These are the top states for ice fishing, compiled after a winter to remember.
Since we’re on the other side of a winter that will likely go down as one of the coldest and snowiest in American history, we thought it would be wise to reflect on the best ice fishing states after a long and fruitful season.
Though it may take until next year to reach one of these ice fishing meccas, here is a list of the top spots that produce great opportunities all winter long (and sometimes even beyond).
View the slideshow to see the best states for ice fishing, and leave a comment if you feel we left one out.
The Great Lakes state deserves a slot on virtually any list of American fishing destinations, and that fact certainly holds true for ice fishing.
Michigan gets hot summers, sure, but it’s known for its harrowing winters. Cold winds and lake effect snow blow in off the water, leaving the entire state a “winter wonderland” from mid-November through February or March. Michigan earned two slots on our list of favorite ice fishing lakes in December (Higgins Lake and Lake Michigan herself), but those two spots are, quite literally, only the tip of the iceberg.
Hit any of the inland lakes for satisfying ice fishing experiences, or head to Grand Traverse Bay – which completely froze over this year for the first time in ages – to check out what a summer resort town looks like when it’s encased in ice and snow.
Vermont scores second on the list for its partial or full ownership of two different lakes: Lake Champlain and Caspian Lake. The latter is also accessible to anglers from New York (and Quebec, for that matter), but if we had to choose between the two states, Vermont is the slightly better place for ice fishing.
Both Caspian and Champlain play host to veritable communities of ice anglers, so you’ll be able to make a few quick friends if that’s what you’re looking for. With that said though, loners who are all about the fish will be satisfied in Vermont as well. Caspian and Champlain are both massive lakes with plenty of space for whatever type of ice fishing you prefer and plenty of fish as well (including perch, salmon, trout, and more).
Lake Champlain is one of the most unbelievable ice fishing lakes in the United States, with a huge and versatile selection of fish. With that in mind, we just had to throw New York on this list – even if it shares Champlain with Vermont.
New York doesn’t have a second superstar lake like Vermont’s Caspian, but that doesn’t mean the Empire State is a slouch at all went it comes to ice fishing. On the contrary, other inland lakes – such as Saratoga Lake and Fourth Lake – offer their own versatile fish populations, from pike, walleye, and bluegill to salmon, trout, and perch.
New York’s frontage on Lake Ontario rounds out its reputation as a great ice fishing state.
General wisdom points to the ice fishing season lasting from December through February in the land of 10,000 lakes. However, given how cold this winter has been, anglers might be able to squeeze in a few more Minnesota ice fishing weekends this year. The question, of course, is where to go.
From Gull Lake – the home of the sprawling Ice Fishing Extravaganza event – to Lake of the Woods – which is supposedly “the walleye capital of the world” – Minnesota offers enough fishing lakes to while away a lifetime’s worth of winters.
Pretty much any state with access to the Great Lakes earns a designation as one of the best ice fishing states in the union, and Wisconsin is no exception.
Our favorite Wisconsin ice fishing destination is Chequamegon Bay, a bay located off of Lake Superior and one of the more remote ice fishing locations you’ll find in America.
Chequamegon offers a nice selection of fish – particularly walleye and pike. Other bays along Lake Superior and Lake Michigan offer similarly excellent fishing. Just make sure to check the strength and thickness of the ice before setting up camp.
Illinois has much of the same appeal as Wisconsin does as an ice fishing state. It’s not as flushed with inland lakes as many other places, but its shoreline on Lake Michigan makes up for that weakness. Just pick a harbor or bay, grab your ice fishing equipment, and pitch your camp for a profitable day of fishing brown and rainbow trout.
Okay, we recognize that not everyone lives in the Midwest where ice fishing is truly at its best (which, after this winter, might be a lucky thing for those of you who don’t!).
However, that doesn’t mean that great ice fishing can’t be found in other parts of the country. On the contrary, Utah routinely lands on lists of the best ice fishing states or lakes, largely because of the incredible rainbow trout fishing that can be enjoyed at Strawberry Reservoir during the winter months.
Once the reservoir freezes over, anglers should head to the shallows to find swarms of rainbows.
Surprised? So are we.
California isn’t exactly the first state most of us (or any of us, for that matter) would think of when trying to choose the most famous and consistently great ice fishing destinations. Yet, here it is on our list.
The reasoning is held almost exclusively in two bodies of water – Caples Lake and Silver Lake – both of which play host to substantial trout populations. The fishing here is fun and easy. Fish will flock to the surface in search of sunlight and warmth as soon as you start drilling holes, and from there, you just have to convince them to bite your hook.
During colder seasons in northern California, anglers looking to break their winter blues should definitely check out one of these two lakes.