Big lakes versus the small ones

Across Sunset Country, we are blessed with more water than most places in North America.
Minnesota boasts about having 10,000 lakes. Well, Sunset Country has more than 75,000 bodies of water! And all of that water means we have many options for places to fish on lakes both small and large.
As much as we all love fishing in the boat, the advantage to winter fishing is that we have access to back-country lakes via portage trails that only are accessible by plane in the summer. We also have ice roads, creating easy access to great fishing on some of the larger lakes in the region.
So where is the better fishing?
It’s a good problem to have. Many of my best days ice-fishing have come on Lake of the Woods; so have my biggest lake trout, walleye, and pike. But some of my most memorable trips have been into remote back lakes where we experience phenomenal fishing and remarkable scenery.
For folks looking to get away from it all and lose the cell service, the back lakes probably are the preferred route. For those who just want to drive their vehicle out and go fishing for a few hours, the big-lake ice roads are the best option.
As a general rule, the bigger the lake, the better the chance there is to catch bigger fish. This is true of most species but, of course, there are exceptions.
When I go fishing, my expectations vary depending on the day. If I’m fishing with people who might not get the opportunity to fish all that much, then we’re going to focus on getting a lot of action.
If I’m headed out with some of my hard-core fishing buddies, however, we might target catching trophy fish even if it means we might not catch anything. So for me, the destination for fishing on a given day has a lot to do with who I’m fishing with.
When we want to find fast action, this usually means fishing the back lakes for lake trout and crappies, where these fish probably don’t receive as much angling pressure. For big numbers of walleyes, Lake of the Woods is tough to beat, with an opportunity for big fish mixed in, which always is a nice surprise.
For trophy fish, the bigger lake trout lakes always are better for big fish because they have ample forage to grow larger. The challenge can be finding them in these larger waters because the fish have more room to hide.
The adventure of snowmobiling into a back-country trout lake also is appealing. Most of these lakes have pine-covered, rocky shorelines that are very scenic.
When it comes to crappies, the biggest ones usually are in places where they don’t get a lot of pressure, so it could be a small pothole lake that nobody knows about or a little bay on Lake of the Woods or Rainy Lake that nobody is on to.
It just takes work drilling holes to find them.
Pike is one species that can grow large in relatively small waters so don’t overlook some of the smaller lakes in the region. But the big lakes all offer a good shot at big pike, as well.
Regardless of where you chase pike, March is the best time to ice-fish for them.
One thing is for sure: we have a bunch of great places to ice fish across Sunset Country, so get out there and explore this winter.