Bitter cold and blowing snow – even this year’s Polar Vortex, which was defined as a “cold hurricane” of sorts, according to meteorologists – won’t keep Minnesotans inside.
And they won’t give up their water: With 15,000-plus lakes, events take place all over on top of the lakes, rather than in them, with everything from the annual Art Shanty projects, wherein artists make ice shacks filled with visual and performance art, and the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships, to snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ski loppets, polar plunges, and, of course, ice fishing.
A winter holiday to Minnesota wouldn’t be complete without walking on (frozen) water””they won’t blame you if you aren’t ready to plunge in just yet.
But you’re not about to pack a fishing pole – what kind would it be, anyway? – And an ice auger is not about to pass through airport security, so what’s a curious visitor to do? Get out of the city and let the locals guide the way.
Minnesotans will be loath to have this “secret” revealed, but one of the best places in the world for walleye fishing is Lake Mille Lacs (pronounced “Millacks”), located about an hour and half north of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Several resorts offer ice shack rental and gear rental””and you can even sleep overnight next to your fishing hole to keep close watch. Best bets for bookings include the Fisherman’s Wharf Resort, Brandt’s and Lyback’s, which have all lodged and outfitted fisherpeople of all experience levels for decades.
For a slightly – shall we say, cushier – experience, head to the Brainerd Lakes area. Zone in on Gull Lake, one of the state’s most popular getaways, for a series of resorts that specialize in beautifully appointed lodgings and have been known for some of the best fishing competitions in the country. Cragun’s, a well-known historic family resort, and the luxe Grand View Lodge offer ice fishing guidance and gear, and the Grand View has the added bonus of the Glacial Waters Spa for those feeling a little less hearty, or simply looking for some luxury after trying their hand at hooking a fish.
To take in some of nature’s finest majesty and get a true North experience, head to the border: Lake of the Woods. On the banks of the Rainy River, which borders Canada, there are several fine fishing spots. Sportsman’s Lodges in Baudette, and Ballard’s and Wigwam resorts all rent ice shacks, gear, fish reports and guided tours, and even offer filet/fish packing services.
This is one experience that will give you true Minnesotan cred: A “one that got away” story. No one will ever know how big that fish really, truly was, so go ahead, embellish a little. Minnesotans would.
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Have you been ice fishing in Minnesota? Where did you stay when you were there? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Katie Dohman