The 8 Best Fishing Lakes in Minnesota (And the Types of Fish to Expect!)

Side view portrait of father and son sitting together on rocks fishing with rods in calm lake waters with landscape of setting sun, both wearing checkered shirts, shot from behind tree

Written by Alan Lemus

Updated: November 14, 2023

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Welcome to Minnesota, a true angler’s paradise renowned for its myriad lakes rich in aquatic diversity. Nicknamed the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota boasts more than just sheer quantity. Each lake is a unique ecosystem, supporting various fish species and offering unique fishing experiences that cater to anglers of all skill levels.

In this article, we delve into the heart of Minnesota’s best fishing spots. We spotlight eight exemplary lakes, each selected for their rich fish populations, beautiful environments, and unique fishing opportunities they present. 

Whether you’re a seasoned angler, a beginner starting your fishing journey, or simply a nature enthusiast seeking to learn more about Minnesota’s lakes, this article is your ticket to the state’s best fishing spots. 

So prepare your fishing gear, and let’s set sail and explore the incredible fishing adventures that await in Minnesota!

Discover the 8 Best Fishing Lakes in Minnesota.

1. Lake of the Woods

Lake of the Woods

Sunset at the entrance to Zippel Bay at Lake of the Woods, MN.

©Tony Webster / CC BY-SA 2.0 – Original / License

Let’s kick off our fishing adventure with none other than the marvelous Lake of the Woods. Spanning over 1,000 square miles, this angler’s paradise straddles the U.S.-Canada border. That’s right—it’s so vast, one country couldn’t contain it!

Location: In the Heart of Nature

This behemoth of a lake calls Baudette, Minnesota home. With more than 14,000 islands dotting its vast expanse, you might mistake it for the ocean! But it’s not all about size. Lake of the Woods nestles into a landscape so beautiful it would make a postcard jealous. So whether you’re entering from the Rainy River to the south or Warroad on the lake’s southwest shore, breathtaking views come as standard.

Meet the Locals: Fish Species in the Lake

Walleye are among the most popular gamefish in North America.

Walleye are among the most popular game fish in North America.


Onto the main event—the fish in this Minnesota lake. Lake of the Woods offers a trifecta of delights for anglers. First up, walleye. These guys love the deep waters, and the lake’s got plenty of it. Up next, northern pike. You’ll find these toothy critters lurking around the weeds. And let’s not forget the sauger, a close cousin of the walleye. They love the lake’s rocky bottom and might just give you a fight.

It’s All About Timing: The Fishing Seasons

Here’s a tip for you: when it comes to fishing, timing matters. The walleye and sauger bite best in the cooler months. We’re talking early spring and late fall. As for the northern pike, summer’s your best bet.

2. Lake Minnetonka

A bright blue lake surrounded by trees and hills.

Lake Minnetonka is Minnesota’s largest lake.

© Twynam

The fabulous Lake Minnetonka is no ordinary body of water. Just west of the Twin Cities, it’s got character, charm, and chock-full of fish!

Location: A Stone’s Throw from the Twin Cities

You’ll find Lake Minnetonka conveniently nestled just 15 miles from downtown Minneapolis. With an impressive 125 miles of shoreline, it winds through some of Minnesota’s most upscale neighborhoods. It’s where city convenience meets serene, natural beauty.

Fishing Line-up: Who’s on the Roster?

Gaping mouth of a largemouth bass

The gaping mouth of a largemouth bass looks terrifying!

©Matt Jeppson/

Lake Minnetonka sports a powerful trio of targets for anglers. Largemouth bass love to hang out near the docks. You’ll find northern pike patrolling the weedy areas. And the walleye? They’re in deeper waters, lurking and waiting for your bait. Making this one of the best fishing spots in Minnesota as well.

The Art of Timing: When to Drop Your Line

When should you visit? For bass and northern pike, they’re up for a fight throughout summer. Walleye, though, like the cooler shoulder seasons—early spring and late fall.

All Aboard: Boat Fishing at Its Best

Do you know what’s great about Lake Minnetonka? The boating. There’s no better way to cover its intricate bays and channels than by boat. Plenty of public boat ramps around, so get your vessel in the water and start exploring. Bonus tip: boat fishing is a thrilling way to catch largemouth bass here!

3. Mille Lacs Lake

Mille Lacs Lake southwest side below dramatic clouds in north central Minnesota on a sunny summer afternoon

The tranquil waters of Mille Lacs Lake on a beautiful day.

©Dan Thornberg/

Ready for our next fishing destination? Put on your angler’s hat and meet Mille Lacs Lake! Known as the “Walleye Factory,” this lake’s about to make your fishing dreams come true.

Location: The Great Up North

Head up to central Minnesota, and you’ll stumble upon the mighty Mille Lacs. It’s one of the state’s largest inland bodies of water, second only to Red Lake. Surrounded by charming small towns, the lake offers a truly Minnesotan experience. And it’s only a two-hour drive north from the Twin Cities!

Meet the Gang: A Trio of Fantastic Fish


Northern pike will jump out of the water in an effort to throw an angler’s bait after being hooked.


The fish of Mille Lacs Lake are ready for their close-ups. First in line is the lake’s pride and joy—walleye. This lake’s practically synonymous with walleye fishing. Next, we’ve got smallmouth bass. Known for their fight, they’ll give you a run for your money. And, of course, the mighty northern pike. They’re big, fierce, and ready to bite.

Timing Is Everything: When to Fish

Timing-wise, you’ve got options. Spring and fall are prime times for walleye. Smallmouth bass and northern pike, on the other hand, are summer stars. No matter the season, you’re in for a fishing treat at Mille Lacs in Minnesota.

4. Lake Vermilion

Lake Vermilion, Minnesota

Lake Vermilion in Minnesota is the perfect place for fishermen, boaters, and swimmers.

©W. Naze/

Get set to cast your lines into the enchanting waters of Lake Vermilion! Nestled in northern Minnesota, this lake is where fishing stories are born. Its mesmerizing beauty and abundant fish population make it an angler’s utopia.

Location: Deep in the Heart of Nature

You’ll find Lake Vermilion up in northeastern Minnesota, surrounded by breathtaking wilderness. It’s where the prairies meet the woods, creating a natural oasis like no other. With over 300 miles of shoreline and more than 365 islands, it’s like a new adventure every day!

The Catch of the Day: Fish Species

Esox masquinongy, muskie, muskellunge

Esox masquinongy, also known as muskie or muskellunge fish underwater.

©Engbretson, Eric / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

Let’s talk about what’s swimming in these waters. Lake Vermilion is a home run for walleye, muskellunge, and smallmouth bass. Whether you’re looking to catch a feisty muskie, a sly walleye, or a fighting smallmouth bass, you’ve come to the right place.

When to Cast: Best Fishing Seasons

When is the best time to fish? Spring and fall bring the walleye running, while the muskie and smallmouth bass favor the warm summer months. But, let’s be honest, any day fishing at Lake Vermilion is a good day!

5. Lake Winnibigoshish

Lake Winnibigoshish is the fifth-largest lake in Minnesota and covers more than 67,000 acres.


Let’s cruise over to another fishing hotspot—the legendary Lake Winnibigoshish, affectionately known as ‘Lake Winnie.’ This lake offers size, scenic beauty, and of course, fish galore!

Location: At the Heart of Minnesota’s Northwoods

Situated in north-central Minnesota, Lake Winnie lies in the Chippewa National Forest. The lake’s sprawling expanse paints a stunning picture against the backdrop of Minnesota’s picturesque Northwoods.

Dive into the Fish Population

The twin dorsal fins are characteristic of the Yellow Perch and others in the family.

©Maximillian cabinet/

Lake Winnie boasts a wealth of walleye, northern pike, and yellow perch. Whether you’re chasing the elusive walleye, battling the feisty northern pike, or targeting the tasty yellow perch, Lake Winnie’s got you covered.

Timing It Right: Fishing Seasons

Best times to fish, you ask? The walleye are most active in spring and fall, while the northern pike and yellow perch love the summer warmth. So pack your gear accordingly and get ready for a fishing frenzy!

6. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Eagle Mountain

Northwest view over Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from Eagle Mountain summit in Cook County, Minnesota

©R Kulawiak/

Are you ready to mix a little adventure with your fishing? Welcome to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a pristine haven where canoes and fishing rods go hand in hand.

Location: Wilderness in the North

Lose yourself in nature’s beauty in northeastern Minnesota, where the Boundary Waters stretch across over a million acres. It’s a landscape dominated by sparkling lakes, lush forests, and a whole lot of peace and quiet.

In the Depths: Fishing the Boundary Waters

Closeup of a lake trout's head and mouth

Lake trout can grow up to 3 feet in length, with the longest lake trout on record at 50 inches.


Smallmouth bass, walleye, and lake trout populate these serene waters. The smallmouth bass and walleye love the summer warmth, while the lake trout prefer the chill of spring and fall. With countless secluded spots to drop your line, it’s a whole new level of fishing bliss.

A Unique Fishing Experience: Canoe and Fish

What makes the Boundary Waters truly special? The canoeing! We’re talking about crystal-clear waters, stunning scenery, and untouched fishing spots that can only be reached by canoe. It’s a tranquil experience that merges the thrill of fishing with the serenity of canoeing.

7. Leech Lake

Leech Lake in Minnesota

Leech Lake is the third largest lake in Minnesota.


Let’s set our compass for our next stop, the unforgettable Leech Lake! Don’t let the name fool you; it’s a premier fishing destination that’s ready to surprise and delight!

Location: Central Minnesota’s Gem

In the heart of north-central Minnesota, you’ll find Leech Lake. It’s the third-largest lake in the state, fringed by charming resorts and the vibrant town of Walker. Its sparkling blue waters and vibrant scenery are picture-perfect.

In the Shallows and Depths: The Fish Await

The largemouth bass is the official state freshwater fish of Florida.

The average lifespan of a largemouth bass is about 16 years.

©Ryno Botha/

So, what’s biting in Leech Lake? Three words — walleye, muskellunge, and largemouth bass. Whether you’re chasing the challenge of a muskie, the elusive walleye, or the hard-hitting largemouth, Leech Lake delivers.

Seasons of Plenty: When to Fish

When should you visit? Spring and fall bring out the walleye, while the largemouth bass and muskie love the warmer summer months. Pick a season and get ready to reel in the excitement!

8. Lake Superior

Duluth, Minnesota USA March 2, 2013 Surfer on Lake Superior near Duluth, Minnesota in the winter in the month of March.

A surfer on Lake Superior near Duluth, MN, in the winter in the month of March.

©Linda McKusick/

Let’s set sail to the greatest of the Great Lakes, the magnificent Lake Superior! But, of course, this is no ordinary lake. It’s the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area. And guess what? It’s one heck of a fishing spot!

Location: Bordering Beauty

Straddling the border of the U.S. and Canada, Lake Superior’s Minnesota stretch is nothing short of spectacular. With the city of Duluth serving as a perfect starting point, the lake offers stunning landscapes and endless fishing opportunities.

Cast a Line: The Fish are Biting

Fishing. Fisherman and trout, underwater view

Fishermen can find lake trout in relatively shallow waters in the spring when the water temperature is cooler.


Time to dip into the fishy inhabitants. Lake Superior offers a treasure trove of species like lake trout, walleye, and smallmouth bass. So whether you’re dreaming of a trophy lake trout, a crafty walleye, or a tough smallmouth bass, this lake is ready to make your fishing dreams come true.

Peak Fishing Times: Seasonal Splendors

When to pack your fishing gear and head to Lake Superior? Spring through fall is prime time for lake trout and smallmouth bass. For walleye, though, spring and fall are your best bets. So pick your season and prepare for some epic angling action!

Key Takeaways

As we wind up our angling adventure through Minnesota’s stunning landscape, it’s clear to see why this state is a fisherman’s dream. With an incredible array of lakes, each teeming with a unique mix of fish species, Minnesota offers endless opportunities for unforgettable fishing experiences.

From the urban allure of Lake Minnetonka to the natural splendor of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, each lake we’ve explored is a testament to the state’s rich biodiversity and its commitment to preserving these natural treasures. So, whether you’re seeking the thrill of landing a mammoth muskie or the peaceful pleasure of a day of panfishing, you’re sure to find a Minnesota lake that fits the bill.

But our journey doesn’t end here. Beyond the eight lakes highlighted in this guide, remember that Minnesota has thousands more. Each lake has its own unique charm and aquatic life waiting to be discovered.

Summary of the 8 Best Fishing Lakes in Minnesota

1.Lake of the WoodsBaudette
2.Lake MinnetonkaMinneapolis (15 mi out)
3.Mille Lacs Lake75 mi north of Minneapolis
4.Lake VermilionNortheastern Minnesota 96 miles west of Lake Superior
5.Lake WinnibigoshishChippewa National Forest
6.Boundary Waters Canoe Area WildernessNortheastern Minnesota
7.Leech LakeWalker/north-central Minnesota
8.Lake SuperiorNortheastern Minnesota

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About the Author

Alan is a freelance writer and an avid traveler. He specializes in travel content. When he visits home he enjoys spending time with his family Rottie, Opie.

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