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Ice Fishing on Mille Lacs Lake (Everything You Need to Know)

Ice Fishing on Mille Lacs Lake (Everything You Need to Know)

Mille Lacs Lake is called the walleye capital of the world. And rightly so, as this lake not only contains plenty of eyes, but also some real monster fish!

Every winter, countless ice anglers visit it, who all want to catch one of Mille Lacs’ trophy walleye and improve their personal bests.

And while most anglers come here to target hard water walleye, Mille Lacs has a lot more to offer!

If you’re interested in ice fishing on Mille Lacs and want to read up on target species, hot spots, best times of day to fish, as well as ice house rentals and fishing regulations, all you have to do is keep reading!

PRO TIP: Need to gear up for first ice? Then check out this essential equipment on Amazon.

It’s very cost-effective and durable. Everything you need for your upcoming ice fishing adventures!

What Fish Can You Catch Ice Fishing on Mille Lacs Lake?

Walleye

an ince angler in front of his poå-up shelter on Mille Lacs holding a fat walleye
Courtesy of Mark Oostra

As mentioned above, Mille Lacs is famous for its excellent walleye fishery. The lake is virtually full of walleye, and many of them can reach really good sizes. 

They can be found pretty much anywhere in the lake. In the bay areas, around the points, flats, humps, and reefs. If you’ve found yourself a good spot, it’s not unusual to catch more than a few eyes! 

They are best caught deadsticking smaller suckers or minnows or jigging smaller Northland Rattlin Spoons or Venom 360s. 

PRO TIP: Please note that there are special regulations for walleye on Mille Lacs Lake. More information can be found in the fishing regulations section further down in the article.

Perch

A group of ice anglers on Mille Lacs Lake with a bunch of yellow perch
Courtesy of Jesse Spurgin

The perch is another popular target species for many ice anglers on Mille Lacs Lake. They can practically be found anywhere you’d target walleye on the lake.

While there are many perch in this water body, few reach jumbo status, but a lot of anglers still appreciate them for their mid-day activity, when the walleye bite can be slow.

Many people also target them after the walleye season is closed.

You can catch Mille Lacs perch with classic ice fishing lures such as the Lindy Perch Talker or a Swedish Pimple. Put on a few maggots and you’re good to go!

Northern Pike

An ice angler on Mille Lacs Lake with a nice winter pike
Courtesy of Michael Ricke

Mille Lacs is home to some massive pike, and if you want to catch a real trophy fish, you’ve come to the right lake!

Many fish weigh between 5 and 8lb and measure around 25 inches, but there are quite a few 40+ inchers out there!

Especially during the early ice season, the southern bay areas are the place to be if you want to catch pike on Mille Lacs.

The areas around Garrison, along the northwestern shoreline, are another hot spot for winter pike.

You can catch them jigging big spoons or Rapala Jigging and Rap Slabs. Another way of catching them is with tip-ups and larger baits, such as suckers, shiners, or ciscoes.

Crappie

An ice angler on Mille Lacs Lake with two big crappies
Courtesy of Michael Swonger

Mille Lacs’ crappies are considerably big but fewer in numbers, which doesn’t mean that you can’t fill your bag limit, though and then!

And with a bit of luck and patience, you can hook up to some real slabs here!

Crappie on Mille Lacs can be found in the southern and eastern bays and rock bars.

Jigging is the best way to catch them, and classic crappie jigs, such as the Lindy Little Nipper, can produce very decently if you manage to locate the fish.

Honorable Mentions

Tullibee

Bluegill

Burbot/eelpout

Please note that Mille Lacs also has a considerable population of muskie, largemouth and smallmouth bass. As the season is closed for these species during winter, any caught fish must be released immediately and with great care!

Where Is the Best Ice Fishing on Mille Lacs?

During the early season, when the ice isn’t all that thick yet, the best ice fishing spots on Mille Lacs Lake are in its bigger bay areas.

These include the following:

  • Cove Bay
  • Wahkon Bay
  • Isle Bay
  • Sunset Bay
  • Vineland Bay
  • Garrison Bay
  • Wigwam Bay

As the season progresses and the ice gets thicker and thicker, the main lake areas around the lake’s points are always producing a lot of fish.

These include the following:

  • Big Point
  • Indian Point
  • Shah-Bush-Kung Point

In particular, Doe Island and Hennepin Island, with their reefs and rock humps, are real hot spots for big walleye. You’ll always find plenty of shacks and anglers around these islands, so try to get there early!

When Is the Best Time to Go Ice Fishing on Mille Lacs Lake?

A happy angler in an ice house on Mille Lacs Lake holding a nice walleye
Courtesy of McQuoid’s Inn

The ice fishing season on Mille Lacs Lake usually stretches from mid-December to April. 

The best time to hit hard water on Mille Lacs is from first ice through January, even though the entire season tends to produce pretty well. 

During a typical winter, vehicles can drive on the lake after the first days of January. 

Does Mille Lacs Have a Night Bite?

It’s safe to say that Mille Lacs has an excellent night bite. 

The lake’s walleye remain active during the dark hours of the day and can give you a decent bite throughout the night.  

Mille Lacs’ great night bite also explains the many sleeper shacks you’ll find on the lake during ice season!

Where Is Mille Lacs Lake Located?

Mille Lacs is located about 75 miles (90 minutes) north of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area and is a popular ice fishing destination for both locals and tourists. 

With its 132,000 surface acres, Mille Lacs Lake (also called Lake Mille Lacs, or simply Mille Lacs) is Minnesota’s second-largest inland lake.

This is due to its favorable location near two major cities and its many access points. The latter allows you to reach many of the lake’s bays and points in no time at all. 

For its size, Mille Lacs is a fairly shallow water body, with an average depth of 21 feet and a maximum depth of a mere 42 feet. 

Its many shallow bays and flats make ice fishing relatively easy, further adding to the lake’s high popularity. 

The easiest way to drive up to the lake from Minneapolis is via highway 169, which will lead you to the Mille Lacs’ southern and southwestern shoreline. 

You’ll be there in just over an hour, given road and weather conditions remain normal! 

Mille Lacs Lake GPS Coordinates

46.2530° N, 93.6605° W

Best Ice House Rentals on Mille Lacs

a young ice angler fishing in an ice house on Mille Lacs
Courtesy of McQuoid’s Inn

McQuoid’s Inn (Southeast Shore)

McQuoid’s Inn was kind enough to provide me with some valuable pro tips on how to ice fish Mille Lacs, and it didn’t take me long to understand that their ice fishing guys really know their stuff!

Of course, you can also tell by the hundreds of positive reviews they’ve gotten on Google. 

McQuoid’s Inn, located in Isle, at the southeast corner of the lake, will provide you with top-quality ice houses and offers excellent guide service, should you need one during your trip on Mille Lacs.

They offer a first-class resort, have amiable staff, and can equip you with the finest gear! 

So if you want to stay in one of their cozy ice castles or need an experienced guide to help you land that Mille Lacs trophy eye, make sure to check out McQuoid’s Inn here.

Twin Pines Resort (North Shore)

Twin Pines Resort, located directly on the northern shore of Mille Lacs Lake in Garrison, has 35 deluxe ice houses that can accommodate 2 to 14 persons. 

All houses are carpeted and are equipped with propane heaters and lights, bunks with covered foam mattresses, tables with chairs and rattle reels, and cooking features. 

Some of their ice houses even have bathrooms.

So if you are planning on fishing Mille Lacs around Garrison and want to stay in a luxurious ice house up there, you can go and check out the Twin Pines Resort website here.

Best Bait and Tackle Shops Near Mille Lacs Lake

Reeds Family Outdoor Outfitters (South Shore)

Address: 38556 US-169, Onamia, MN 56359, United States

Phone: +1 320-532-7333

Email: Fishing@ReedsSports.com

Trailside Convenience Bait and Tackle (Southeast Shore)

Address: 750 HWY 47 South, Isle, MN 56342

Phone: 320-676-3746

Garrison Sports Bait and Tackle (North Shore)

Address: 9737 US-169, Garrison, MN 56450, United States

Phone: +1 320-692-4477

Email: garrisonsports10@gmail.com

Helpful Gear Tips for Ice Fishing on Mille Lacs Lake

a young ice angler fishing for perch on mille lacs lake
Courtesy of Kevin Morgan

If you’re planning on heading out onto the lake on your own, or if you want to bring your own ice fishing equipment to a guided trip and need to gear up, this section of the article might interest you.

You can find all of the following pieces of gear on Amazon if you want to take a closer look:

Mille Lacs Fishing Regulations

All of Mille Lacs fishing regulations (both current and upcoming special regulations) can be found on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website

You can also receive printed or electronic copies of the lake’s regulations via this page.

Please read all of the fishing regulations carefully and check them regularly for possible updates or changes. 

Please note that the bag limits and/or special regulations may be revised at any time and without notice by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources! ALWAYS check the website for updates and changes before a fishing trip!

Where Can You Buy a Fishing License for Mille Lacs Lake?

You will have to purchase a Minnesota state fishing license to ice fish on Mille Lacs Lake. You can buy any license online via the Minnesota DNR website here.

Please note that all resident and non-resident Minnesota fishing licenses are valid from March 1 through February 28 of the following year.

How Thick Is the Ice on Mille Lacs?

According to Tim at McQuoid’s Inn, Mille Lacs usually has an ice thickness of about 12 to 14 inches after first ice in late December and early January. 

That’s commonly also the time when you can drive with your vehicle on the ice.

After that, it’s not uncommon for the ice to build up further and get as thick as 20 inches or more! 

Up-to-Date Ice Reports for Mille Lacs Lake

Ice fishing guides, resorts, and fish house rentals tend to deliver the best and most frequent ice reports, as they spend a lot of time on the ice. 

The following websites have accurate, up-to-date ice reports for Mille Lacs. Please always consult them before an ice fishing trip to the lake:

PRO TIP: If there aren’t any recent updates to be found online, please make sure always to contact a fishing guide or charter, a lodge, or a bait and tackle shop to get the latest information on ice conditions and safety! 

Best Mille Lacs Lake Ice Fishing Forums

I don’t know about you, but whenever I plan on targeting new waters, I always like to do some research in online forums and communities. 

Many of them contain extremely valuable information and tips that can help you get started, and most members of such communities are always willing to help newbies with their questions.

It’s not about taking a shortcut and asking about everything there is to know about the lake and the fishing but to get a few helpful starting points not to be completely lost once you get onto the ice. 

So, if you want to read up on Mille Lacs and its fantastic ice fishing, here are two very helpful and active online communities you can check out: 

Disclaimer: Strike&Catch assumes no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions of the presented information for Mille Lacs Lake. The information contained in this article is provided on an “as is” basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness, or timeliness.

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Featured image courtesy of McQuoid’s Inn

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