Learn to Ice Fish

Two children fishing through the ice.



Ice fishing is a quintessential Minnesota winter sport, but learning when, where, and how to ice fish can be daunting. The staff at the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area can help you get started at one of our public or group ice fishing workshops.

Public Ice Fishing Events

Participants can try ice fishing, drill a hole, get fishing advice, and learn about Minnesota fish, ice safety, and ice fishing tackle and techniques at one of our public ice fishing workshops. Poles, tackle, and bait are provided. Instruction is provided by experienced ice anglers and NPS Rangers. Participants can warm up in a heated shelter and view the mysterious under-ice world through an underwater camera and learn about the challenging conditions faced by life beneath the ice.

Check our Calender for upcoming ice fishing events.

Group Ice Fishing Workshops

We also provide ice fishing programs for both youth and adult groups, such as scouts. Poles, tackle, and bait are provided. Instruction is provided by experienced ice fishing anglers and NPS Rangers. Limit is 60 participants. To set up your own group ice fishing program, call 651-293-0200 to schedule an ice fishing outing or for information about upcoming public events. Group programs have limited availability and may not be available due to poor ice conditions and specialized staff availability.

What should I Expect at a Fishing Workshop?

The day before the event an NPS Ranger will check parking and ice conditions. If conditions force changes to the event, that information will be posted to this webpage the day before the event. If you have questions, please call.

Dress for the weather and be ready to have some serious fun. Be prepared to walk in deep snow or on wind-swept, slippery ice. Wear insulated boots or over-sized boots with two pairs of thick socks for insulation; wool socks are best.

Layered clothing is desirable. Start with a shirt, sweater or fleece, and then a coat. If you get warm on the ice, it is easy to remove or add a layer. Bring along a warm hat, a scarf, and a pair of mittens or gloves. Wear insulated trousers or ski pants. Some participants will wear two pairs of pants to keep their legs warm. Get creative!

Upon arriving at an ice fishing workshop you will be greeted either in the parking lot or at the shoreline by a NPS Ranger or volunteer. They will provide an introduction, initial instructions, fishing tackle and direct you to the designated fishing area.

Holes are drilled in clusters of three so a family can stay close together and are drilled in advance or upon your arrival. You are welcome to try drilling your own hole with a hand auger--a very good way to warm up!

A Ranger or volunteer will help you set up your tackle, help bait your hook, and offer advice on equipment and fishing technique.

Our ice house is heated and offers a place to warm up, but space is limited to a few individuals at a time. Take some time to talk to a Ranger at the ice house, use the underwater camera, and join the conversation about "Life Under the Ice."

What Fish Might I Catch?

Sunfish (bluegills and pumpkinseeds) are the most commonly caught panfish in Minnesota. They are most often caught on tiny jigs tipped with bait, such as grubs or waxworms. Bait is provided at our programs.

Northern pike are large predators often taken by ice anglers fishing for other species, but some anglers specifically target pike using tip-ups and minnows. We bring tip-ups to each program to demonstrate their use.

Crappies are caught using ice jigs tipped with waxworms or small minnows.

Largemouth bass are unusual ice fishing catches, but are occasionally caught on jigging poles or on tip-ups.

ICE SAFETY -- Use caution on any ice.

Ice is usually thinner near and over running water, which includes rivers, outlets and inlets of lakes and ponds, and areas near aeration equipment and rotting vegetation. Cloudy ice is weaker than clear ice and ice doesn't form as quickly when it is insulated by snow. These factors--among others--cause ice conditions to vary from year to year, lake to lake, and even in different areas of the same lake. We check ice thickness and safety before each event. See the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website for an excellent discussion on ice safety.

Last updated: November 22, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

111 E. Kellogg Blvd., Suite 105
Saint Paul, MN 55101


(651) 293-0200
This is the general phone line at the Mississippi River Visitor Center. Please leave a voicemail if we miss your call and expect a return call within 1 day, often sooner.

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