5 Prime Ice Fishing Destinations in the U.S.

Drop a line at some of the country's best fisheries during the winter. 

5 Prime Ice Fishing Destinations in the U.S.
Photograph Courtesy of Fish With Jim Outfitters

When winter drops its icy fingers across the fisheries of the northern United States, ice anglers grab their augers and tip-ups and head for the hard water. There are many fine winter fisheries in the country’s upper latitudes—far too many to list them all—but here are a handful of prime ice fishing destinations in the United States.

Lake Champlain, VT

Lake Champlain, which lies on the border of Vermont and New York, is the sixth-largest lake in the United States. Despite its size, its narrowness and latitude mean that the lake generally freezes solid in the winter, making it an ideal destination for ice anglers. One of the reasons that Lake Champlain is such a big ice fishing draw is the wide variety of species that make their home in the lake. Ice anglers can expect to see northern pike, trout, salmon, lake trout, walleye, and panfish, such as perch and crappie.

The North Hero House Inn and Restaurant in North Hero, Vermont, offers accommodations right on the lake, as well as ice fishing packages. If your looking for a more individualized guide service, Whitetail Strategies will get you out on the ice and put you on top of the fish.

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Devils Lake, ND

Devils Lake is the largest natural body of water in the state of North Dakota and a premier destination for ice anglers. It’s known as the “Perch Capital of the World,” so those fishing on the frozen water of Devils Lake can expect to hook into perch, as well as walleye, northern pike, and white bass.

Stay at Woodland Resort, the only full-service, lakeside resort on Devils Lake. In addition to lodging, they offer an ice fishing package that includes fish houses with pre-drilled holes and bait for tip-ups. If you’re looking for a little extra help on the ice, hook up with Bry’s Guide Service to boost your chances of ending the day with a trophy or, at least, dinner.

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Mille Lacs Lake, MN

Every winter, there are enough fish houses moved out on to the ice of Mille Lacs Lake in central Minnesota to create a small municipality. Renowned as a smallmouth bass fishery, in winter months, anglers target the lake’s massive northern pike, walleye, and panfish like bluegill, crappie, and perch.

If you book accommodations at Chapman’s Mille Lacs Resort, you can also hire a guide directly from the resort. Guide packages range from semi-guided, on-your-own fishing—with equipment and advice provided—to fully-guided half-day, all-day, and overnight trips.

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Higgins Lake, MI

Higgins Lake is one of the largest natural lakes on Michigan’s lower peninsula and, along with its neighbor Houghton Lake, is a popular destination for hard water anglers. Winter anglers target species like lake trout, smelt, whitefish, perch, northern pile, and walleye.

Stay at Wakaigan Shores Resort on the North Bay of Houghton Lake, and just a few minutes down the road from Higgins Lake. Call up Fish with Jim Outfitters, and they’ll take you out on the ice and have you pulling fish through a hole in no time. 

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Lake Winnebago, WI

Lake Winnebago is a relatively-shallow lake, which means it freezes relatively easily, but it’s also the biggest lake entirely within the state of Wisconsin, which means there are plenty of ice fishing opportunities. The western side of the lake offers a lot of structure around which fish may suspend, while the eastern part of the lake is deeper and more habitable for fish in cold weather. Walleye and northern pike are the lake’s big winter draws, along with perch, crappie, white bass, and burbot.

In spite of the Lake Winnebago’s size, there are very few accommodations directly on the lake. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get waterfront lodging. Book a room at the Landing on the Wolf in Winneconne. It’s located on the banks of the Wolf River, between Lakes Winneconne and Butte des Morts and just a few minutes away from Lake Winnebago. Iceberg Guide Service will get you to the right spot on the ice.

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