Best places for ice fishing

If you’re looking for a place to ice fishing, you probably have to look way above the Mason-Dixon Line. While some consider the best ice fishing on the lakes in Minnesota, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, and the Dakotas to be top picks. Any state that has been below freezing temperatures for an extended period of time is a target-rich environment. So don’t rule out southern New England, Pennsylvania, or the Midwest. Some enormous fish are caught in these states each year.

Why are there some of the best ice fishing lakes in Minnesota? Part of it is that North Star State is also known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes. There are small, medium and large lakes aimed at casual, medium and experienced ice fishermen, the variety of fish caught is enormous and the season is extremely long. Top ice fishing lakes in Minnesota include Lake of the Woods, Gull Lake, Lake Vermillion, and Upper and Lower Red Lake. Hard to argue with the state’s Walleye Capitol.

But wait, what about other states for bass, white and yellow perch, pickerel, pike and crappie and other fish? Two years ago, a 30-pound lake trout was dragged through the ice by an angler fishing from the Wisconsin side of Lake Superior. In 2015, a Pennsylvania angler pulled a 53-inch musk through the ice. And in 2016, a 33-pound pike was pulled in Nebraska. Maybe these people have a few ice fishing tips they’d like to share …

Sometimes you have to try hard to find places to fish, but my friend Ed Martin has about the cutest setup I know. Ed lives by a lake in Michigan, which means he, daughter Jennifer Gillespi, and granddaughters Ava and Renae don’t need to research where to ice fishing. All you have to do is look out the living room window. Ed loads his ice fishing gear in a four-wheeler into his warm garage and a moment later is on the frozen tundra looking for pikeperch, trout, perch and panfish. That’s hard to beat, and when I see their catches I doubt they’d agree that the best ice fishing lakes in Minnesota are …

Ice fishing can be as easy or as challenging as you want it to be. All you have to do is go. Get your fishing license, some basic gear and get started today.

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Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer living on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a contributing writer for Covey Rise magazine, a contributing editor for Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program. Keer is a regular contributor to over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics including fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor activities. When not fishing, Keer and his family hunt highland birds over their three English setters. His first book, A Guide to Fly Fishing on the New England Coast, was published in January 2011. Visit him at or

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