Best Late Ice Fishing Destinations

Late ice is like a box of chocolates. Depending on the weather, you're never quite sure what you're going to get.

by Lake-Link Staff

Now that we're into February, we're giddy like school girls. And not just from the tunes spilling out of our kids' hi-fi speakers. Not that they know what a "hi-fi" is.

No bombs-sniffing dogs, no body cavity searches, no kitchen patrol, playing well with our kids on Valentine's Day gets full customs clearance for late-ice, a big bold red-inked stamp in the passport of what it means to be a man. And these destinations are family-friendly, too, so bring the whole crew!

So, arms outstretched, bring on late-ice.

Over the years, Lake-Link Staff has drilled up quite a bit of the Midwestern and Northern Ice Belt.

Bearing that in mind, here are our Top 6 late-ice picks in the middle and northern tiers of the Ice Belt - waters we've fished and the places we've called home for days of rod-bending action. Depending on the weather, some of these spots can offer hardwater action into early April.

Grand Rapids Area, Minnesota

In Minnesota, at least south of Lake of the Woods, the 2023 walleye season closes on February 26th, so most of our late-ice program will be panfish.

For panfish, look no farther than the Itasca County area around Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Think Bowstring Lake and lots of little lakes that may require a blindfold if you hire an ace guide like Brian "Bro" Brosdahl.

Thanks to MN DNR Experimental and Special Regulations that limit sunfish (including bluegills) daily possession to five fish, it is not uncommon to catch honest 10-inch 'gills on many of the special reg lakes around Grand Rapids - which are fantastic for photos. Keep in mind that there's only a forkful of difference (as editor-in-chief Doug Stange tested in In-Fisherman magazine) between a 7- or 8- and 10-inch 'gill. So, please, photograph the big 'bulls but release them to maintain the fishery quality.

Looking for convenience? Stay at Hidden Haven Resort, located on the northwest shore of Big Bass. Gorgeous northwoods-style accommodations at a realistic price.

Stay up to date with info on the best bites, plus a large selection of tackle and bait by talking with the boys at Thousand Lakes Sporting Goods in Cohasset/Grand Rapids.

More Grand Rapids Lodging Info

Lake of the Woods, Minnesota

Looking for walleyes in Minnesota during late-ice? Look no further than border water Lake of the Woods with its extended walleye/sauger season through April 14th-and a pike season that never closes! It's also a good place to get full-use out of that wheelhouse you've been keeping in the driveway. With solid ice and great roads, you're allowed to stay overnight on the ice through March 31st.

And not only does the walleye/sauger bite heat up during late ice, you've got a shot at a 40-inch-plus pike, so bring the tip-ups and pick up some frozen smelt, alewives, or some large, live suckers. The pike party is a hoot!

As far as lodging, there's not a bad resort along the whole south shore. We've stayed at most of them and they offer some great accommodations, food, and fun. Need a rental house? Not a problem. Most offer shuttle service to and from shacks with delivered box lunches and on-ice bathroom facilities for the entire family! Gotta love that.

For more information on fishing MN's LOTW during late-ice, visit lakeofthewoodsmn.com.

Devils Lake, North Dakota

The walleye bite on Devils Lake can get epic during late-ice, typically that last week of March into April, depending on the year. What's even better, it can be done on foot with a portable flip-over, hub, or just a sled of gear. Many fish can be caught close to shore throughout the lake, as walleyes travel near-shore routes toward spring spawning habitat.

Of course, Devils also offers some of the best jumbo perch fishing in the country, but truck travel has been difficult this year, so best to pack your tracked machine or hire a guide.

Contact any of the following guides for current conditions and fishing reports:

If you have a large group, consider lodging at Woodland Resort, which has clean and spacious houses available for rent not far from the action. Large kitchens and dining spaces make feeding a large, hungry crew easy and fun. And enough room to bring the in-laws or friends of friends for a full hardwater assault.

For more optoins be sure to check out Haybale Heights Resort. They offer guided Snobear ice fishing packages as well as fish house rentals and lodging.

More Devils Lake Lodging Info

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

Sturgeon Bay is probably the closest destination to Chicago, Minneapolis, and most midwestern cities to catch a lot of fish. During low-light hours there is the possibility of a large walleye, but the area has become known for its countless whitefish -- and just a stone's throw from comfortable and modern lodging at Dale and Karen Stroschein's Sand Bay Beach Resort. Guides shuttle guests to and from both walleye and whitefish spots in Ranger UTVs.

If you're new to the whitefish game, prepare for rod-bending action with the frequency of a panfish bite. Sweetening the deal, whitefish are fantastic eating, whether smoked, baked, fried, or turned into crab-cake look- and taste-alikes. They also make a wicked chowder.

Definitely a top pick for the family, too. Sand Bay Beach Resort features an indoor pool, whirlpool and sauna. The nearby town of Sturgeon Bay - and the rest of scenic Door County - features many historical, cultural and arts-related attractions.

We've fished with Dale Stroschein and crew, as well as Brett Alexander and company. Both offer well-organized trips, including hard house rentals, perfect for kids and older anglers.

More Sturgeon Bay Lodging Info

Sunset Country, Kenora, Ontario

Some of the very best late-ice fishing we've ever experienced has been on NW Ontario's Lake of the Woods "Sunset Country". Find narrows between islands and chances are you'll discover any host of species moving from wintering locations to spring habitat. Over the years, we've caught large walleyes, lake trout and pike all in the same areas - sometimes in water as shallow as 10-15 feet.
Late-ice is also a good time of year to consider fishing the "back lakes" for crappies via snow machine. Many of these waters go virtually untouched in the winter and the bite can be incredible, with a shot at crappies in the honest 15- to 17-inch slab variety. And even if you don't tap the giants, the number of 10- to 12-inchers is excellent. You can stink up a pan pretty quick.
In lieu of lodging at resorts, we've stayed at the pet-friendly Super 8 Motel, which was clean and inexpensive. Not a bad location to get to most ice fishing spots. There's also Halverson's and Muskie Bay Lodge (complete with sauna and whirlpools) close to Nestor Falls and between excellent fishing opportunities on both Crow and Whitefish Bay on LOTW.

For more information, contact guides Mike Gate, Dave Bennett, Dean Howard or Jeff "Gussy" Gustafson. They're all buddies with one another and top-notch dudes.

South Dakota's Glacial Lakes Region

Our late-ice plans this season? We'll be up on LOTW in Dale's Sleepers, as well as fishing the lakes and prairie potholes of NE South Dakota with family and friends, another top-notch late-ice destination, whether you venture out of Webster or Waubay. Whether its jumbo perch and walleyes on Waubay, crappies in Enemy Swim, or perch and 'eyes on various potholes, it's hard to go wrong in SD. And, if you have a snow machine, you can get to tons of out-of-the-way lakes and sloughs that don't get a ton of pressure.

Call Doug at Sportsman's Cove on a Tuesday for his weekly up-to-date ice fishing report. Doug has affordable lodging and can hook you up with a host of guides, as well as point you in the right direction if you prefer to fish on your own. He also rents UTVs, snowmobiles, and ATVs if you don't have your own. Heck of a deal.

More SD Glacial Lakes Region Lodging Info

Good luck and stay safe during late-ice!

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