Stunning Streams Lure Trout Anglers

By Explore Minnesota

Perfect summer morning for fishing in southeastern Minnesota;-photo by Wayne Bartz
Trout fishing in southeastern Minnesota / Wayne Bartz

It's easy to get hooked on trout fishing in Minnesota. No boats or fancy equipment are necessary, just a desire to fish among spectacular surroundings.

Minnesota offers many miles of quality, well-managed creeks and streams, and a wide variety of scenic terrain in which they can be found. Statewide, there are more than 3,800 miles of trout streams, with more than 700 miles in southeastern Minnesota alone. Access to trout fishing opportunities is ample with more than 1,740 miles of trout streams statewide flowing through public lands or property with an angling easement.

Southeast Minnesota

Steps to Beaver Creek at Beaver Creek State Park; photo courtesy of the MN DNR
Steps to Beaver Creek at Beaver Creek State Park / MN DNR

Southeast Minnesota, a land of forested hills, breath-taking river valleys and crisp, cold water year round, is laced with high-quality streams that harbor brook, brown and rainbow trout. This the state’s premier trout fishing destination with hundreds of miles of streams that are among the best in the Midwest due to stable stream flows and habitat preferred by trout and the insects they feed on. Brook trout in southeast streams grow to a larger size than they do in streams along the North Shore. The National Trout Center in Preston is your source for "All Things Trout," including a 9 Hole Fishing Course for trout anglers!

Northeast Minnesota

River fly fishing near Grand Marais; photo by Davin Brandt
River fly fishing near Grand Marais / Davin Brandt

Northeast Minnesota, home to Lake Superior and pristine lakes near the Canadian border, is the state’s primary destination for lake trout fishing. Streams along the North Shore are renowned for their steelhead and brook trout. Both the Temperance and Cross rivers at Temperance River State Park are designated trout streams, and the Temperance River has been stocked with brook, brown and rainbow trout for many years. The Knife River is the state’s top steelhead stream.

Minneapolis-St. Paul Area

Vermillion Falls in Hastings / David Youngren
Vermillion Falls in Hastings / David Youngren

The Minneapolis-St. Paul Area also has excellent trout fishing. The area’s Vermillion River has benefited from intensive management and now contains brown and rainbow trout of many sizes. Anglers commonly catch brown trout 20 inches and longer. Cenaiko Lake in Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park is a family-friendly destination that is stocked with rainbow trout yearlings each spring and fall. This lake, primarily used by local residents, is among the state’s many designated stream trout lakes managed for trout.

Central

Central Minnesota even offers a trout fishing rarity: mine pit fishing. These waters—the state’s newest lakes—were formed when former iron ore excavation sites filled with water, creating exceptionally clear and cool conditions for trout and other species. Mine pit lakes are usually stocked with rainbow trout. The mine pit lakes within the Cuyuna State Recreation Area northeast of Brainerd evoke the feeling of the remote Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, with their tree-lined shores devoid of docks and cabins.

Trout Fishing Basics

The great thing about stream fishing is the relatively few items needed to catch fish--a spin-casting outfit rigged with 6-pound test line or less, a few hooks in the #10 to #14 range, bait (a nightcrawler is hard to beat), a few small split shot to get your bait down in swift water, and perhaps a pair of hip boots to keep your feet and legs warm and dry. Other options include small spinners or crank baits, or a flyrod and artificial fly.

Fly casting for trout on the Root River in Preston
 

Most bait anglers prefer to approach pools from downstream, then cast their bait upstream, letting it naturally drift back. It's important to keep a close eye on your line as it will often move this way or that before your rod even signals a bite. Those casting spinners have more flexibility when it comes to casting. They can pitch lures from any direction—upstream, downstream or laterally—as minnows swim in all directions, unlike a nightcrawler that simply goes with the flow. Please note that a trout stamp and fishing license are needed when fishing designated trout waters.

Winter Trout Fishing

Winter fly fishing near Whitewater State Park
Winter fly fishing near Whitewater State Park

While most winter anglers in Minnesota focus on ice fishing, those craving for some open water action might want to cast their attention toward southeastern Minnesota. The southeast's catch-and-release winter trout fishing season runs Jan. 1 until the harvest season opener on the Saturday closest to April 15. "Winter stream trout fishing provides an excellent opportunity to enjoy the outdoors during the heart of the winter, and it sharpens your angling skills," says Steve Klotz, former DNR fisheries supervisor at Lanesboro. "It's highly challenging and great fun."

More than 100 miles along more than three dozen streams are open to winter trout fishing, and are identified by signage and on the DNR website. They are located in Fillmore, Goodhue, Houston and Winona counties, and include the South Fork Root River, Hay Creek, West Beaver Creek and the Whitewater River.