The 7 Best Lakes for Ice Fishing in North Dakota

Lake Metigoshe
Sky.Niebs/Shutterstock.com

Written by Volia Schubiger

Updated: April 12, 2023

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Living in a winter climate means finding exciting ways to keep yourself occupied during the cold months. This is especially true if you live in North Dakota, where the state averages roughly three to four severe winter storms yearly. North Dakota, also known as the Peace Garden State, is, in fact, one of the coldest states in the United States.

In fact, the state holds a Guinness World Record that may not surprise you! The state is known for having the record for the most snow angels made simultaneously in one place. As such a frigid state, it is also an excellent place to engage in ice fishing. If you’re interested in fishing during the wintertime, then check out our list of the best lakes for ice fishing in North Dakota. 

Whether you’re a North Dakota native or simply interested in visiting the state for some good ol’ ice fishing, you’ll love looking through this list and learning more!

Devils Lake

Devils Lake Swimming Hole in north Dakota

Anglers who love catching perch will want to check out Devils Lake, as it has been named the perch capital of the world.

Our list starts with Devils Lake, the second largest body of water in the state. This is a 122,000-acre lake with a maximum depth of more than 59 feet. This lake is huge and definitely worth doing a multi-day fishing trip here as a result. A ton of shoreline and creek channels make it great for ice fishing.

At this lake, you’ll find a great variety of fish that you can catch. These fish include walleye, white bass, muskie, pike, crappie, and perch. In fact, this lake is well-known for having a very healthy and large population of yellow perch fish. Locals have even said it is the world’s “perch capital.”

This is such a popular ice fishing destination that it is estimated that open water and ice fishing generate more than $20 million annually here.

Lake Sakakawea

An aerial view of Lake Sakakawea. The lake is narrow and meanders through the frame from lower right frame through the left part of the photograph and then it meanders across back to the right about 3/4 of the way up and then out the top toward the right there are a few clouds between the camera and the photograph and the train is too far away to look anything other than brown and green.

Created by Garrison Dam on the Missouri River, Lake Sakakawea is an incredibly popular spot for recreational activities such as fishing, hiking, boating, and camping.

Lake Sakakawea is located right in the center of North Dakota. It is considered the largest man-made lake located in the state. It is also the second-largest lake in the United States by surface area alone. The lake’s surface area is an astonishing 307,000 acres, and the maximum depth it reaches is 180 feet.

The reservoir was originally created due to the construction of the Garrison Dam. The lake is a very popular fishing destination — especially for ice fishing. You can catch a lot of fish here, including rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, cutthroat trout, walleye, perch, and northern pike.

Lake Audubon

Lake Audubon North Dakota

Anglers visit Lake Audobon because of its significant variety of fish, including walleye, yellow perch, and smallmouth bass.

Lake Audubon is actually considered a complementary “sister lake” to Lake Sakakawea. This lake is located in the west-central part of the state, at Coleharbor.

An embankment only separates both Audubon and Sakakawea. This embankment actually carries U.S. Highway 83. This is a pretty decently sized lake with 16,612 acres of surface area. It is 59 feet deep at its deepest point.

The lake is a popular fishing destination because it is filled with a variety of fish. You can expect to catch smallmouth bass, perch, walleye, and pike. These fish can be caught during all seasons, especially during the ice fishing season. Since it is near Highway 83, this lake has easy access.

Lake Metigoshe

Lake Metigoshe

Located along the border of the U.S. and Canada, this lake is an incredibly popular destination during summer and winter.

If you’re interested in an ice fishing excursion that includes some fantastic views, you won’t want to miss out on Lake Metigoshe.

This lake happens to be located in the absolutely gorgeous Turtle Mountains. For those familiar with the area, the Turtle Mountains happen to border the U.S. and Canada. The lake has a surface area of 1,544 acres and a maximum depth of 24 feet.

Although most of the lake is located in the United States, a portion still extends into Manitoba. The main types of fish that you can expect to catch here include bass, crappie, sunfish, perch, pike, and walleye.

However, when it comes to ice fishing, the most popular species that are caught during that type are crappie, perch, and bluegill. Overall, this is a fantastic ice fishing location if you’re interested in great catches and want to witness a spectacular view.

Lake Renwick

As a part of Icelandic State Park, Lake Renwick is just off Highway 5 and is pretty convenient to get to as a result.

Renwick Dam is a dam located in the northeastern corner of North Dakota. The dam was officially completed back in 1962. The reservoir the dam then created is known as Lake Renwick. This lake has a water surface of 204 acres.

Since it is adjacent to Icelandic State Park, this lake offers lots to see around it. When it comes to ice fishing, many anglers come here specifically for its abundant numbers of northern pike. However, you can also catch bluegill here as well.

It is important to note, however, that lodging here can be quite limited. This is important to know if you plan to extend the ice fishing trip over a couple of days.

Lake Darling

If you’re looking for an ice fishing location that is more private and remote, then check out Lake Darling, known for a great number of perch.

Just northwest of Minot, along the Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge, you’ll find Lake Darling nestled in. This is a fantastic lake option for anglers that prefer to keep to themselves and want their ice-fishing trip to feel private. The lake is named after Jay N. “Ding” Darling. He was the first director of the Bureau of Biological Survey. It features a surface area of nearly 9,500 acres.

There are nearly fifty miles of shoreline along this lake, so anglers can easily spread out and enjoy lots of personal space. The most commonly caught fish here are walleye and perch. In fact, many anglers come out here in the wintertime specifically for these two fish. However, you can also catch northern pike and smallmouth bass here as well.

Lake Oahe

Lake Oahe

There are over 2,000 miles of shoreline along Lake Oahe, making it one of the most well-known fishing spots in North Dakota.

Lake Oahe is not a secret destination if you happen to know the area well enough. In fact, roughly 1.5 million people visit the lake every year. However, because of how great the area is, we just had to include it on our list! This lake is so large that it extends throughout both South and North Dakota. It has an area of 370,000 acres and a maximum depth of 205 ft.

When measured by sheer volume, this lake is considered the fourth-largest reservoir in the United States. The area has a lot of different species of fish, including walleye, trout, catfish, salmon, and pike. The smallmouth bass here, however, is what brings in so many anglers.

They can grow quite large at Lake Oahe. Even the salmon, walleye, and trout grow quite large at this lake. Crappies are another popular fish to catch during the ice fishing season.

Summary of the Seven Best Lakes for Ice Fishing in North Dakota

Here is a list of the Seven Best Lakes for Ice Fishing in North Dakota:

RankBest Lakes
1Devils Lake
2Lake Sakakawea
3Lake Audubon
4Lake Metigoshe
5Lake Renwick
6Lake Darling
7Lake Oahe


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About the Author

Volia Schubiger is a freelance copywriter and content editor with a passion and expertise in content creation, branding, and marketing. She has a background in Broadcast Journalism & Political Science from CUNY Brooklyn College. When she's not writing she loves traveling, perusing used book stores, and hanging out with her other half.

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