in mind that Upper Red Lake becomes frozen during winter months, making boating infeasible. Nevertheless, throughout the warmer seasons, venturing out on the lake by boat remains an unparalleled way to explore and appreciate its mesmerizing beauty.

The lake’s vast size ensures ample space for boaters to navigate without feeling cramped, guaranteeing a tranquil voyage across the water.


Camping Around Red Lake

Red Lake offers a magnificent camping experience for those who wish to explore the beauty of nature. There are numerous campgrounds located around the lake that serves as a perfect base for outdoor enthusiasts to fully immerse themselves in nature.

One of the top camping sites at Red Lake is a family-oriented campground and RV park situated on the south shore of Upper Red Lake. The campsites feature electricity and water, and most of them have picnic tables and fire rings. Moreover, the campground offers a spectacular view of the lake.

Rogers’ Beach, located within the campground, spans 800 feet and is perfect for swimmers of all ages. The beach area also features volleyball, tetherball, horseshoe pits, a covered picnic area, swings, and a large fire pit with bench seating. 

Kids can enjoy activities such as frisbee golf, hay wagon, pasture pool, kids softball field, croquet, bocce ball, basketball, holey boards, kayaks, nature trails, and peddle boats. Additionally, the campground organizes planned family activities every weekend.

Mort’s on the upper end is another excellent option for camping at Red Lake. They offer seasonal RV sites and a cabin for rent, both located on Upper Red Lake. All the RV sites have electric hookups and water, and some even have septic connections. Furthermore, their cabin is available for rental.

Mort’s provides a variety of amenities for its guests, including a swimming beach, boat and lake access, on/off sale liquor, a lodge with food and snacks, 24-hour showers/bathrooms, and fish cleaning facilities.

Wildlife Watching

The Red Lake Wildlife Management Area serves as an optimal destination for those passionate about observing boreal and bushland wildlife. Its forest and marsh ecosystems host an array of creatures, such as deer, bears, and wolves.

Apart from the larger animals, visitors can also spot a variety of birds, including ruffed and spruce grouse, black-backed woodpeckers, and Connecticut warblers. The rich birdlife of this area makes it an excellent destination for birdwatching. Visitors can easily spot and photograph these birds in their natural surroundings.

A remarkable characteristic of this location is the extensive Red Lake Peatland, recognized as the most expansive and varied peatland in the United States. Spanning 87,580 acres, the peatland provides a home for numerous species, like the bobcats, eastern timber wolf, yellow rails, short-eared owls, and greater sandhill cranes.

With an estimated 110 bird species inhabiting the peatland, bird enthusiasts can observe a diverse assortment of avian life.

sandhill crane

You can admire beautiful sandhill cranes in the peatland.

©Brian Lasenby/

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About the Author

Lev is a writer at AZ Animals who primarily covers topics on animals, geography, and plants. He has been writing for more than 4 years and loves researching topics and learning new things. His three biggest loves in the world are music, travel, and animals. He has his diving license and loves sea creatures. His favorite animal in the world is the manta ray.

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