BlogJanuary 2017

Best Places to Ice Fish

Best Places to Ice Fish

By Tom Keer

Jan 19, 2017

Tremendous fish are regularly hauled through the ice in the mid-west, in the mid-Atlantic, and in New England.

If you're looking for a place where you can go ice fishing then you probably need to search far above the Mason-Dixon Line. While some consider the best ice fishing to be on the lakes in Minnesota, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, and the Dakotas are top picks, too. Any state that has below freezing temperatures for a prolonged period of time are target-rich environments, so don't rule out Southern New England, Pennsylvania, or the Mid-West. There are some tremendous fish caught in those states each year.

Why is it that the best ice fishing lakes are in Minnesota? Part of it is because the North Star State is also known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes. There are small, medium and large lakes that cater to casual, intermediate and expert ice fishermen, the diversity of the fish caught is tremendous, and the season is tremendously long. Ranked in the top ice fishing lakes in Minnesota are Lake of the Woods, Gull Lake, Lake Vermillion, and Upper and Lower Red Lake. It's tough to argue with the Walleye Capitol of the state.

But wait, what about other states for bass, white and yellow perch, pickerel, pike and crappie, and other fish, too? Two years ago a 30-pound Lake trout was pulled through the ice by an angler fishing from the Wisconsin side of Lake Superior. In 2015, a Pennsylvania angler hauled a 53-inch musky through the ice. And in 2016 a 33-pound pike was pulled up in Nebraska. Maybe those folks have some ice fishing tips they'd like to share....

Sometimes you have to make an effort to find places to fish, but my friend Ed Martin has about the sweetest set up I know. Ed lives on a lake in Michigan which means he, his daughter Jennifer Gillespi, and granddaughters Ava and Renae don't need to research where to go ice fishing. All they have to do is to look out of their living room window. Ed loads their ice fishing gear in a four-wheeler in the comfort of his warm garage and moments later is in the frozen tundra jigging for walleye, trout, bass and panfish. That's tough to beat, and from seeing their catches I doubt they'd agree that the best ice fishing lakes are in Minnesota...

Ice fishing can be as easy or as challenging as you want to make it. All you have to do is to go. Get your fishing license, some basic equipment and get started today.
Tom Keer
Tom Keer
Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at