Fishing on the Chippewa

People in boat fishing on a lake

As glaciers sculpted northern Minnesota's landscape 10,000 years ago, they also carved some of the nation's best fishing lakes. The frozen rock and ice formed deep clear basins, now home to trout. Glacial sediments filled other basins producing nutrient-rich lakes with complex food webs which feed walleye, bass and panfish. These fish, along with others, are in turn dinner for northern pike and muskie.
The Chippewa National Forest is at the headwaters of two major drainages, the Mississipi River and Hudson Bay. Twenty-five watersheds lace the Forest with 400,000 acres of open water; 1,300 lakes including three of Minnesota’s five largest, 925 miles of streams and over 400,000 acres of wetlands. The combined acreage of lakes, streams and wetlands represents half of the 1.6 million acres within the Chippewa National Forest boundary.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regulates fishing seasons in Minnesota.  The fishing season begins in mid-May for northern pike and walleye, and early June for muskellunge and bass.  These seasons run until the middle of February.  Trout season runs from mid-April to October and mid-January to middle of March.  Trout lakes in Cass County are closed to winter fishing.  You can fill a stringer with panfish year long. Fishing on the Chippewa is good throughout the summer, but usually best in late spring and fall when waters are cool. Ice fishing is a popular sport December through February; check with the local DNR office for information about ice thickness and safety.



Minnesota fishing licenses are required for all persons 16 years and older.  Trout stamps are also needed for trout fishing.  Within the Leech Lake Reservation, special licenses are not required for fishing.  Licenses are available at bait and sporting goods stores throughout the Chippewa National Forest.  The Minnesota DNR issues an annual Fishing Regulation booklet which outlines rules, seasons, limits,  fish identification, and safety measures. Copies of the booklet can be obtained at any of the Chippewa National Forest offices or by going online at



The DNR,  Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and Chippewa National Forest are partners in managingthe fishery resource.  The DNR is the lead agency for surveying, stocking, removing rough fish, renovating lakes and streams, and improving lake access in Minnesota.  Management by the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe includes both game and non-game species.  The Band conducts lake surveys, habitat improvement projects,  rough fish removal, and operates a fish hatchery which is open to the public in early springThe Chippewa National Forest is responsible for protection and enhancement of fish habitat, shoreline protection and providing boat access, in cooperation with the DNR and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.


Area lakes provide a variety of recreation opportunties. Choose the serene quiet waters of a small, hidden lake or the excitement of the larger, open waters.  Whatever your desire remember to always think safety first. The Chippewa National Forest is home to three of Minnesota’s largest lakes: Leech, Cass and Lake Winnibigoshish.   Small craft warnings are issued for these lakes when winds exceed 12 m.p.h. Smaller lakes offer safe and successful fishing alternatives.  All boats must have a readily accessible U.S. Coast Guard approved Type I, II, II or V wearable lifejacket for each person on board.  Type IV throwable devices are no longer acceptable primary lifesaving devices.  In addition, on boats 16 feet or longer (except canoes and kayaks), there must be at least one U.S. Coast Guard approved Type IV  throwable device, such as a buoy, cushion, or ring buoy, immediately available.