When it comes to ice fishing Lake of the Woods, there seems to never be a shortage of action. On the good days you are slamming trophy walleye and on the slow days you are slamming sauger, with plenty of slot fish mixed in. On the REALLY fun days, you are reeling up trophy sturgeon, just like Greg did with this 60″ sturgeon in the picture above (released).
However, as fun as it can be, it’s also intimidating. It’s a huge body of water with its own set of regulations, limitations, and what seems like endless accommodation options. For the new visitors, it’s a lot to consider. That’s why I put together a simple Lake of the Woods ice fishing guide to help you plan the perfect trip for you, your friends, and your family.
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ICE FISHING LAKE OF THE WOODS
When it comes to ice fishing Lake of the Woods there are so many options. I’ve done it all: DIY, day houses, all inclusive packages, you name it. At the end of the day it depends on the gear you have and the people you plan on bringing with, and simply how much work you want to put in yourself.
Many times, I will plan a trip for both. When I bring a big group of people along, like we did with Matt’s Alaska crew, or with my friends and family for my birthday, I try to go inclusive. When it’s just Matt and I, or a friend or two, it’s all about DIY.
Of course some of the best trips are when we make time for both.
SPECIES TO TARGET
If you are reading this article you are probably thinking of walleye when fishing Lake of the Woods, but it’s not the only species that can draw you to the area. In fact, some of the most unique multi-species opportunities lies within this massive body of water and its tributary. That’s why below I have a quick summary of fishing opportunities you can enjoy while ice fishing Lake of the Woods.
Lake of the Woods is a walleye (and sauger) factory and there are is always that chance to score a fish of lifetime. It’s what draws people to this place, unlimited action paired with real trophy fishing.
Lake of the Woods Walleye Tips
When it comes to finding and catching fish, there really is no secret. Early in the year, before the lake is fully iced up, it is often best to simply plan your trip with a resort. Not only is it important for them to be on fish to sell packages, but perhaps most importantly, they know the safety limits early in the year, when ice is yet to be thick or predictable.
However, as January progresses the DIY opportunities become strong. And if a few sits in a permanent shack don’t do it for you – then I recommend venturing out to the more popular structure on the lake – such as Garden, Knight Island, and more. I’ve also seen plenty of action sitting next to ice heaves in the mud flats as well.
When DIYing, the biggest ticket is going to be moving when you find the fish aren’t there. So pack light, and be ready to move when you aren’t finding the class of fish you are looking for.
Walleye Gear for Lake of the Woods
My favorite resort, River Bend Resort, does rent out some gear (as mentioned later in this article). However, if you want to pack for it yourself, here are few suggestions.
Recommended Walleye Gear for Lake of the Woods:
- Medium powered rod – I use a Tuned Up Custom Rod Commander with a stiffer backbone in case I hook into that 30″ fish.
- 10 lb braid with a fluorocarbon leader – I personally run power pro, but any braid works well for strength and sensitivity.
- A mix of spoons tipped with a minnow head are always great options to have on hand – I like having the Lindy Rattlin Flyer Spoon (my FAVORITE lure – use code nicole15 to order at lurenet.com), a buckshot and a VMC dangler in the mix – I find the 1/4 to 1/8 works the best.
- A dead line – Minnesota allows 2 lines total, so I’ve got a dead stick with a bobber or a dangler running at all times (paired with the same # line). I usually have a simple hook, split shot, and minnow as my go to presentation.
- Electronics of choice (Every fishing experience is that much better with a flasher or sonar unit)
I have found that golds and reds work the best. Lake of the Woods is considered “dark” water, and walleye have limited color vision as it is, so you can’t go wrong with flashy, glow and noise specific lures.
You can learn more in my article called “Does Lure Color Matter?”. I break down the science behind walleye color vision to help you make more educated decisions on the water.
Another species that has put both Lake of the Woods and its tributary Rainy River on the map is sturgeon. More known for its spring fishing opportunities, sturgeon also get caught through the ice, which provides an even bigger rush than caught in a boat.
This time of year keeping sturgeon is not legal; however, catch and release is legal. In the above image, we caught a sturgeon (through the ice) by lying jigs on the bottom. In an attempt to catch walleye who are feeding on blood worms in the mud, we instead hooked into a couple of these beasts which provided a surprising and long lasting fight.
Each fish were caught on medium powered ice rods – with light line, providing a wild and long escapade to the top of the ice. However, if you are looking to target these species – I recommended upsizing to a heavy action rod (something designated for lakers) and heavy line, as it will help both you and the fish be less fatigued at the end of the battle.
Pike fishing can be good anytime at Lake of the Woods, but it’s become very popular during late ice when the pike move into the shallow. Catching a 40″ pike isn’t out of the norm and a perfect activity to tackle with the warmer, longer days. In fact, it doesn’t get any better than Lake of the Woods for chasing flags.
DIY VS PACKAGE OPPORTUNITIES
As mentioned above, you can DIY OR take advantage of one of the many resorts guided/all-inclusive services. I’ve done both, and choosing which one’s best often times depends on how much time you have and who you are bringing with you.
If you are short on time, or have a large group of people to take care of, then there is no better option then taking an ice fishing package to help you out with the headaches. Not only do these packages help with the logistics, but they provide you with literally EVERYTHING you need, so you don’t have to worry about packing the house.
Benefits of resort packages include:
- Warm, prepared houses
- Heated transportation (not everyone has a snowmobile or side by side, and early in the season you need to be resistant of using trucks
- Likely on a Good Bite
What Option is Right For You?
Long distance? Light Gear? A Large group of people? Then I recommend an all inclusive fishing package with River Bend Resort.
RIVER BEND RESORT ON LAKE OF THE WOODS
It’s no secret that I’ve been a big fan of River Bend Resort on Lake of the Woods for a long time. They have a nice restaurant/bar area (they will even cook your fish), great packages, and the owners, Paul and Brandy, are fantastic. They also built a new cabin, with the nicest amenities and phenomenal windows overlooking the rainy that we got to enjoy our weekend up there.
Perhaps best of all, they have a large variety of packages that fit any need or budget. If you are new to Lake of the Woods it can’t be beat.
When it comes to cabins, River Bend has a variety of options depending on your price point and needs. Pictured below is one of their most recent additions – with large glass windows and doors (overlooking the the beautiful Rainy River), a modern Kitchen and plenty of room to enjoy your stay after a long day on the ice. I spend most of my time working after fishing, so having a nice place to come back to and work at was a perfect option for this situation.
They also have older, fishing friendly houses where you can host your friends and family with all of your essentials.
River Bend Ice Fishing Packages
What River Bend does exceptionally well is offer you a variety of packages to accommodate any need. . They have all inclusive packages (that even includes meals), sleeper house packages, day house packages – where you can fish with them and stay elsewhere. They literally offer it all. Their guided trips include a ride out to your fishing destination where a guide will assist you, and your house will be warm and ready to go with a bucket of bait. I have a quick breakdown of these packages listed below.
Sleeper Houses, Day Houses, & More
Below are resources directly from the River Bend website showing their multiple package opportunities for ice anglers. I’ve used the Day Houses and used their camp as a base and went DIY many times. As mentioned previously, each option has its benefits, and when dealing with a big group of people you can’t beat going with a package, especially an all-inclusive.
They have 3 package opportunities:
- Ice Fishing from a Sleeper House
- All Inclusive (Stay at a Cabin & Fish in a Day House)
- Fish With River Bend and Stay Elsewhere (perfect for when you have friends or family residing in the area but still want good fishing, pizza for lunch, and all of your fishing needs taken care of. ).
Below are 3 of the packages River Bend resort has to offer.
ICE HOUSE ACCOMMODATIONS
As for the actual ice house accommodations, they are spacious, warm, and come with bait ready to go. It’s perfect for a big group of individuals who want to fish, socialize, and not worry about the work and cold weather involved in DIY ice fishing.
- They also provide gear rental, which includes:
In fact, Greg from Midwest Outdoors was using one of their Helix 7’s as well.
SUMMARY OF MY LAKE OF THE WOODS/RAINY RIVER TRIPS
Lake of the Woods is one of my favorite destinations. It’s provided me with some of the biggest fish of my life, in all seasons. However, ice fishing provides an adventure all on it’s own. During my most recent trip, I was able to take a fun ride out to the lake, be part of monster sturgeon being caught, and catch my limit of fish rather quickly. Best of all, each evening we spend winding down to a drink and good meal at the bar with our friends and family.
You can also get the latest fishing report on Lake of the Woods from River Bend Resort.
Feel free to email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on Lake of the Woods and my favorite packages.