Ice Fishing Dream Trips

Ice fishing adventures abound across both the U.S. and Canada. Some of the destinations are exotic and remote while other hot spots are on a high cycle. Some locations are right down the road for some anglers while other fisheries require a road trip. For many reasons, ice anglers are beginning to travel farther away from home, and to specific destination fisheries each winter.

Ice anglers have so much more Intel today with social media and web forums. The equipment just keeps getting better and more reliable. Factor in dependable snowmobiles, GPS and more rugged and durable equipment, and there is no surprise that many are more adventurous than a decade ago.

This season, make it a point to explore some of these destinations. We have traveled across the Northern Tier extensively, chasing some of these hot bites and here are some of our favorite adventures from the past few years:

Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba
This massive body of water produces some massive walleyes. In fact, I dare say that in a week of fishing, you will probably hold more 10-pound-plus fish in your hands than what you would from ice fishing over a decade on any other inland body of water. Lake Winnipeg is not for the feint of heart though. You will need either tracks or a snowmobile, but you will see a few crazy Canucks bouncing around in pickup trucks. The expanses of hard, packed snow can be hard on equipment.

The conditions can be brutal. If you can break something, you will break it on “The Big Windy.” This hot spot is ground zero for the rattle bait craze, but over the last few winters, big flutter spoons have become the hot presentation. Once you get a taste of the big greenback walleyes this water is famous for, you will want to do this for the rest of your life. (Guide Jason Hamilton, jasonhamiltonoutdoors.com, Travel Manitoba, travelmanitoba.com.)

Fort Peck Lake, Fork Peck, Mont.
This rugged reservoir on the Missouri River in eastern Montana is remote, and I’ve often joked that I felt like I was fishing in Jurassic Park because so many of the fish there are just so big and old. Massive northern pike, walleyes and lake trout create the ice angler’s predator trifecta. Because of the amount of rock along the shorelines, you will need an ATV, but snowmobiles suffice some winters when there is more snow.

Fort Peck requires diligence with ice conditions, as the water can fluctuate and there is moving water along with methane gas pockets that can create unsafe ice. We often target primary points and reefs in the Dry Arm out of Rock Creek and have found good fishing while hardly seeing any other ice anglers for days at a time. For the less adventurous, the Duck Creek Area is less remote, but can produce. (Montana’s Missouri River Country, missouririver.visitmt.com.)

Lake of the Woods, Ontario
Lake of the Woods is a special place, and always fun. Of course, there is great fishing stateside and there is plenty of great water to explore out of Baudette and Warroad, but I love the diversity farther up north, and the scenery is striking. Within 50 miles of Nester Falls is some of the best easy-to-drive-to lake trout water available in my opinion, with fish over 20 pounds. Ice anglers can also find untouched schools of crappies along with hoards of walleyes. If you love to snowmobile and fish, this destination is tough to beat. (Vic and Dots Camp, vicanddotscamp.com.)

Glacial Lakes in South Dakota
If you were to look at a map of northeastern South Dakota and draw a line from Brookings to Aberdeen, you’re looking at the heart of the Glacial Lakes Country, where literally hundreds of lakes are present. Small-town Americana at its best, there are numerous little towns with friendly people. Several hotels and lodges are scattered throughout the area with many lakes to fish. The jumbo perch put this region on the radar for ice anglers, and no doubt the perch fishing is as good as you will see anywhere with places like Bitter Lake and Swan Lake, but don’t overlook the multi-species opportunities for walleyes, bluegills and crappies. I have spent a lot of time in this area, and still don’t feel like I have scratched the surface. This is an unbelievable area for ice fishing. (South Dakota Glacial Lakes Tourism Association, sdglaciallakes.com. Guides Corey Ewing, waubaylakeguideservice.com, Jarrod Fredericks, southdakotaguidedfishing.com.)

Lake Gogebic, U.P. Michigan
This sliver of a lake in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is an adventure. With average snowfalls each winter that measure well over the top of your head, people sometimes have to use snowmobiles to get to work. This fishery is one of North America’s top bodies of water for consistently kicking out perch over the magical 2-pound mark. You will probably catch more perch in the Dakotas, but there is no better place to specifically target that caliber of fish. Expect to encounter a finesse bite that requires a methodical grinding approach where anglers often score the biggest fish by deadsticking with mayfly wigglers. (Guide Jon Sibley, fishwithguy.com.)

Devils Lake, North Dakota
A popular ice fishing destination, this massive natural lake in northeastern North Dakota is incredible. It’s as good as it gets with trophy-class perch, pike and walleyes as a possibility. For perch over 2 pounds, I’m partial to Lake Irvine and Lake Alice, which are connected to Devils Lake through the Mauvais Coulee. Good fishing can be found throughout the entire system, and with a walleye season that doesn’t close, late ice can be prime time. All the fish seem to share that incredible girth and the walleye numbers in particular are off the charts. (Devils Lake Tourism, devilslakend.com, Woodland Resort, woodlandresort.com, Perch Patrol Guide Service, perchpatrol.com.)

Lake Michigan Harbors, Wisconsin
While Milwaukee Harbor remains open through the winter and provides incredible fishing for kings, browns and steelhead, there are some really cool ice fishing opportunities on some of the smaller harbors and tributaries for both browns and steelhead. We have filmed a few times on the Sheboygan River for steelhead, and these small streams and harbors have become a true destination spot for ice anglers across the Midwest. This is perhaps the best brown trout fishery for fish that can exceed 20 pounds. This place is also one of the best bets for icing big steelhead. (Guide Eric Haataja, wibigfish.com.)

Lake Oahe, North Dakota
This Missouri River Reservoir starts south of Bismarck, N.D. and winds all the way to Pierre, S.D. The upper end of Oahe in recent years has seen an incredible explosion of crappies, with many surpassing 14 inches. This fishery is riding on an incredible year-class of fish that will die of old age in a year or two, but for right now, this location reminds me of the Red Lake glory years. Focus on creek channels that have submerged brush in any of the larger bays like Beaver, Four Mile and Porcupine bays. Walleyes can also be reckless as well and there is a really good chance of tangling with a pike that can surpass 40 inches. (North Dakota Tourism, travelnd.com.)

So many fish, so little time
Of course, there are so many great destinations we didn’t cover, but they are places we hope to explore soon. Bay of Quinte and its walleyes come to mind. There are the pike and walleyes of Tobin Lake and other road trip fisheries for giant lake trout, like Clearwater Lake in northern Manitoba. The closer-to-home standbys like Minnesota’s Upper Red Lake or Nebraska’s Valentine Refuge lakes are always fun. One particular ice fishing adventure we hope to film soon is sheefish up in Alaska. Many of these destinations can be fairly affordable, particularly with a handful of friends. These all will truly add to your life experiences.