Ice Fishing Lake of the Woods - Winter Guide

Ice Fishing Lake of the Woods
December 30, 2021

Lake of the Woods is a lake occupying parts of the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Manitoba and the U.S. state of Minnesota. It separates a small land area of Minnesota from the rest of the United States.

The Ice fishing season starts around mid-December and lasts until early march weather dependant. The ice needs to be 15 inches deep for fishing to be safe.

Walleye, Sauger, and Northern Pike are three of the most popular ice fishing lake of the woods fish species anglers target in the winter months. Although, many come here for the crappie and perch also.

As the Temperature Drops LOW Season Just Heats Up

When winter rolls around, ice fishing is a popular activity in the Lake of the Woods area. It provides an escape from cabin fever and a chance to take advantage of what can be some very productive fishing days. The best part about ice fishing is that you don't need much equipment or experience to get started. 

Ice fishing can be one of the most rewarding angling experiences possible. It's an activity that allows you to step away from the snow and enjoy some fun outdoor time, even when there's ice all around.

The lake is fed by many streams but has no natural outlet. Instead, its waters eventually find their way into Hudson Bay via rivers that flow northward to James Bay in Canada or southward to Lake Superior in the United States. 

At Lake of the Woods, the winter season is just as good as the summer. Walleye are hot on the ice, especially when you catch them using live minnows or shiners. The Walleye are active all year round, even when it's below zero outside!

Northern pike can grow huge and put up an excellent fight for experienced anglers.

Lake of the Woods is one of the country's most prolific walleye producers, with large trophy fish to go along with its world-famous reputation.

When you're ice fishing Lake of the Woods, you can expect to catch pike or muskie as well as Walleye.

Types of Fish You Can Catch While Ice Fishing on LOW

fisherman catching walleye on lake of the woods

Lake of the Woods has always been a popular destination for ice fishing. The clear, blue waters and deep-frozen potholes make it an ideal spot to try your luck with this centuries-old tradition.

The lake is open all year round and very well stocked with a variety of fish. However, depending on the time of year, some species are under strict regulations and have to be released straight away when caught.

WalleyeSauger and Northern Pike are the most common fish you will catch while ice fishing on Lake of the Woods. Although, many anglers come here to catch crappie and perch as well.

Ice fishing for these three fish attracts many fishermen to LOW each winter.


Many people travel to LOW each year to ice fish for the beautiful Walleye this amazing lake offers. Spending the day on this icy lake should see you catch a handful of Walleye, and it's incredible fun.

You can easily entice them with food since eating is their favorite activity. However, when Walleye do start to eat, the real fun begins. There is no doubt about it. Walleye are the celebrity fish of LOW. Walleye are very popular on LOW because they are known for their great fighting abilities.

Walleye on LOW have an average length ranging between 15 and 18 inches. Fishing on Lake of the Woods, however, you're likely to encounter a 25-inch or even larger specimen if you get lucky.

The smaller ones weigh in at around 2 pounds and the bigger ones up to 5 pounds, although you can catch some trophy walleye that are much bigger.

They prefer cooler waters with sandy or gravelly bottoms; they like structures, such as drop-offs and humps, as well as vegetation. Walleyes like to burrow into sand and silt and wait for their prey.

Catch limits change each season, so be sure to check what the limits are for Walleye before you begin your ice fishing trip.


A smaller cousin of the Walleye, Sauger, are hard to miss. They are silver-colored fish with distinctive dark dots on their fins. Sauger are one of the most popular ice fishing catches in winter.

Although they can grow to about 2 pounds, don't expect too much from small sauger. However, they can be pretty powerful for a smaller cousin to the Walleye.

Their average size is around 13 inches and about a pound, although you can catch larger specimens between 2 and 3pounds if you get lucky.

As with Walleye, sauger like cool water to live in; they can be found in weed beds and around structures, such as drop-offs. Sauger are also strong fighters, similar to Walleye.

Saugers are often found following Walleye, so don't be off-put if you catch these smaller cousins. Just know it's a good sign, and a big walleye will be just around the corner.

Northern Pike

northern pike caught while ice fishing

The third most typical fish you will come across when ice fishing on LOW is the Northern Pike. These brutes are not only a real trophy but fight even harder than Walleye and saugers.

This is a fish that needs no introduction. Northern Pike are highly predatory and generally solitary but will school when it comes to spawning time.

Northern Pike is the Lake of the Woods next huge thing. For fishermen on the lookout for an acrobatic show and intense fighting, pike fishing on LOW is the thing to try.

They grow up to 40 inches in length and weigh well over 20 pounds. Again, not mainly a fish you would want to go after if you're a beginner.

Fishermen from around the USA and Canada are attracted here every winter. All in the hopes of catching a trophy pike. All anglers dream about catching such a fish.

The northern pike is a carnivorous fish that eats other fish and small mammals. They have sharp razor teeth and need to be handled with care. So make sure you have a good set of hook removes with you to make it easy on you and the fish.

It's a strong fish. It has a long body with a pointed nose, jaw full of sharp teeth. Northern Pike is the largest member of the pike family.

Northern pike can live alone or in pairs along weed edges and sand bars when they are small; however, they travel to deep water lakes with heavy vegetation when they get older.

Lake of the Woods Ice Fishing Techniques

fisherman ice fishing on lake of the woods

Knowing where to fish is an essential part of ice fishing. Walleye and pike love different habitats, so it's best to know where all these habitats are on LOW.

Jigging a flutter spoon gives me the best results. Sometimes I mix it up and use minnows or rattle baits. Take a selection of the three and swap between them until you find your successful bait.

If little perch are present, the ice spoons will match the hatch and present the bigger fish with a lovely meal.

Walleye fishing on LOW is best done in around 10 feet of water. You can find them by drop-offs, in sand and silt, along weed edges, and in the shallows near vegetation.

Pike are great swimmers, so they prefer deeper waters. They like to be close to heavy cover such as weeds or submerged brush piles when possible. The main thing when ice fishing for pike is "depth." Either deep water holes or structures close to deep water are where you should set up your gear for pike.

As with all species of fish, try not to be selective. Adjust your depth until you find something that works, then keep fishing that area until you get a bite or two before moving on.

For the bigger fish, digging a bigger hole and dark house spearing is popular among the locals. It involves you sitting in a completely dark shack and waiting for the big pike or Walleye to approach your lure.

Best Seasons to Ice Fish Lake of the Woods

Ice shack lake of the woods ice house

The best time to visit Lake of the Woods is during the winter months, December through March. However, the ice fishing season can stretch for as long as four months.

The ice has to be at least 15 inches thick to be considered safe to fish on.

January is when the Ice fishing season is at its peak. Hundreds of locals and travelers ride out onto the lake in their fish houses (ice houses). A special trailer-like shack allows the angler to fish in the ice while protected from harsh winter environments.

Fishing Licenses

Ontario, Manitoba, and Minnesota have different fishing seasons for various bodies of water on Lake of the Woods. Therefore, anglers coming from in or out of state or province will need a license valid in at least one of those three jurisdictions.

Whether you're ice fishing or not, you'll need a license for the body of water you're fishing. Don't forget to follow the regulations, so you don't get in trouble.

Can You Keep Your Catch

Lots of factors come into effect whether you can keep your catch or not. If you plan on taking any fish home, make sure you check the rules and regulations for Minnesota, Ontario, and Manitoba.

Most fish species have a set limit on how many of them you can keep in your possession. In addition, some fish are marked as catch-and-release only, which means they're not allowed to leave the water. In those cases, I recommend you take a picture with the fish before releasing it back into the water so you can remember your catch (and people don't think you are telling lies, lol).

Regulations change multiple times a year for each species of fish. Sometimes on a month-to-month basis. So one month, you can harvest the fish, but then you have to catch a release the next.

Also, a Sports license and Conservations License have different rules and limits for each license. Keep up to date on the latest rules and regulations for your area so you can avoid getting into trouble:

Nobody wants fines and to get in trouble with the authorities, so I recommend you study the rules before you go so you can enjoy your trip to the fullest potential.


Lake of the Woods is a very popular ice fishing destination for locals and travelers alike. However, it can be challenging to know which license you need, what species are catch-and-release only, or when specific rules change.

But, with some research and planning, it can be an enjoyable trip that will provide great memories for years to come.

Ice fishing Lake of the Woods is a beautiful winter activity for you and the family, and it gives you something else to look forward to this winter.

We hope these resources come in handy next time you plan a visit up North!    

Good luck out there on ice fishing adventures, and have fun!

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