Fishing might not be the pastime that immediately comes to mind when you picture winter in the United States, but this sport is a favorite for many Americans. Across the country, there are plenty of lakes to choose from for a lucrative ice fishing experience, complete with beautiful views.
Ice fishing brings new excitement to the traditional sport, with coldwater highlighting different species, varied techniques, and a community of people sharing a day out on the ice. Here are some of the best lakes to visit this winter.
1. Devil’s Lake, North Dakota
Devil’s Lake, located in North Dakota, is the perfect spot for a successful ice fishing trip this winter. Even though it's a popular location, there’s room for everyone because the lake is an astonishing 180,000 acres, with an abundant fish population. You can catch plenty of walleye and perch here. If those aren’t biting, there’s always the pike. The lake’s location provides a long ice fishing season, averaging mid-December to March each year, so you’ll have plenty of time to check it out.
2. Lake Michigan, Michigan
Much of the ice fishing on Lake Michigan is limited to the bays and harbors, along with the shorelines, and those farthest north provide the most extended season as they are the first to freeze. Known as one of North America’s best spots for the coldwater game fish, ice fishing in Michigan provides an opportunity to catch salmon and trout.
Early mornings are the best time to catch one, not only for the increase in fish activity but also for the spectacular view and serene atmosphere.
3. Antero Reservoir, Colorado
Antero Reservoir is relatively shallow but is home to tons of fish for winter fishing, including rainbow trout, brown trout, snake river cutthroats, and kokanee salmon. They grow quickly because of the lake’s immensely fertile environment and the sizable freshwater shrimp population.
Always check that the ice is thick enough before you begin fishing—there are freshwater springs that can impact ice stability and thickness.
4. Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin
Ice fishing on Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin is a fulfilling experience, with walleye, perch, white bass, and sturgeon populations active during the winter months. Lake Winnebago is a popular location, so don’t be afraid to move away from large groups forming on the central basin. Instead, start two to three miles off the east or west shores for best results.
5. Lake Champlain, Vermont
The premier fishing spot in Vermont is undoubtedly Lake Champlain. The lake is 120 miles long and full of landlocked salmon, northern pike, lake trout, yellow perch, white perch, walleye, and crappie. With such a variety, you’re sure to have an exciting ice fishing trip.
6. Silver Lake, California
This lake is a must-visit for ice fishing, not just for the fish but also for the views. A clear mountain lake with large rocks, some shallows, and tree-lined shores, Silver Lake is beautiful in summer and winter. One of the few lakes in southern California that freezes enough for ice fishing in the winter, Silver Lake is known for having an abundance of good-sized trout.
7. Oneida Lake, New York
Located north of Syracuse, Oneida Lake is a great place for catching yellow trout during the ice fishing season, notably in Big Bay. Winter bass fishing is also prevalent at Oneida Lake with bass fishing tournaments held throughout the year. You can find large and smallmouth bass here in abundance, so, if you’ve never fished for bass in the winter, it’s time to change your technique and get ready for a successful ice fishing trip.
8. Strawberry Reservoir, Utah
Strawberry Reservoir is Utah’s most popular fishery and, in the winter months, it’s a great spot to fish through the ice. The best time to go ice fishing here is at the beginning of the season when the ice is new and the fish are plentiful. This spot is renowned for its trout population, and the rainbow trout stocked in the reservoir are sterile, so there is no cross-breeding with pure-strain Cutthroats.
Kokanee salmon also swim in these waters and are perfect for catching on your ice fishing trip as well. Heavy snowfall makes it possible to access your favorite ice fishing spots by snowmobile during the winter months.
9. Fort Peck Reservoir, Montana
Fort Peck is Montana’s top reservoir for ice fishing and home to more than 50 fish species, including northern pike, walleye, lake trout, and sauger. This is a hot-spot for anglers because of the large size of the fish and the high probability of making a good catch. Tip-ups are the recommended method for fishing Fort Peck Lake, with a maximum of six allowed per angler. Each one requires an ALS number you’ll receive when purchasing your Montana license.
10. Lake of the Woods, Minnesota
This lake, which is also partially in Canada, is growing in popularity each year as word of mouth travels about ice anglers’ success. Perch, northern pike, and sturgeon can all be found in this winter sports community bustling with resorts and ice roads that make your visit comfortable. Ice roads make the journey onto the lake simple, with dedicated teams keeping them groomed and smooth.
The Key to Success
The United States is full of lakes ideal for ice fishing in the winter months, so there’s no reason for the cold weather to keep you indoors. On the contrary, this winter sport can be a relaxing and social way to get fresh air and fresh fish during the coldest season.
Dressing warmly and ensuring you have the proper equipment and a state fishing license are essential steps to preparing for your epic ice fishing adventure. Patience and perseverance are two of the most critical qualities it takes to be successful with fishing. In these stunning locations across America, you certainly won’t mind sitting and waiting for as long as it takes the fish to bite. For more ice fishing tips and delicious fish recipes, explore the Mossy Oak website.