Minneapolis lakes offer the same great fishing in the winter months as they do in the warm seasons. Methods and equipment needed to catch fish differ on frozen lakes, though, as well as the locations to find feeding fish.

All Minneapolis boat launches make great access points to drop gear close to the water’s edge. Ice augers, scoops and warm clothes are a necessity to participate in this Minnesota tradition. Your local bait shop can help you find the “hotspots” and share techniques specific to the fish you’re after.

To learn more about a lake you plan to fish, and for maps, netting reports and consumption advisories, visit the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR).

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ice fishing


Characteristics: light-sensitive; can be caught with live bait; bobbers or jigging also work well

Best Spots: aggressive fish can be found near weed lines on hard bottoms located near deeper water

Best Time: dawn and dusk

Best Method: start with aggressive jigging and work your way down to subtle taps – usually you will find something in between works

Typical Tackles:

  • slip bobber rig
  • jigging spoon
  • 6-8 lb. line
  • hooked minnow
  • variety of colors

Northern Pike 

Characteristics: tend to be loners

Best Spots: anywhere in the water column; fishing one to four feet just below the ice is a good place to start

Best Method: use “tip-ups” with large minnows


Characteristics: easy to catch and provide a nice sporting fight; hard to find – crappies tend to school together and wander all over the lakes they inhabit

Typical Tackles:

  • small split shot
  • crappie minnow
  • small bobber
  • small hook
  • light action ice fishing rod

Frozen lakes are never 100% safe.

You can’t judge the strength of ice just by its:

  • appearance
  • age
  • thickness
  • temperature
  • whether or not the ice is covered with snow

Strength is based on all the above factors, plus:

  • depth of water under the ice
  • size of the water body
  • water chemistry
  • currents
  • distribution of the load on the ice
  • local climatic conditions

We monitor the ice on lakes and when an area is judged unsafe, there will be “Thin Ice” warning signs posted. Do not enter these areas!

Visit MNDNR Ice Safety for guidelines, safety tips and emergency procedures.

  1. Neither the MNDNR nor the MPRB require a permit for a portable fish house.
  2. Fish houses must be occupied when they are on the lake and removed at the end of the day; overnighters are not allowed.
  3. Gas powered augers are legal to use; holes are limited to 10 inches in diameter.
  4. No one is allowed on city lakes between midnight and daylight of the following morning.
  5. The use of motorized vehicles (cars, trucks, ATVs, snowmobiles, etc.) is strictly prohibited on City Lakes. For more information call: 612-230-6400.