Fishing on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior

Beginner’s Guide to Fishing on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior

As an angler, if a state is nicknamed the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” it’s a state I’m eager to visit. Minnesota is a popular fishing destination, and in this article, we’re highlighting fishing on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior.

There are different ways to fish the region around Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior. Those include:

  • Fishing Lake Superior from shore or by boat
  • On the inland lakes within the Superior National Forest or Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
  • In the many rivers and streams that feed into Lake Superior.

In this beginner’s guide to fishing Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior, you’ll learn what fish are present, how to catch them, and the best times and places to fish during your visit to the North Shore, MN.

Grab a cup of coffee, and let’s get started!

What fish species can I catch on the North Shore, MN?

lake trout caught on Lake Superior

Lake trout caught on Lake Superior

The lakes on Minnesota’s North Shore are home to a wide variety of fish species. Most species have a specific habitat, so you’ll want to choose which species to fish for depending on where you go.

Here’s what kind of fish you can catch based on the body of water that you’re fishing.

Lake Superior

The Big Lake (Lake Superior) is primarily home to salmon (coho, pink, and king) and lake trout, but walleye, pike, and smallmouth can also be found.  

Inland Lakes

The Superior National Forest is inland from Lake Superior and is home to hundreds of glacial lakes. Here on the North Shore, MN, they are called inland lakes. Fish for walleye, smallmouth bass, northern pike, perch, and several species of trout (rainbow, splake, brown). These fish can be caught from shore, by kayak, canoe, or by boat using a variety of lures and baits.

Streams

Brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, and salmon are the most commonly caught fish from streams and rivers along the North Shore, MN. However, don’t be surprised if you occasionally catch other fish like smallmouth bass, northern pike, and walleye.

Now that we know what species we should expect to catch, let’s figure out what gear we’ll need.

Gear You Need for Fishing on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior

smallmouth bass caught in canoe on the inland lakes of the Superior National Forest

Catching bass in a canoe on the inland lakes.

The great thing about fishing on the North Shore for beginners is that you don’t always need a lot of gear. 

It’s often best to start with only the essentials. Then, after you’ve learned what you genuinely need,  buy those additional fishing accessories.

Rod & Reel

I recommend starting with a 10 to 12-foot medium-heavy moderate fast-action spinning rod if you plan to fish Lake Superior from shore. 

Use a much shorter rod when fishing streams and inland lakes. I recommend a 7-foot spinning rod.

Streams are also a great place to test out your fly fishing skills. So if you love wading and fly fishing, grab a 5 or 6-weight fly rod to battle the trout found in these waterways.

Lures & Baits

When selecting a lure for fishing on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior, do so based on the fish you’re targeting. 

When fishing lake trout and salmon on Lake Superior, lures like looper bugs, flies, and large casting spoons work well.

Flies and small casting spoons work great in streams and rivers.

When fishing the inland lakes, you can use traditional bass fishing lures like crankbaits, jigs, and spinners to catch smallmouth, walleye, and pike. Live bait is another great option. Jigging with a minnow or night crawler will often lure a good catch. Be sure to check the seasonal regulations on the use of live bait. Live bait can usually be purchased at convenience stores and gas stations. 

Other Important Fishing Gear

You might think all you need is a rod & reel and some lures, but several other pieces of gear will make your trip much more enjoyable, safe, and legal.

You will definitely need your Minnesota fishing license, so be sure to purchase that ahead of time. Add a Trout Stamp if you plan to go for trout.

Other gear I recommend while fishing on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior includes: 

  • Warm clothes (some of the best fishing is during cold winter mornings)
  • Waterproof boots or waders to keep your feet dry and warm
  • Headlamp to see in low light conditions
  • Rod holders if you’re using multiple rods from the shore
  • Long-handled fishing net to land fish
  • Ice cleats (when fishing in the winter)
  • Polarized sunglasses to cut the glare off the water and see into the water
  • Pliers to help remove hooks from the fish’s mouth

 Alrighty, now that your gear is packed and ready to go, it’s time to know when to go fishing.

After all, we don’t want to waste our time wandering around a beautiful countryside being forced to take in awe-inspiring views!

Best Times to Go Fishing on the North Shore, MN

As a long-time angler who loves to experience the outdoors, I don’t believe there’s a bad time to go fishing except during a dangerous storm. 

However, there are days and times when the fish nearly jump into your hands, and that’s what we want to talk about in this section. 

Early mornings or late afternoons are usually the best time to go fishing. This is when fish are most active, but this also depends on the season. 

Spring Fishing on the North Shore, MN

fishing from shore on Lake Superior in the spring.

Family fishing on the Lake Superior shore in the spring.

Spring is one of the best seasons to go fishing because many species of fish are about to spawn. 

Why the heck would that matter?

Well, during the spawn, fish are either protecting their nest near the shore or feeding heavily to pack on the pounds. Either way, spring is a great time to go fishing as a beginner.

Summer Fishing along the North Shore 

Most beginner anglers assume summer is the best time to go fishing. Surprisingly, it’s not! That is because there is more fishing pressure, and the fish become lethargic as the water heats up. 

Most fish also move to deeper areas in search of cooler water, making them harder to catch from the shore.

Fall Fishing at the North Shore 

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year to go fishing. In the fall, fish follow their food back to the shallows to feed up in preparation for winter, making them accessible to catch from shore. 

Furthermore, fewer anglers are on the water during the fall. This is all the more reason why fall is one of the best times of the year to go fishing.

Winter Fishing along the North Shore

Walleye caught in the Superior National Forest

Walleye caught while ice fishing in an inland lake of the Superior National Forest.

Can you fish when the water is frozen? 

Yes, as long as it’s safe to be on the ice! The Minnesota DNR’s ice thickness guidelines state the following: 

  • Less than four inches of ice: keep off
  • 4 inches is safe to walk on the ice
  • 5 – 7 inches of ice is safe for snowmobiles
  • 7-8 inches is safe for a side-by-side ATV
  • 13-17 inches is safe for a truck
  • 20+ inches is safe for a heavy-duty truck with wheelhouse shelter

Ice fishing is a great way to catch lake trout and coho salmon on Lake Superior, and many anglers love catching perch, walleye, and northern pike through the ice on the inland lakes.

Just be sure you prepare yourself and your gear for ice fishing and ALWAYS play it safe.

Now that we know the best times to go fishing, let’s follow up with the best locations to fish on the North Shore, MN. Certainly, you can fish at the perfect time, but the fish can’t bite your hook if they’re not there.

Best Places to Fish on the North Shore of Lake Superior. 

map of the northeast minnesota region - lake superior and superior national forest

Google map image of Lake Superior and the Superior National Forest. Cook County, MN

The North Shore, MN is loaded with great fishing spots for beginners and experts. Whether you want to hike to a quiet little stream and catch trout, go for walleye on an inland lake, or you crave to conquer Lake Superior, there are many public access areas to check out. 

Locations to Fish From Shore on Lake Superior

Lake Superior fishing from shore at the Stewart River

Fishing from shore on Lake Superior

Lake Superior’s North Shore has various public access areas where you can fish from shore. I recommend fishing around break walls, points, and river mouths, as this is where fish tend to congregate and can be caught from the shore. 

Some locations include:

  • Mouth of Lester River
  • McQuade Harbor
  • Two Harbors Breakwater
  • Mouth of the Stewart River
  • Twin Points Access
  • Silver Bay Marina
  • Taconite Harbor
  • Mouth of Cascade River
  • Mouth of Kadunce River
  • Horseshoe Bay

Lake Superior Trout Streams, North Shore MN

According to LakeSuperiorStreams.org, some of the best trout fishing spots are:

  • Amity Creek, Duluth
  • Lester River, Duluth
  • Talmadge River, Duluth
  • Knife River, Knife River
  • Gooseberry River, Castle Danger
  • Split Rock River, Beaver Bay
  • E Split Rock River, Beaver Bay
  • Beaver River, Beaver Bay
  • Caribou River, Schroeder
  • Poplar River, Lutsen
  • Flute Reed River, Hovland

Superior National Forest Inland Lakes

fishing at sunset in the Superior National Forest

Fishing at sunset in the Superior National Forest

The Superior National Forest makes up most of the land around Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior. There are thousands of lakes both inside and outside of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness that offer excellent fishing.

There are too many lakes to mention them individually. However, the book Minnesota Arrowhead Region Fishing Map Guide is an excellent resource to help find great lakes to fish. It is a thorough, easy-to-use collection of detailed contour lake maps, fish stocking and survey data, and the best fishing spots and tips from area experts.

In general, inland lake fishing is best around rock piles, points, and shallow flats near deep water. These areas give fish a place to hide from predators and prey.

Hire a Fishing Guide or Charter

fishing on Minnesota's North Shore of Lake Superior

If all of this seems like too much of a hassle to do on your own, there are fishing guides and charters that you can hire. Fishing guides and charters are available to take you fishing by boat in Lake Superior, by boat on or shore in the inland lakes, and fly fishing in trout streams. This is often the easiest way to almost guarantee that you’ll catch fish!

Last Cast

Fishing Minnesota’s Lake Superior for beginners doesn’t have to be terrifying; there are many ways to have a great time during your visit to the North Shore, especially when you implement all the fishing tips and tricks above.

Author’s profile

Coty Perry is a third-generation angler and the Managing Editor of Anglers. For Coty, he didn’t love bass fishing at first cast. It took a few (thousand) throws for him to become obsessed with mastering every possible fishing style, technique, and lure. He has a plethora of knowledge and experience on the water and loves sharing what he knows.

 

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