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Top 15 Lakes to Fish in Minnesota

Minnesota is home to no shortage of fabulous fishing lakes. From small shallows and serene spots to lakes that span more than 200,000 acres, you’ll have no shortage of options to choose from when you visit the North Star state.

person in a canoe on a minnesota fishing lake

Some of the most popular species that you’ll come across in Minnesota are walleye, yellow perch, northern pike, and various bass species. And those are just a few of the many types of fish you can catch. 

northen pike fish

But which ones are the best for fishing? Here are some of the top Minnesota fishing lakes worth checking out. 

Top 15 Minnesota Fishing Lakes

  1. Rainy Lake
  2. Annie Battle Lake
  3. Cut Foot Sioux Lake
  4. Lake Andrew
  5. Otter Tail Lake
  6. Red Lake
  7. Sand Lake
  8. Snelling Lake
  9. Lake Kabetogama
  10. Leech Lake
  11. Spider Lake
  12. White Bear Lake
  13. Lake Winnibigoshish
  14. Shagawa Lake
  15. Lake Vermilion

Rainy Lake

Rainy Lake is arguably one of the most bountiful fishing lakes in Minnesota. Located in Koochiching County, it encompasses 227,604 acres along the border of Canada.

Rainy Lake

1,600 islands dot the water, and it boasts more than 2,100 miles of shoreline. Its average depth is 32 feet, with a max depth of 160 feet. 

The rocky shorelines and reefs make this lake great for smallmouth bass, walleye, whitefish, and northern pike.

As one of the last lakes to thaw, it’s also a good option for ice fishing and spring walleye catches. You’ll have great luck catching crappie, northern pike, and plenty of other fun fish. 

Annie Battle Lake

Located in Glendalough State Park, Annie Battle Lake is a 334-acre, serene lake in Otter Tail County.

Annie Battle Lake

With only 2.8 miles of shoreline, Annie Battle Lake isn’t highly-trafficked, so you won’t have to worry about too many crowds. The lake has a maximum depth of 51 feet, but most of it is less than 15 feet deep.

Also known as the “heritage fishery,” this lake offers big catches of northern pike, largemouth bass, bluegill, and walleye.

Since the entire lake is inside a state park, there’s very little development along the shore. However, if you want to stay nearby, there are campgrounds in the park.

Cut Foot Sioux Lake

Cut Foot Sioux Lake is the most popular lake in Itasca County. It spans 2,771 acres with 28 miles of shoreline.

Cut Foot Sioux Lake

With a max depth of 78 feet and an average depth of 24 feet, you’ll find a wide variety of fish, including walleye, muskie, sunfish, and bluegill. 

This lake offers excellent fishing all year long, with its peak times being May through June. Mid-winter when ice fishing is also popular.

There are boat rentals, cabins, campsites, and six public access points nearby, giving you a good basecamp if you want to stay near the water.

Lake Andrew

Located in Douglas County, Lake Andrew encompasses 918 acres with 5.6 miles of partially developed shoreline.

Lake Andrew

The average depth at Lake Andrew is 29 feet, but the deepest sections reach 83 feet. You’ll find public access to the lake on the southern shoreline, just off South Lake Andrew Drive.

Lake Andrew offers a long list of fish species, but walleye, northern pike, perch, and largemouth bass are the most plentiful.

The state stocks the lake with walleye every other year to ensure high catch rates. Anglers are encouraged to release larger fish to help maintain population balance.

Otter Tail Lake

Otter Tail Lake is well-known to be the best place to snag walleye in Minnesota. With 13,725 acres and a max depth of 120 feet, it’s also the largest lake in Otter Tail County.

Otter Tail Lake

The lake has a pretty varied underwater terrain, with an average depth of only 15 deep due to sandbars.

Shoreline and boat fishing, along with other watersports, are popular on Otter Tail Lake. The best times to fish are from May through June, but many anglers opt to ice fish for perch in the winter months.

Otter Tail Lake is also the home of the Reel Country Classic, a two-day fishing tournament in May.

Red Lake

The northern county of Beltrami is home to Red Lake. With 107,800 acres spread across two sections and a max depth of 273 feet, Red Lake is Minnesota’s largest natural freshwater lake. Visitors use the lake for fishing, swimming, boating, and camping. 

In the winter, you’ll be able to take advantage of the ice houses on the lake that allow you to fish for crappie.

In the warmer months, you’ll find sturgeon, muskie, white sucker, and some of the largest northern pike in the state.

Nearby accommodations include several resorts and campgrounds nearby.

Sand Lake

Sand Lake is a 4,328-acre lake in the Deer River that provides excellent fishing for all skill levels.

Despite its 70-foot max depth, Sand Lake offers a lot of bays and shallows with steep drop-offs that are the perfect hiding spots for walleye, so it might be wise to invest in a fish finder.

The varied water temperatures throughout the lake make a good home for jumbo perch, crappie, panfish, and various bass species.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources stocks the lake each year to ensure healthy populations and good catches. 

Snelling Lake

Snelling Lake sits on 101 acres in Fort Snelling State Park in Hennepin County. It’s only 9.5 feet at its deepest point, making it the most shallow lake on the list.

It’s an excellent spot for shore, wade, or boat fishing. However, only canoes and kayaks are allowed. All motorized crafts are prohibited. 

You’ll have good luck finding yellow bullhead, pumpkinseed, northern pike, and bluegill at Snelling Lake.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any accommodations or camping areas in Fort Snelling State Park, but you’ll find plenty of places to stay in the nearby Twin Cities. 

Lake Kabetogama

Lake Kabetogama is another lake that stretches along the Canadian border. It encompasses 24,034 acres and has 190.5 miles of shoreline inside the boundaries of Voyageurs National Park.

It’s part of the Large Lake program, which ensures fish populations are healthy and water quality is high.

Shore and boat fishing are both popular at Lake Kabetogama. In addition, motorboats are welcome on the water.

You’ll find a decent walleye population, as well as high populations of yellow perch, sauger, and northern pike.

Northern pike over 40 inches are common catches, so if you want to hook a larger fish, Lake Kabetogama is the place to do it.

Leech Lake

Leech Lake is a 110,309-acre lake just outside Walker in Cass County. The average depth is 18 feet, although Leech Lake reaches 150 feet at its deepest point.

With 232.6 miles of shoreline, the size and varied species within this lake make it one of the top fishing destinations in Minnesota.

Leech Lake’s bays, coves, islands, and inlets are especially plentiful in the summer for bass. You’ll also find bluegill, sunfish, and muskies.

If you want to camp nearby, there are campgrounds in the area. There’s access to places for shore, dock, and boat fishing. 

Spider Lake

Named for its odd shape, Spider Lake is a 1,392-acre lake in the wilderness of Chippewa National Forest.

Its 20.6 miles of largely untouched shoreline offer serenity and seclusion. It has a 36-foot maximum depth and is home to a wide range of fish species.

You won’t have any problem snagging crappie, bluegill, perch, and large and smallmouth bass on Spider Lake.

If you want an excellent walleye catch, you’re in luck because the lake gets a fresh stock of walleye fry every three years.

Just remember that there’s a slot limit of 24-36 inches. The nearby Spider Lake Resort offers cabins, boat rentals, and water access. 

White Bear Lake

White Bear Lake is known throughout Minnesota as one of the best places to catch crappie, muskie, and largemouth bass.

This 1,314-acre lake has 13.57 miles of shoreline and an 83-foot max depth. However, the average depth is only 18 feet, giving you a wide depth range.

Located in Ramsay county, White Bear Lake has two public fishing piers. In addition, you’ll find boat access at Ramsay County Beach, Matoska Park, and White Bear Docking. White Bear Lake is also a popular ice fishing spot for walleye.

Lake Winnibigoshish

Fondly dubbed Lake Winnie by the locals, Lake Winnibigoshish is a 56,471-acre lake that spans Cass and Itasca counties.

It has 141 miles of shoreline and a max depth of 69 feet. This lake is located only 30 minutes from Grand Rapids and is home to the record-breaking 54-pound muskie. 

With an average depth of 15 feet, Lake Winnie is known as a top walleye destination. However, you’re likely to come across a few bullhead, bluegill, perch, and bass.

If you want to camp during your trip, Winnie Campground in the Chippewa National Forest is nearby. Just keep in mind that there’s a size limit for catches. You can only bring home one fish over 23 inches. 

Shagawa Lake

Superior National Forest lies in northeastern Minnesota. Within its boundaries, you’ll find Shagawa Lake, a 2,345-acre freshwater lake that’s a prime fishing location.

With a depth of 48 feet and 23.4 miles of shoreline, this lake is perfect for catching northern pike, walleye, and various bass species, among others. 

Boat rentals are available nearby in Ely, so if boat fishing is on your itinerary, you’ll find what you need there.

Ely also offers plenty of accommodations, including rentals and resorts, if you plan to stay awhile. Or, you can camp in Superior National Forest near the shores of the lake.

Lake Vermilion

Lake Vermillion is one of the most scenic lakes in the United States. Located in Minnesota’s Arrowhead Region, this lake offers 40,000 acres of water with 313 miles of shoreline and 365 islands.

It has an average depth of 25 feet, with a maximum depth of 76 feet.

The most common species you’ll catch at Lake Vermillion are small and largemouth bass, crappie, and some other great game fish.

If you want to stay on the lake, you’ll have your pick of cabins and resorts nearby as well as someone to show you around the lake.

Final Thoughts

Minnesota is dotted with lakes prime for fishing. So whether you’re looking to catch a record-breaking pike or just bring home dinner for the night, the perfect lake for you is probably on this list. 

A final note. When you leave, keep an eye out for invasive species, including zebra mussels, faucet snails, spiny water fleas, and watermilfoil.

They can hitch a ride on your boat or gear, so make sure to clean everything off before you head home.

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