Minnesota has long been known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, but which of these bodies of water are considered the best panfish lakes in Minnesota?
Whether you’re an expert angler or a water enthusiast, this great state has panfish in abundance. Keep reading to learn more about the 23 best spots to find panfish!
Best Panfish Lakes in Minnesota: Northwest Region
1. Long Lost Lake
Spanning just 500 acres, Clearwater County’s Long Lost Lake is an unlikely contender for one of the best panfish lakes in Minnesota. Yet, anglers have historically had success with bluegill, black crappie, and yellow perch since the early 1990s.
The lake’s water level has been steadily rising over the past few years to provide a large natural habitat for all types of panfish.
2. Red Lake
Before its walleye population crashed during the mid-1990s, the 107,000-acre Red Lake was known as one of the state’s largest walleye fisheries.
Today, however, it has evolved into one of the best panfish lakes in Minnesota. Anglers are able to target not only walleye and northern pike but also smaller panfish — including crappie and bluegill.
Best Panfish Lakes in Minnesota: Northeast Region
3. Lake Winnibigoshish
Affectionately known as “Big Winnie”, Lake Winnibigoshish has been a staple of Minnesota fishing for well over 100 years.
With an average depth of 15 feet across 67,000 acres of water, Winnibigoshish is home to multiple types of panfish — namely, yellow perch. When you’re not out on the water, be sure to check out the wildlife throughout the surrounding Chippewa National Forest.
4. Knife Lake
Boasting an average depth of just nine feet and a maximum depth of only 15 feet, Knife Lake’s shallow and murky waters are a prime source of crappie, bluegill, yellow perch, and other panfish.
It’s worth noting that, although the lake is primarily regulated for walleye and northern pike, secondary species include various panfish.
5. Cut Foot Sioux Lake
Truly an angler’s paradise, Cut Foot Sioux Lake spans 2,768 acres and is connected to both Lake Winnibigoshish and Little Cut Foot Sioux Lake. What’s more, the lake is equipped with a private boat ramp and plenty of docking space for your boat.
Because Cut Foot Sioux Lake is known primarily for its walleye fishing, you may be able to take advantage of the lake’s abundance of crappie and perch that often go unnoticed.
6. Lake Vermilion
Although Lake Vermilion has long been known for its trophy walleye fishing, anglers have seen bluegill, crappie, and other panfish populations steadily grow in recent years — to the point where it is now considered one of the best panfish lakes in Minnesota.
When visiting Vermilion, however, be sure to abide by the lake’s 10-fish and 20-fish possession limits for crappie and bluegill, respectively.
7. Leech Lake
The third-largest lake in the entire state, Leech Lake spans over 111,000 acres and possesses 230 miles of beautiful shoreline.
As you would imagine with a lake of its size, Leech boasts an impressive maximum depth of 150 feet. With that said, approximately 80% of the lake has a depth of 35 feet or less — providing a habitat for perch, crappie, bluegill, and sunfish.
8. Sand Lake
Sand Lake is not only one of the best panfish lakes in Minnesota but also one of the state’s best crappie lakes, more specifically.
In addition to crappie, the 4,328-acre lake is home to rock bass, bluegill, yellow perch, and a variety of other panfish.
9. Loon Lake
Despite being roughly 60 acres in size, the diminutive Loon Lake keeps a large number of bluegill, green sunfish, hybrid sunfish, and pumpkinseed stocked.
It’s worth keeping in mind, however, that lake parking is very limited. Anglers need to show up early in the morning to reserve their spots out on the water.
10. Rainy Lake
Although the body of water spans 360 square miles, Rainy Lake straddles the United States-Canada border and roughly 30% of the lake lies in Minnesota.
Surrounded by the state’s only national park, Voyageur National Park, Rainy Lake is an outdoor enthusiast’s personal nirvana. It is also a hotspot for a variety of panfish— crappie, especially.
Best Panfish Lakes in Minnesota: Central Region
11. Lake Osakis
Widely considered one of the best panfish lakes in Minnesota, Lake Osakis and its 6,000-acre waters are filled with crappie, bluegill, yellow perch, sunfish, and small bass.
What’s more, the lake’s southwest shores are lined with dozens of great restaurants, shops, and attractions — making it one of Minnesota’s top family vacation spots each year.
12. Maple Lake
In addition to being a peaceful resort community located roughly 45 miles outside of the Twin Cities area, Maple Lake is known to many anglers as one of the best panfish lakes in Minnesota.
While this small, 777-acre, spring-fed lake is often overlooked, make no mistake — plenty of yellow perch, black crappie, bluegill, and other panfish abound within its waters.
13. Lake Minnewaska
Central Minnesota’s Lake Minnewaska is yet another popular fishing location, a 7,100-acre body of water accompanied by 18 miles of gorgeous shoreline.
Anglers have success with multiple species of panfish — namely, perch, crappie, and various types of sunfish — and enjoy convenient access to Minnewaska’s waters via two separate boat ramp locations.
14. Fish Trap Lake
The 1,164-acre Fish Trap Lake is somewhat of a melting pot when it comes to fishing. Anglers can expect to encounter bullhead, walleye, darter, pike, bass, and countless other species when traversing its waters.
In recent years, however, management has placed a strong emphasis on black crappie and bluegill so that it is now one of the best panfish lakes in Minnesota. So, plan your visit to Fish Trap to get your fix of larger species and smaller panfish alike!
15. Little Sauk Lake
Tucked away in central Minnesota’s Todd County, Little Sauk Lake offers a mere 277 acres of water with an average depth of 12 feet. Despite its miniature size, Little Sauk boasts a variety of panfish — including yellow perch, bluegill, black crappie, green sunfish, and hybrid sunfish.
Keep in mind, however, that the lake has a very strict five-fish possession limit for most species of panfish.
16. Annie Battle Lake
At 354-acre Annie Battle Lake, plenty of black crappies, bluegill, perch, and sunfish swim below the water’s surface.
Unfortunately, Annie Battle Lake does not have a boat ramp, and both gas and electric motors are prohibited. As a result, most anglers are forced to fish primarily from the docks and shoreline.
17. Little Rock Lake
Little Rock Lake is a 1,310-acre body of water located in Benton County. Although the lake keeps bluegill, white crappie, yellow perch, and other panfish stocked year-round, it’s worth noting that it also experiences severe algae blooms during the summertime.
Anglers who visit Little Rock Lake during the early spring, however, can take advantage of better conditions!
18. Big Stone Lake
Big Stone Lake is one of the state’s most beloved fishing spots, offering 12,600 acres of water and close to 60 miles of shoreline.
Named after the abundance of large rocks and boulders that lie at the bottom of the lake, Big Stone Lake provides the perfect habitat for all sorts of panfish — including crappie, rock bass, yellow perch, and others.
19. Pebble Lake
Otter Tail County’s Pebble Lake is a 170-acre body of water located less than three miles from Fergus Falls. The lake boasts a maximum depth of 62 feet and possesses exceptional water clarity.
While Pebble Lake is best known for its high-density northern pike population, it is also one of the best panfish lakes in Minnesota. Both bluegill and black crappie are among the lake’s most dominant species.
Best Panfish Lakes in Minnesota: Metro and Southeast Regions
20. Spider Lake
Home to 1,349 acres of water and 20 miles of shoreline, the irregularly shaped Spider Lake boasts plenty of bays and inlets where panfish can be found.
In addition to walleye, pike, largemouth bass, and other large fish, anglers are known to have success with sunfish, perch, bluegill, and one of the lake’s most targeted species — black crappie.
21. Lake Fannie
Although relatively small at roughly 360 acres, Lake Fannie is a popular spot for not only walleye and northern pike but also black crappie and yellow perch. It has quickly risen to become one of the best panfish lakes in Minnesota.
The lake’s public landing is located at the northeast end, giving anglers access to the water and its six miles of pristine shoreline.
22. Cedar Lake
Part of Minneapolis’s Chain of Lakes, Cedar Lake offers a quiet getaway from the bustling Twin Cities experience.
Its 169 acres and 51-foot maximum depth are populated with an abundance of small bluegill. Other notable panfish species include green sunfish, yellow perch, and pumpkinseed.
23. Chester Lake
While Olmstead County’s Chester Lake is one of the smallest panfish lakes in Minnesota at roughly 120 acres, the body of water was stocked with more than 2,500 panfish between 1996 and 1997.
As the miniature lake is somewhat of a hidden gem, anglers can take advantage of the lack of competition for panfish.
Time to Visit the Best Panfish Lakes in Minnesota
Whether you want to try your hand at Minnesota fishing or you’re planning a family lake trip in the coming months, be sure to pay a visit to one of the best panfish lakes in Minnesota.
Learn about many other Minnesota lakes and water-related activities on our MN Lake Life page!
Want to learn more about fishing, discover more fishing spots, and or read up on the best fishing gear? Then continue your fishing adventure with our comprehensive guides, info posts, and more!
- About the Author
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Born in Madelia, MN, to a now 5-generation Minnesota family, Ryan’s MN roots go deep.
A painter by day, Ryan founded Life in Minnesota in 2013 with his wife Kelly to chronicle their musings on everything Minnesota. Ryan and Kelly are raising their 7 kiddos in Maple Grove, MN.
When he’s not shuttling his kids around to hockey practice, you might find him in the shop working on his leatherwork. Undoubtedly, there will be a family trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area every summer, and of course weekends at Grandpa’s cabin up north in the summer.