Minnesota Pike Fishing: Finding Big Northern Pike in the Land of 10,000 Lakes

Minnesota is one of the best places in North America to go pike fishing, and it shouldn’t be surprising that the second largest pike ever caught in North America came out of the Land of 10,000 Lakes. As our article on state northern pike records goes into more detail on, not only does Minnesota boast a giant pike from back in the day, but the waters of this northern Midwest state have been providing multiple 45+ inch catch-and-release trophy pike in recent years. This isn’t a state that had one giant pike back in the day and that was it – those waters are teeming with big pike!

In fact, just in early 2023 an angler ice fishing for pike caught a beautiful 46.25 inch pike that tied the state’s catch-and-release record…meaning that beauty is still in that lake feeding away!

There’s a lot to cover when it comes to where to hit Minnesota for pike fishing, and as an Iowan who has noted many times that most of the best spots in our state for pike are very far north, right by the border, it doesn’t surprise me that going even further north only increases your chances of running into the really big pike.

record size Minnesota northern pike
Great picture of Brecken Kobylecky’s amazing state record northern pike shows pike fishing is booming up in Minnesota – pic courtesy of Minnesota DNR.

Where Are The Best Places in Minnesota for Northern Pike Fishing?

There’s no shortage of lakes with big pike in them throughout the state – not just by the standards of anglers who fish in areas where 15-20 lbs is a really sizeable pike, but the truly giant ones that you often either need to release based on local rules and regulations, or big enough it is a trophy that needs to be mounted on the wall.

Minnesota is one of the few states where you can find good pike fishing throughout the entire state, but even there some lakes stand out compared to others for their outstanding catches and fishing experience.

Let’s dive into the best lakes for big pike fishing in Minnesota.

Lake of the Woods (MN side)

No one should be surprised by this entry. There’s no question that Lake of the Woods is considered one of the best fishing spots for northern pike in the entire state of Minnesota. This is one of the best spots to find big pike in the entire state – with the emphasis on BIG. In fact, it’s not only common, but expected that multiple 40+ inch northern pike are going to be caught every single year.

Nestled right up against the Canadian Border, Lake of the Woods is the place you want to go to maximize your chances of catching a gigantic pike and enjoying the lifetime memories that come from that much of a fun fight against these freshwater wolves!

You’ll want to make reservations to a local lodge or campground, and keep an eye on regulations each year. Be very careful to stay on the American side as that is your responsibility as an angler and what the regulations are for what you can catch and keep versus catch and release.

The good news is that if you’re pike fishing in Minnesota then Lake of the Woods is one of the best options every single year. Their website is also kept very up to date including fishing reports that are posted weekly to let you see just how much success anglers are having and how the waters overall are looking at that time.

Lake of the Woods, Minnesota – top spot for trophy pike fishing, not to mention some of the prettiest natural scenery you’ll ever see. Follow the map to where those giant pike live!

If you’re set on an unforgettable pike fishing trip to Minnesota, Lake of the Woods should be up at the top of your list of places to check out.

Lake Mille Lacs (Mille Lacs Lake)

Lake Mille Lacs caught my attention because its name was so similar to Lac de Mille Lacs, where my family went fishing in Canada once a year for about two decades up in Ontario. The second thing that caught my attention was that they have been in Minnesota fishing news several times recently because of giant pike that were pulled from the waters…even while ice fishing!

It doesn’t matter what season you are in when planning that outing, the big pike are willing to bite in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. This is the second largest inland lake in the state of Minnesota and is renowned for its fishing.

Mille Lacs Lake is very well known among walleye fishermen and is generally considered one of, if not the, best walleye lake in the entire state. Located in central Minnesota, Mille Lacs Lake is teeming with walleye which means the big pike in the lake have plenty to feed on, and any lake that has a near endless food supply and northern pike in the same place is going to end up creating some absolute monsters.

This is a lake that is still producing, too, as in early 2023 while ice fishing (and even those who don’t think Mille Lacs is the best lake for pike fishing in Minnesota will usually give this lake the nod for ice fishing) an angler tied the state record for catch and release pike.

That was the second time a state record pike came out of this lake, making it pretty hard to argue with Mille Lacs not being one of the best spots for pike fishing in the entire state of Minnesota, especially with the sheer number of 40 inch long northern pike that can be pulled out of these waters, which as one angler very well put it, is “Unreal.”

Mille Lacs Lake – perfect spot for incredible walleye catches as well as some trophy northern pike.

Basswood Lake, MN

Basswood Lake is famous in angling circles up in Minnesota, but you’d be forgiven if you haven’t heard of this hidden gem. Even among many Minnesota anglers who have been fishing for pike for years or decades, and who have visited other spots, Basswood is on the Boundary Waters and in a very isolated area to boot. This is an area with a reputation for humongous walleye and some big bites from muskies, but those fishing for northern pike have nothing but glowing things to say about Basswood.

Basswood Lake is the location where the state record pike came from for both weight as well as length. This definitely makes Basswood Lake the location to go if you are looking to chase the state record northern pike – and this shows just how many truly huge northern pike can be found in this border water lake. There are limits currently on what sized fish can be kept and which ones must be caught and released, but this great news for fishermen as this means some of those huge pike are caught, have pictures taken, and then immediately put back into the lake.

On top of this, there’s something else that is worth talking about when it comes to pike fishing in Basswood Lake Minnesota – which is that the quality of the bite is unmatched. When northern pike in this isolated area hit – they tend to hit very hard!

This is something that we noted while up in Canada during my youth. When the waters were abnormally high so we could get to places that were usually cut off, the pike we found there hit like they were 5x the size, and they often set the hook for you just because of how hard they hit. That’s the same quality of bite that many of the Basswood fans I’ve talked to rave about.

Even if you have to toss back the biggest pike – you can get some incredible pictures of amazing pike and muskies while keeping some very impressive walleye for the frying pan at camp or back at the lodge.

Among anglers and guides, there is talk that if you’re going to find the ultra rare 50 inch long northern pike, then Basswood is the lake where you are most likely to find these gigantic monsters. Some even claim to have had pike that size in the boat before catch and release…but with anglers and fishermen the only things bigger than the fish are sometimes the tall tales off how they grow by the time you go from water to story.

That said, there’s no denying that many of the largest northern pike in the entire state of Minnesota are going to be found in Basswood Lake, and there are enough stories of 50 inch pike that it’s hard to believe some of them weren’t accurate measurements. It’s also widely believed by many guides that if the state record is ever going to be broken, this is the lake that it’s going to come out of.

This is out of the way, but if you truly want big fish this is where you go. Huge walleye, huge pike, huge muskie, huge smallmouth bass – everything seems to grow big in this lake and that leads to a lot of fun fishing and some seriously good eating!

Basswood Lake MN
Basswood Lake is out of the way, but this small bit of border water has an oversized reputation for the size and ferocity of northern pike you can fish for here.

If you want the ultimate fishing experience as a Land of 10,000 Lakes angler, or just a visitor seeing the best the state has to offer, you’ll want to make sure to put this one on your list.

Leech Lake, MN

Leech Lake is already well known among more anglers, but it’s actually known for its muskie fishing as opposed to pike fishing – but as is often the case where you find one you can find the other and that’s also true in Leech Lake! While hunting after those particularly crafty and infuriating muskies you will be able to thank the many 30 inch and 40 inch pike that will keep things interesting by hammering those lures and giving you a major might as you continue that elusive search for the giant muskie who won’t get away this time.

Leech Lake is also well south of the Border Waters, which is great for those of us looking for incredible pike fishing but would like to shave a few hours off the travel time without having to make a massive sacrifice when it comes to results. When you set out to go pike fishing in Minnesota’s Leech Lake, you have every chance of pulling in plenty of 35″ to 40″ northern pike.

Who knows? You might even hit up some even largest muskies along the way! There are plenty of big fish in Leech Lake not to mention an abundance of local campgrounds, hotels, and other places to stay depending on how you like to do your fishing vacations. You have options!

While there were times in the past where some questions came up about the health of the overall fish population, over the last decade any concerns about the numbers of pike in the waters, or the size of them, have gone out the window. This is a healthy lake and you won’t have any problems tracking down some truly giant Minnesota raised pike right there!

Leach Lake MN Map

Rainy Lake, MN

Rainy Lake, Minnesota is another lake that has plenty of reputation for being a place to go to catch the big pike. Voyageurs National Park is right there, preserving some of the most beautiful country in the Midwest while the fishing attracts anglers from all across the state of Minnesota and beyond.

While you are definitely heading up to the Border Waters to see what Rainy Lake has to offer, there’s no lack of things for nature lovers to do here including chasing after those giant fish. If you have family members who love nature but aren’t quite as keen as you are when it comes to chasing big pike, there is hiking, canoeing, and plenty of nature all around this beautiful part of the state.

Also some of the best northern pike fishing in all of Minnesota, which still remains the main point, and that is definitely saying something when it can hold its own against the other top-notch options that are on this list.

Rainy Lake MN Map
Rainy Lake MN is another border water area where you can be sure to find some seriously big pike.

Birch Lake, MN (Ely/Babbit MN)

Birch Lake is a hidden gem that many locals are found of. This 20-mile long lake stretches past Ely and Babbit and even butts up against the Border Waters that are so famous for their big fish. There are multiple river systems that come into Birch Lake and while it takes some exploring or a good local guide to find the really great places, versus just the good, this is a lake that has some serious pike fishing and not nearly the pressure or traffic that many of the other top lakes on this list experience.

Located in Birch Lake State Park, there are plenty of hiking trails and campsites here, and obviously the type of northern pike fishing that can create a once in a lifetime experience. There are many big pike here, and so many different “hidden spots” in the lake that is 20 miles long.

The low pressure from other anglers compared to other incredibly popular pike fishing spots means you don’t have to carefully work around other boats or worry about too much fishing pressure – it’s a very low pressure area in more ways than one!

Birch Lake is just one of my favorite camping and outdoor areas in the entire United States period because of the amazing setup, clear care put into the park’s upkeep, and the top-notch MN pike fishing is just an additional bonus…or vice-versa depending on how dedicated to finding that trophy pike you are!

Birch Lake Minnesota Map
Birch Lake is north of Duluth but gives you a good final destination before having to drive all the way to the Border Waters.

Lake Vermilion, MN

Referred to many as “Minnesota’s Most Beautiful Lake,” you don’t get to make a claim that huge and audacious unless you can really back it up, and Lake Vermilion seems to have no trouble doing exactly that! Within throwing distance of the true border waters, Lake Vermilion is a sizeable lake that looks like three or four lakes connected by “narrow” channels.

I say narrow based on overview of a map, not based on the size of these connecting areas of water taking what could be multiple lakes and connecting it all into one body of water.

Lake Vermilion is renowned with locals for both its northern pike and musky fishing, and the big walleyes in this lake are no slouches either! Each year pictures are put up of recently caught fish on the lake and they are always an impressive collection.

If you are looking to cross both “Trophy Sized Muskie” and “Trophy Sized Northern Pike” off your fishing bucket list, Lake Vermilion could be your one spot shop. There are plenty of campsites, RV sites, or go all-out and look for the local lodges that can even come with guides who will show you where on these giant lakes the best spots are to increase your chances of landing that potentially once in a lifetime catch!

lake vermilion MN map
Lake Vermilion is an impressive sized lake with two things in abundance: seemingly endless beauty and a seeming endless number of northern pike.

Red Lake, MN

Red Lake has plenty to offer local and visiting anglers alike. Widely recognized as one of the best walleye spots in all of Minnesota, they frequently provide near endless social media pictures of anglers having a very good time filling up the freezer and the frying pan with delicious walleye.

And that’s a good way to go, but this also means that a lot of people overlook the pike fishing potential that Red Lake brings to the table!

As a pike angler you might think that a lake full of walleye would make for good food for some really big pike, and that’s even before you find out that Red Lake also has huge populations of perch, bluegill, whitefish, and lake trout…all fish that pike love to feast on.

The pike fishing gets a bit overshadowed because of the giant walleye, lake trout, and smallmouth bass that can be found in these lakes, not to mention a relatively healthy muskie population, but make no mistake about it: Red Lake can deliver some world class pike fishing and it definitely deserves to be on the list of the best fishing spots in Minnesota for northern pike!

Red Lake MN map
Red Lake encompasses both North Red Lake and South Red Lake, and the largest inland lake in Minnesota absolutely is a great place to find those trophy Minnesota pike.

These eight lakes are absolutely incredible when it comes to great pike fishing in Minnesota, and often have other healthy populations of fish like muskies, lake trout, walleye, sauger, and smallmouth bass, among others.

Honorable Mentions (Still Great Lakes for Minnesota Pike Fishing)

Honestly, there aren’t many places in Minnesota that don’t offer potentially fantastic pike fishing opportunities. However, some lakes that didn’t make the top eight still stick out for having great pike fishing opportunities and I wanted to mention some of them here briefly before wrapping up the article.

Lake Bemidji

I have a lot of good family memories of Lake Bemidji from summer fishing trips. This “small” glacier made lake in northern Minnesota. The lake is around 11 square miles and has multiple campsites and resorts around it, in addition to many public parks, hiking trails, and of course excellent fishing.

We never went home without our maxed out tags for both walleye and pike, and this lake really is a gem.

Lake Grindstone

A very hidden gem, Grindstone is a very small but very deep lake that has both cool water and cold water species because of the depths of the deepest points. There are some very big pike in the depths of Grindstone, and this lake, as you can see on the map, is so small it doesn’t show up on anything close to a state view on Google maps.

This lake is also quite a bit south of Duluth, though still north of Minneapolis, putting it in an area that is much easier for many travelers to reach.

Grindstone Lake Minnesota Map
It’s tiny…really, really tiny compared to other Minnesota lakes, but those hidden depths have some serious sized pike.

If you’re in the area, it’s worth a look for a decent day of pike fishing.

Burntside Lake

Burntside Lake, MN, has some seriously chonky pike in it. This isn’t a lake that’s teeming with a ton of huge pike, but there are multiple well-known pike above the 25 pound range with a big belly that promises to keep them growing over the next few years.

If you find yourself in the area it’s worth seeing if you can find one of the big-bellied beauties in this lake because although it might not compete with the top ones on this list, there’s a lot to love about what you’re going to find in Burntside, especially if you hook one of the big ‘uns in this deep little lake.

Crosby Mine Pits (Winter Fishing)

Haven’t confirmed this one in person (yet) but looking forward to trying it out next time I’ve visiting my friends around the Millie Lacs area. Located northwest of these more famous pike fishing lakes, the mine pits around Crosby were just recently opened and consist of manmade lakes filled with trout and other fish.

You need to hike to get to these lakes (which I love) and they are open for fishing and supposedly are incredible for ice fishing for pike in the winter. I’ve seen multiple pictures of what look like 40 inch beauties. That is a very tempting invitation to me, and I look forward to seeing what this tucked away pike fishing gem has to offer!

Not your conventional pick, but sometimes the best fishing comes from those places a little bit off of the beaten path.

So When Are You Planning Your Minnesota Pike Fishing Trip?

If you want to catch a trophy sized northern pike, Minnesota is a pretty good state to take your shot at it. I spent many a summer in high school and college heading up to Lake Bemidji for good walleye and pike fishing, and we were never disappointed, although a couple years the biggest fish we caught was a massive carp because, well, seems our family just has a way of finding the 30+ lb carp willing to slam a crankbait.

My own memories aside, if you want fantastic pike fishing, a good chance at some muskies and walleyes while at it, and incredible fishing while surrounded by friendly people, then Minnesota is a great state to head to to chase that huge trophy pike. Few places will give you that many opportunities for great fishing and offering incredible nature and outdoor experiences in abundance in addition.

These Minnesota Lakes do both. You should have no shortage of incredible Minnesota pike fishing opportunities with this list in your hands!

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