December 5, 2023

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Minnesota Fishing season: The complete guide

Reading Time: 10 minutes

The Land of 10,000 Lakes guarantees an action-packed fishing experience. But can it promise year-round angling action? The short answer is yes!

The long answer, however, isn’t that simple. It requires an in-depth account of what each month has in store for you. For this reason, we’ll tell you more about Minnesota‘s fishing seasons. We’ll talk you through each month and each fish, so you know what’s biting when. Let’s dive in!

What can I expect from Minnesota’s fishing seasons?

Before we dive into each month individially, let’s take a moment to briefly explain Minnesota’s fishing seasons so you know what to expect.

Photo taken by Amaazen Outdoors

Outside Alaska, Minnesota is the northernmost state in the country and as such, its fishing opportunities are weather-dependent. This means ice-covered lakes in winter, changing water levels in spring, frequent temperature swings in fall, and even thunderstorms in summer.

Each season brings unique weather and a fresh set of challenges for anglers. But this doesn’t mean you won’t be able to enjoy angling throughout the entire year. On the contrary! There are fish species you can target year-round. It only means you should get familiar with their availability before you head out.

Minnesota’s Fishing Seasons Calendar

Knowing what each season can give you is crucial for being successful when fishing in Minnesota. With this in mind, we created a handy table containing the most popular species in the state and their month-by-month availability. This overview will help you set your expectations and plan your angling trip accordingly.

Among Minnesota’s beloved targets, you’ll find Walleye, Musky, Northern Pike, Lake Trout, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Salmon, Crappie, Perch, Sauger, Sturgeon, Catfish, Carp, Whitefish, and many more. These, however, are the ultimate catches we’ll focus on:

Species Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Lake Trout Good Good Good Closed Closed* Great Good Good Great Closed Closed Good
Crappie Good Good Good Great Great Great Good Good Great Great Good Good
Walleye Good Good Closed Closed* Great Great Good Good Great Great Good Good
Perch Good Good Good Great Great Good Good Good Great Great Good Good
Bass Weak Weak Closed Closed Good Great Great Great Great Great Good Weak
Musky Closed Closed Closed Closed Closed Great Great Great Great Great Great Good
Pike Great Great Closed Closed Closed* Great Good Good Great Great Good Good

*The season is partially closed or fishing is allowed but only catch-and-release is to be practiced

When is Minnesota’s best fishing season?

The answer to this question lies in your preferences. If you’re into ice fishing, then winter is the only season you need. If you’re more into Trout fly fishing, there’s no doubt that spring and fall will be your go-to fishing seasons. But in case you’re indecisive or you have some other species in mind, go through each month below and find out what Minnesota fishing season is best for you.


A photo of a proud angler wearing a cap and a pair of sunglasses while standing on Minnesota charter fishing boat and posing with a big Lake Trout in both hands
Photo taken by Legacy Angling

Whereas January might equal winter slumber elsewhere, it means quite the opposite in Minnesota. The first month of the year boasts excellent conditions for Lake Trout. Pack smelt-imitating lures and a strong, transparent-like leader are great choices if you want to outsmart these brutes.

January equals ice fishing, too. And whenever ice fishing is mentioned, the first place that comes to mind is Lake Superior. There are numerous spots along Highway 61 where you can park your car and ice fish on this Great Lake. Just keep in mind that Lake Superior never freezes entirely and that thickness may vary as you move away from the shore. So, safety first!


A photo of a female angler smiling while squatting on a charter boat and posing with a decent Pike caught in Minnesota on a cold day
Photo taken by RĒL Fishing

If you haven’t caught your winter trophy yet, there’s still time. The second month of the year offers equally satisfying catches and favorable conditions for ice fishing as January. Lake Trout are hungry and ready to bite anything you offer them from spoons and tube jigs to swim baits and bucktails. But the noisier, stinkier, and whiter the bait is, the more Lake Trout will be intrigued and tempted to attack.

Besides Lake Trout, you might want to see what fishing for Northern Pike in Minnesota during the winter season is all about. They’re among the largest and the most powerful fish in Minnesota. Pike are so widespread, that you can find them in almost every lake across the state. Plus, they make an excellent table fare, so it’s no wonder these line-breakers are so popular! If you want one for yourself, outplay this predator by using tip-up rigs and minnows.


A photo of an ice fishing angler squatting on a frozen lake in front of an ice fishing hut and posing with a decent Walleye caught in Minnesota during the winter fishing season
Photo taken by PJ’s Guide Services

March is a transitional period. This is the season when the snow starts to melt and the odds aren’t always in your favor for ice fishing. This doesn’t mean you can’t practice ice fishing anymore, but you should exercise the utmost caution. Alternatively, teaming up with a local guide might be the wisest decision as they know these waters (and ice!) like the back of their hands.

The general rule of thumb is that the more northern the lake, the longer it will offer ice fishing. Lake of the Woods, for example, is your best bet. But truth be told, if you want to fish in Minnesota, March might not be the best time to do so. Besides unstable weather, many species like Walleye, Bass, Musky, and Pike are off-limits or are catch-and-release only.


A photo of a kid posing with Crappie he caught and trying to kiss it while he is holding it up in the air with one hand
Photo taken by Muskies And More Guide Service

Spring is the ideal period to shift your focus from massive targets like Pike, Walleye, and Musky to smaller species like Perch and Crappie. They make up a big portion of Minnesota’s angling scene. Did you know that Crappie are the second all-time favorite among anglers in Minnesota, preceded only by Walleye? They’re available throughout the entire year but April, May, and June are when these species really get to shine.

So, if angling in April in Minnesota is on your mind, prepare to kick off the spring fishing season with some delicious Panfish. They’ll be easy to locate this time of year as they swim in shallow waters up to 4 feet along the shoreline. While this makes them the perfect fly fishing targets in spring, they also hide around sunken trees, making your hunt with a fly rod more challenging. As for lures, grab their attention with spinnerbaits and then proceed with small 1/8 or 1/16 oz jigs.


A photo of an angler standing on a charter fishing boat and posing with three Bass catches in his hands during late spring
Photo taken by Livin’ The Dream Guide Service

Crappie and Perch are going still strong in May. Lakes Mille Lacs, Minnetonka, and Winnibigoshish are just some of the most popular hotspots for these fish. Lake Minnetonka, in particular, is famous for its healthy and abundant Crappie population. In fact, the lake is so fish-filled, that the annual Crappie contest, the Minnesota Bound, takes place here! So, if you’re in doubt about where to go in May, hit Lake Minnetonka and you won’t regret it.

The second half of the month, however, revives Lake Trout and introduces new names such as Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass. Lake Mille Lacs is one of the larger bodies of water that’s home to both Smallmouth and Largemouth varieties. You won’t go wrong if you opt for it as your go-to Bass location. Just remember that even though the Bass season opens in mid-May, they’re strictly catch-and-release until the end of the month.


A photo of an angler in their twenties standing on a charter fishing boat and posing with a big Musky caught in Minnesota during the early summer angling season
Photo taken by Muskies And More Guide Service

Early summer is all about multiple options. You can catch anything from Crappie, Perch, and Bass to Lake Trout, Walleye, Musky, and Pike. Locating them, however, won’t be as simple as is the case with springtime fish. With the temperatures gradually rising, the fish are slowly but surely moving away from the shallows.

Lake Trout, for example, reach for cool waters and depths over 40 feet in summer. To get your hands on them, you should employ downriggers or wire lines along with crankbaits and spoons. Rest assured, even though you have to work a bit smarter to land your trophy fish, the prize catches are just around the corner. Early summer is well-known for its brag-worthy Musky. In fact, a new catch-and-release state record for Musky was landed in June 2022 on Mille Lacs Lake!


A photo of an angler standing on a charter boat and posing with a big Smallmouth Bass caught in a river in summer
Photo taken by Amaazen Outdoors

The summer fishing season in Minnesota is anything but dull. Similar to June, July boasts a variety of underwater residents. But if you want to choose one species to focus on, go for Bass. This is the prime time for Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass fishing on the open waters. More than 2,000 lakes are brimming with Largemouth and over 500 lakes with Smallmouth Bass, so there’s Bass everywhere you look.

Summer Bass get hungrier by the day and they’ll gulp just about anything you toss their way. Crankbaits, however, yield the best results. They allow you to work quickly and cover the lake more effectively. And if you prefer river fishing to the open lake waters, you can always hit the Mississippi, St. Croix, Zumbro, or Cloquet Rivers for a superb Bass experience. All in all, some serious rod-bending battles are in the cards in July.


A photo of two anglers standing on a charter fishing boat and posing with three decent Bass catches landed in the peak of summer
Photo taken by PJ’s Guide Service

The hottest month of the year brings dog days. While all the sought-after species are still swimming around Minnesota’s fisheries, August isn’t the most promising month for trophy catches and overflowing coolers. The high temperatures and hot weather make fish seek shelter. In turn, fishing can be slow and tough.

But if you’re up for a challenge, then the peak of summer might just be the right time for you to cast your line. Most anglers who decide to fish in August in Minnesota, go for Bass. They lurk around ambush-like structures such as submerged timber or near the break lines. One of the most effective ways to lure summertime Bass out of their hiding is to use deep-diving crankbaits.


A photo of an angler wearing a pair of sunglasses and a cap while squatting on a charter boat and posing with a trophy Walleye
Photo taken by Livin’ The Dream Guide Service

Unlike August, September is anything but slow. Prepare for tight lines and screaming reels as the fishing is on fire! Late summer and early fall are the prime fishing seasons in Minnesota. The temperatures are lower, the fish are getting hungrier and more active during the day, and trophy catches start populating the area. Plus, you can get almost any fish from the menu as they’re all up for grabs!

As they prepare for winter, the fish will feed heavily and are likely to feast on your bait. With no need to overthink your presentation, you can focus on the area you want to explore. The Rainy River will treat you to the annual Walleye run. Lake Superior is the go-to place to witness Trout and Salmon migration. Meanwhile, Mille Lacs and Leech Lakes will bless you with Walleye, trophy Bass, Musky, and Pike. Just keep in mind that Smallmouth Bass are strictly catch-and-release as of September.


A photo of a fly fishing angler stood in a river in Minnesota during fall, presenting his Trout to the camera as he holds it with one hand
Photo taken by Amaazen Outdoors

If you didn’t have the chance to fish in Minnesota in September, October gives you one last chance to experience the red-hot bite. Apart from the season closure for Lake Trout – and Smallmouth Bass being catch-and-release only – all other species are ready to do battle. So, gear up and hit Minnesota’s fisheries in October for some of the best fall angling battles out there.

While you can choose to pursue anything from Crappie, Perch, and Bluegill to Bass, Walleye, and Pike, we recommend going after Rainbow, Brown, or Brook Trout in the southeastern part of the state. There’s nothing more idyllic than fly fishing for Trout in Minnesota’s streams in fall. The aptly-named Rush Creek and Trout Run Creek are perfect for Trout adventures in October. Check them out and let us know if we were right.


A photo of two anglers standing on a charter fishing boat and posing with a big Musky caught in early summer
Photo taken by Amaazen Outdoors

It’s high time we introduced Minnesota’s most infamous resident – Muskellunge. Also known as Musky, these giants are heralded as the “Fish of 10,000 Casts.” As the nickname suggests, Musky pursuits are for anglers with nerves of steel and plenty of angling experience. Come fishing in November to truly test how skillful and determined you are to land a prize Muskellunge.

One way to outsmart these prehistoric beasts is to nail the timing. Musky typically feed before dusk, but late-fall fish will be more active during the warmest part of the day. Along with that, use large artificial lures and make long casts to avoid spooking them. Last but not least, look for them in weedy patches. Mille Lacs Lake is synonymous with colossal Musky. While November isn’t the only month that has Musky on offer, it most certainly is the only one that hides record-breaking specimens.


A photo of two ice fishing anglers squatting on a frozen lake in Minnesota and posing with four Crappie catches – both holding one in each hand
Photo taken by PJ’s Guide Service

With the pleasant fall weather behind you, it’s time to bundle up and embrace December’s frosty days. If you aren’t afraid of the cold, you’ll find thrill in winter fishing. The last month of the year brings a unique angling adventure – ice fishing. Bear in mind that December only marks the beginning of the ice fishing season in Minnesota and so it might take some time for the lakes to freeze properly.

High-elevation lakes and shallower bodies of water are normally the first to form suitable conditions for ice fishing. Additionally, lakes in the northern part of the state are among the safest due to lower temperatures. But regardless of how experienced you are, if you’re ice fishing in Minnesota for the first time, please consult with local experts on how to approach any ice-covered fishery you had in mind.

Minnesota Fishing Seasons: A Fish and Month for Everyone

A photo of a proud angler on a charter fishing boat and posing with a decent Musky caught in Minnesota during the fall angling season
Photo taken by Amaazen Outdoors

The Land of 10,000 Lakes and the state with the Fish of 10,000 Casts can offer nothing but an equally impressive number of angling opportunities throughout the entire year. Minnesota is a year-round freshwater paradise. But that doesn’t mean you can always land that dream catch of yours. Hopefully, we managed to paint a picture of what it means to fish in Minnesota during each season. Tight lines!

Have you ever been fishing in Minnesota before? What’s your favorite season? Why? Hit the comment button below and share your tips and tricks regarding Minnesota’s fishing seasons with us.

The post Minnesota Fishing Seasons: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Tanya
Title: Minnesota Fishing Seasons: The Complete Guide
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Published Date: Wed, 25 Oct 2023 17:16:00 +0000

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