As temperatures drop and snow rolls in, Minnesota transforms into a wonderland for anglers looking to catch bass, walleye, and panfish. Ice houses begin to dot the frozen lakes, and outdoor enthusiasts head out to fish in these temporary shanties. Winter weather doesn’t mean you have to be stuck inside, and an ice fishing trip means time to bond with friends and loved ones who can’t wait to start fishing with you. Below, we’ll cover what months the ice fishing season in Minnesota spans. After we break it down month by month, you’ll know the best time for ice fishing in Minnesota.
Ice fishing is an exciting thrill for new anglers. Cutting a hole through the ice with an auger and then fishing through the ice to catch a fish is a lot of fun, and you’ll likely remember your early attempts for the rest of your life. If you’ve never been ice fishing before, it’s essential to learn from an experienced angler. Services like guided tours will cover how to drill through the ice, what equipment is needed to start ice fishing, and how to catch a fish.
While we can definitely advise you on the best time for ice fishing in Minnesota, booking a guided tour can fill in the rest of the knowledge gaps to make ice fishing relaxing, fun, and approachable for inexperienced anglers. Ice fishing season in Minnesota spans from January to March, when the ice is thicker than four inches.
What is Ice Fishing?
When the lakes freeze over, native Minnesotans trek out onto the lakes and make whole ice shanty communities to fish. Even still, many go out with only a fishing pole, a hand-operated auger, and a lure to catch some fish for a few hours. Ice fishing is drilling through thick ice to fish underneath it, and Minnesota has made it an art. Whole resorts and guide services offer gear rentals and comfortable, pre-heated ice houses for anyone who wants a good time. Pre-heated ice houses can make any winter month the best time for ice fishing in Minnesota.
You’ll need to buy or rent gear if you’re new to ice fishing:
- Slush scoop
- A machine or hand-powered Auger
- Bait and fish bucket
- Warm clothing with layers
Summer fishing poles can be too stiff for ice fishing and won’t work if you’re in an ice house. Depending on how many holes you will dig, weighing a machine or hand-powered auger is essential. Ensure your gear is water-resistant and that you don’t over-layer.
A Note On Safety
As with any ice fishing venture, make sure you know how much ice is safe. A day or two of frost will not build up enough ice to support the weight of you, your fish, and all your gear. Ice fishing accidents are rare because experienced anglers exercise caution and common sense. The rule of thumb is that ice is safe to walk on when it reaches four inches thick. However, that’s only the standard for clear ice. Cloudy ice must have at least six inches before venturing out onto it.
Always take safety seriously on the ice. Familiarize yourself with the signs of hypothermia:
- Exhaustion or feeling tired
- Fumbling hands
- Memory loss
- Slurred speech
Ice fishing is a physical activity. It’s essential to know the signs of hypothermia and not over-exert yourself. Staying safe on the ice should always be your top priority. A heated ice house can alleviate the stress for anyone new to the sport. Consider giving one a try.
The Ice Fishing Seasons
Here’s what you should know to prepare for ice fishing season:
The real kick-off of ice fishing season is in January. The Department of Natural Resources in Minnesota even offers a Take a Kid Ice Fishing trial where residents can fish or spearfish for free when accompanied by a child 15 or under. It’s an excellent way to try it out before investing heavily in gear. While it might be dark and cold outside, holed up in a warm ice fishing house in January makes for a great time–everywhere you look, ice fishing is in full swing. January is the best time for ice fishing in Minnesota, and it can lead to some great catches.
February is the last month of walleye season for many of the inland waters of Minnesota. Each fish species has an open season, but only some carry a closed-season label. Lake Minnetonka has a chance of big fish in February. The ice fishing season in Minnesota during February ice fishing is winding down slowly but isn’t entirely done yet, and there are still a few more ice fishing trips to get in. It’s not the best time for ice fishing in Minnesota, but February can come close.
March’s ice conditions can impact access to the lakes. It can shut the season out early when the ice starts to break down because of an early thaw. March, however, can bring excitement for many anglers. Some parts of Minnesota allow ice houses until March 31st, but you’ll find that in others, they must be removed by March 21st or earlier. Be sure to check the rules of your location.
March is known as a great season for catching sunfish and perch. Since March is a transition period for many fish species, they can move miles away from where they were. This causes a need for additional food during those final stages of gestation and leads to a lot of bites in March. The warming temperatures mean the end of the ice fishing season in Minnesota.
The Winner: January
January is the best time to go ice fishing in Minnesota, but it isn’t the only month where you’ll have a great time. Ice fishing season in Minnesota can stretch to March with the right weather and thick ice.
If you’re new to ice fishing and want to know more, try booking an experienced guide like Set the Hook before you head out on the ice. The best time for ice fishing in Minnesota can be from when the lakes freeze over to the end of the season, and each trip leads to great memories.