Mille Lacs: Big Lake, Huge Ice Fishing and Tremendous Spearing

At 132,500 acres, Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Lake is big enough to be transformed from a sea of blue in the summer to the foundation for ice fishing communities in the winter. During prime ice conditions, Mille Lacs becomes a destination for those looking for a weekend getaway or a family vacation.

Area resorts book ahead for the winter months and encourage anglers to plan their ice fishing trips early. Dedicated ice anglers waste no time checking the ice reports and heading to Mille Lacs for the walleyes, jumbo perch and northern pike. The plowed and maintained ice roads make it easy to access temporary neighborhoods of ice fishing houses and spearing darkhouses. On this lake, ice houses are equipped with kitchens, bunk beds and TVs, which mean all can enjoy these cabins on ice, with some accommodating up to 12.

The houses and all the fishing equipment anyone would need are available to rent, so even those unfamiliar with how to ice fish can join in the fun. Guides, setup services, deliveries and other conveniences are also available.

Tina Chapman, executive director of the Mille Lacs Area Tourism Council, said many resorts around the lake have ice house rentals available, but large “ice cabin” availability may be limited. “Since ice cabins come with many of the comforts of home, it becomes a popular way to spend a winter weekend on the lake,” Chapman said.

Darkhouse spearing
Hundreds of darkhouses used for spearing are scattered along the shoreline and in the bays around this lake where ice is 10 to 30 inches thick by the end of the season.

Darkhouses, which typically are lighter in weight than regular fish houses, block out all light, allowing spear fishermen to easily see the bottom of Mille Lac through a large hole in the floor. A chainsaw is then used to cut a hole in the ice—typically 3 by 5 feet—and a hook-less decoy is then used to attract fish. Then the wait begins.

Here, the Minnesota DNR allows spearing of northern pike, tullibees and rough fish. If any of these species check out your decoy, they’re fair game for spearing. Since there is no catch and release when spearing, be sure you know your fish well. With a possession limit of five, northern pike are the most sought-after fish to spear on Mille Lacs. Visit the MNDNR website for ice fishing and spearing regulations on Mille Lacs.

Whether you choose ice fishing in a standard fish house or a palatial ice cabin, or spearing in a quiet darkhouse, there are plenty of choices for amazing winter fishing on Mille Lacs.

See the MNDNR website for complete regulations and limits on ice fishing or spearing on Lake Mille Lacs, which are different than those on other Minnesota lakes:

   For more information on ice house rentals, resorts, fishing reports and ice conditions, visit