Time to enjoy Minnesota’s walleye and northern pike fishing

By C.B. Bylander

May 01, 2018

Minnesota’s northern pike and walleye seasons open in May and continue into February 2019. Here’s some helpful advice for walleye and pike anglers.

Minnesota’s walleye and northern pike seasons open May, and you’ll certainly want to have a fishing regulation booklet with you.

That’s because northern pike limits on inland waters have changed greatly. 

The long-time statewide limit of three is gone. Instead, a new three zone approach is in place. Zone management means the size and number of fish you can keep depends upon your location. This regulation change has the potential to provide you and others anglers with many more meals of fish. 


Because in the immense north-central zone, for example, the new limit has more than tripled to 10. The new regulation allows you to keep two northern pike longer than 26 inches and up to 10 pike less than 22 inches. This is being done as part of a long-term effort to improve the size quality of pike in this part of the state. In southern Minnesota a new regulation aims to increase low pike numbers and in northeast Minnesota a new regulations will protect existing large fish. The northeast is where large northern pike are most common.
In practical terms, the new northern pike regulations means the majority of state now has a northern pike limit of 10. The 10-fish zone is a huge. It includes some 1,673 lakes in the North-Central Zone from the Twin Cities area northward, including such popular angling destinations as the Aitkin, Bemidji, Brainerd, Park Rapids and Walker areas. The only part of central and northern Minnesota not included in the 10-fish zone is the so-called Arrowhead Region of the northeast, which lies east of U.S. Highway 53. The new zone regulations do not apply to waters with special northern pike regulations or abut Canada, Wisconsin, Iowa and the Dakotas. 
You can find the northern pike zone map on-line. Exact length and possession limit information in the 2018 fishing regulations. Northern pike spearing regulations are slightly different from angling regulations so be sure to check those out if you spear. 

As for walleyes, not much is new this year. A stubborn winter has significantly delayed traditional ice-out dates, which means early season anglers will likely be fishing shallower than normal or perhaps presenting baits a little slower than normal, too. Fishing should be good again on the state’s large walleye lakes. Large lakes known for their walleyes include Lake of the Woods, Upper Red Lake, Vermillion, Leech and Winnibigoshish.

Learn more about how you can get your MN fishing license before your next trip.
C.B. Bylander
C.B. Bylander
C.B. Bylander is a long-time Minnesota angler who has extensive fishing experience throughout the state. He is a former outdoor magazine field editor, daily newspaper outdoor editor and Department of Natural Resources fisheries communication specialist.