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The Complete Lake of the Woods Ice Fishing Guide

Lake of the Woods is one of the biggest freshwater inland lakes in the United States and spans not only parts of Minnesota, but also parts of Ontario and Manitoba. Its large and beautiful landscape makes it the perfect place for ice fishing!

Whether you already know a little bit about ice fishing and want to give it a try for the very first time or have never even heard of ice fishing before, Lake of the Woods has something for you! Keep reading to learn all about the tips and tricks for your Lake of the Woods ice fishing experience.

Fish You Might Catch on Lake of the Woods

There are so many different types of fish that you might catch when ice fishing on Lake of the Woods! Here’s a short list of some of the fish varieties you might encounter while taking part in Lake of the Woods ice fishing:

  • Walleye
  • Sauger
  • Trophy Northern Pike
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Jumbo Perch
  • Giant Lake Sturgeon

Because the lake is home to tons of fish species, if you get lucky, you might even catch more than one variety of fish during your Lake of the Woods ice fishing trip!

When to Go Ice Fishing on Lake of the Woods

As you’re planning your first Lake of the Woods ice fishing trip, you should take into consideration what time of year is best for you to book an excursion to Lake of the Woods.

Ice fishing season on Lake of the Woods generally begins early in December, and it typically wraps up at the end of March. Any point within that timespan is generally fair game for a Lake of the Woods ice fishing trip.

During daylight hours is the ideal time of day for ice fishing, especially for beginners. Daylight hours are also best because the lake’s water is stained, which makes it easier to see the fish during the day.

Fishing on Ice

Thinking about where exactly on the lake you might want to ice fish is another important component of planning your trip!

The lake’s western section is located in Minnesota and contains a lot of open water, while the eastern section is located in Canada and contains mostly islands. Therefore, it makes the most sense to stay on the western side of the lake.

What You Need to Wear

Before you even step foot on the ice, it’s crucial that you’re wearing the proper gear! Lake of the Woods ice fishing can be a chilly, wet, and windy experience, so proper clothing that will protect you from the elements is a must.

Generally speaking, wearing lots of layers is the number one rule regarding what you should wear for Lake of the Woods ice fishing! Layers will keep you warm and prevent your actual clothing from getting wet throughout the day.

These layers should include (but are definitely not limited to) a high-quality ice fishing bib and jacket.

An ice fishing bib is a protective piece of outerwear that covers your chest all the way down to your toes. It has two straps and goes over your clothes to keep your body warm. Really good ice fishing bibs are waterproof and may even have some flotation capabilities to keep you safe!

The jacket is fairly self-explanatory, but it will trap warmth inside your clothing and ideally, should also be waterproof!

Another item that you’ll need to wear is boots that are ideal for walking on the ice and in the snow. A boot that provides good traction so that you won’t slip and fall while walking is a key ice fishing accessory.

Where You Can Stay

There are plenty of places to stay when booking accommodations for your Lake of the Woods ice fishing trip! During ice fishing season, there are more than 50 accommodation options in the area for you to choose from.

You should pick your lodging depending on how close to the lake you want to stay as well as what kind of amenities you want to have available to you.

Keeping these factors in mind will help you have a pleasant Lake of the Woods ice fishing trip, both on and off the ice!

How much money you want to spend on an ice fishing trip is an important consideration. Prices usually go up on the weekends, so if you’re ice fishing on a budget, you may want to try and book a trip to Lake of the Woods during the week.

Sleeper Houses

Staying in a sleeper house is the perfect option for people who want to be as close to the action as possible!

Sleeper houses are small houses located on the lake itself, so you don’t have to transport yourself and your equipment on and off the ice every day.

Many of them contain equipment that allows you to cook meals, heat the sleeper houses, and keep lights on.

Lots of businesses that offer sleeper houses also provide porta-potties, and some of them are even heated. Lake of the Woods ice fishing has never seemed so glamorous!

Sleeper houses are the most bare-bones lodging option available to ice anglers, so you may want to stay somewhere different if roughing it isn’t your cup of tea.


Staying at a resort as a part of your Lake of the Woods ice fishing trip is a great option if camping isn’t really the thing for you!

At a resort, you can partake in a little bit of luxury without sacrificing the entire ice fishing experience. Usually, resorts will offer the option to transport guests to and from the lake each day, where guests can stay in day houses.

Day houses are similar to sleeper houses in terms of size and structure, but they have fewer amenities because you won’t be spending the night in them.


A hotel or cabin can offer similar amenities as resorts but often with lower price points.

This lodging option is a great in-between for people who don’t want the environment of a sleeper house but don’t also quite prefer to pay the big bucks for a resort!

The biggest difference between a hotel or cabin and a resort is that you’re often on your own when it comes to equipment and scouting out an ice fishing location.

In this situation, it’s super important to pay attention to your outfitters’ guidance and ask lots of questions so that you have the right equipment and are able take the proper safety precautions.

How to Choose a Fishing Hole Location

Lake of the Woods is one of the biggest freshwater inland lakes in the United States, so it definitely won’t be hard for you to find a place to go ice fishing!

There are a few different factors that you may want to keep in mind when scouting out a Lake of the Woods ice fishing location.

The first consideration is finding the safest location possible to do your fishing. Because Lake of the Woods is so big, the condition of the ice isn’t the same all the way across it, so it’s important to rely on the advice of the ice fishing experts who know the lake well.

Ice Fishing Hole

To test the thickness of the ice for its safety, drill a small hole and hook a tape measure onto the bottom of one side of the ice. You’ll need at least four inches of clear ice for the ice to be safe to walk on. Check out this guide from the Minnesota DNR for more information!

Lake of the Woods ice fishing is a totally different experience depending on what spot you choose! Therefore, you might also want to take into account what kind of fish you’re hoping to catch because each part of the lake is home to a larger number of certain fish types than other parts.

How to Keep Yourself Safe While Ice Fishing

A lot of the strategies to keep yourself safe while ice fishing are common sense for all outdoor winter activities. However, there are also a few pieces of advice that are more specific to Lake of the Woods ice fishing.

One of the most important safety tips is to stay warm! Utilize the gear discussed in the “What You Need to Wear” section and layer up.

If you’re staying in a heated sleeper house or day house, be sure to take advantage of the heating options available to you.

Throughout your ice fishing trip, following guidance from the experts on ice and other weather-related conditions is a must. Whether it’s the guides from the resort you’re staying at or the outfitters where you got your gear, these experts know what’s up and are here to help you!

Finally, it’s essential that you pay attention to fishing limits. Lake of the Woods has a certain number of each type of fish you’re allowed to take from the lake, as well as a maximum length of fish that you can keep.

Follow these guidelines as you’re fishing so that you don’t violate Lake of the Woods protocol and accidentally contribute to overfishing. Here’s where you can find more information about these regulations.

Pay attention to these important safety guidelines, and you’ll be on your way to a safer and more enjoyable Lake of the Woods ice fishing experience!

Learning All About Lake of the Woods Ice Fishing

With 45 miles of shoreline and a total area the size of Rhode Island, Lake of the Woods is ideal for any ice angler. After reading this guide, you should be on your way to a successful first ice fishing trip to Lake of the Woods!

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!

Love spending time outside? Then discover the Minnesota Outdoors to continue learning new ways to reconnect with nature!

Looking for Minnesota winter inspiration? Check out our Minnesota winter guide for activity ideas, winter apparel suggestion, and endless ways to enjoy the snow!