A Complete Guide to Gull Lake Ice Fishing

Gull Lake, nestled in the heart of Minnesota's scenic Brainerd Lakes Area, is a premier destination for ice fishing enthusiasts. With its abundant fish species and picturesque winter landscapes, it's no wonder why ice fishing on Gull Lake is a must-try experience.

Key Takeaways

→ Discover the best times and conditions for ice fishing on Gull Lake, MN.

→ Learn about the variety of fish species and where to find the hidden honeyholes.

→ Explore local amenities, including accommodations, bait shops, and ice fishing guides.

Why Visit Gull Lake for Ice Fishing?

Gull Lake offers a unique combination of accessibility and seclusion, making it an ideal spot for both novice and experienced anglers. The lake's vast expanse is dotted with modern ice houses and fish houses, providing comfort and convenience while you wait for the next hot bite.

The community around Gull Lake is welcoming, and the ice fishing culture here is vibrant, with many anglers sharing stories of their catch over a warm meal at local eateries.

Optimal Time to Visit and Ice Conditions

The best time for ice fishing on Gull Lake is typically from late December to late February when the ice is thick and stable. During this period, temperatures can drop well below freezing, creating ideal conditions for ice formation.

The early ice (till the last week of December) and late ice (till the last week of March) conditions can vary a lot depending on the weather conditions. So it's crucial to stay updated on local ice reports to ensure safety. Gull Lake ice fishing rentals often provide updates on conditions and can advise on the safest areas to fish.

SeasonIce ThicknessPopular SpeciesTime of DayTechniques
Early Ice2-4 inches (Caution!)Walleye, CrappieEarly morning, Late afternoonJigging minnows/spoons near weeds, structure
Mid-Winter8-12 inchesWalleye (deeper), Crappie, PikeAny timeTip-ups with minnows/dead baits for walleyes & pike. Jigging spoons/plastics for crappie.
Late IceVariable (Caution!)Walleye (shallow), Crappie, PerchEarly morning, Late afternoonJigging plastics/spoons for crappie & perch. Tip-ups with minnows near spawning areas for walleyes.

Fish Species in Gull Lake

Anglers at Gull Lake can expect to catch a variety of fish, including walleye, pike, and crappie. The lake is also known for its population of active fish like the tullibee and the elusive burbot. Each species requires different tactics, and local fishing guides can offer invaluable advice on how to tailor your approach for a successful outing.

Walleye: The crown jewel of Gull Lake, walleyes lurk in depths of 14-20 feet near drop-offs and weed edges. Try jigging spoons or minnows at dusk or dawn for the best bite.

Crappie: These feisty fighters thrive in deeper waters (25-35 ft) around mud bottoms. Glow jigs tipped with wax worms are irresistible.
Perch: These feisty fighters abound in shallower areas (8-12 ft) near weed beds. Teardrop jigs with wax worms are perfect for tempting these tasty treats.

Pikes: Northern pike add an element of excitement. Look for them lurking near weed edges throughout the season, especially in mid-winter. Tip-ups with shiners or dead baits are your best bet.

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Bonus Catches: Gull Lake also holds surprises like bluegill, tullibee, and even the occasional muskie. Keep an eye out and adjust your tactics accordingly.

Hidden Honey Holes and Reaching the Hotspots

Gull Lake is filled with underwater structures that are teeming with fish. Experienced anglers often talk about hidden honeyholes where fish congregate. To reach these hotspots, many opt for guided trips to help them chase the active fish. GPS and fish finders are invaluable tools for pinpointing these areas.

For the Walleye Prowler:

  • North Long Arm: Shallow shelves near the Narrows hold early-ice walleyes. Move deeper (15-25ft) towards Gull Point and Spider Island as winter progresses. You can also get jumbo crappie and bluegill near weed beds.
  • Main Basin: Seek drop-offs and humps around Pine Island and Steamboat Island for mid-winter action. Tip-ups with shiners or minnows work wonders.
  • Secret Stash: The rocky ridge west of French Lake Island is a hidden gem for late-ice walleyes seeking spawning grounds. Use caution due to potential thin ice.

For the Crappie Crusader:

  • Deadwater Bay: Weed beds near the south and east shores offer easy pickings throughout the season, especially for beginners. Jigging small spoons or plastics is key.
  • Narrows Channel: Deeper waters (10-15ft) attract bigger crappies in mid-winter. Look for structure like sunken logs or brush piles.
  • Whispering Pines Point: This secluded haven boasts shallow reefs teeming with crappie in early and late ice. Use tip-ups with minnows for a relaxed approach.

For the Perch Enthusiast:

  • French Lake Narrows: Rocky shorelines and weed edges are prime hunting grounds for feisty perch throughout the season. Jigging with small jigs or plastics is the go-to method.
  • Sibley Island Shoals: Shallow flats near the island's east side hold eager perch, especially in late ice. Tip-ups with small minnows can be productive.
  • Hidden Gem: The submerged reef north of Steamboat Island is a hidden perch heaven in mid-winter. Use caution due to deeper water and potential currents.
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Hidden honey holes are often off the beaten path and may require more effort to reach. Always prioritize safety and research potential hazards before venturing into unfamiliar areas.
Garmin STRIKER Plus 4 Will Ensure Maximum Success on Ice
Garmin STRIKER Plus 4 Will Ensure Maximum Success on Ice
Remember

→ Shallow areas near the Gull Lake Dam offer excellent panfish opportunities.

→ Explore the shallows and drop-offs for panfish and the occasional walleye surprise.

→ Target walleyes and pike at Mid-lake Depths of 30-40 feet of water around drop-offs and humps.

→ Crappies and perch congregate near rocky points in 10-15 feet of water.

Reaching Your Ice Fishing Hotspot

Gull Lake's frozen expanse may beckon, but reaching those prime fishing spots requires some know-how. Here's a rundown of popular transport options to get you there, catering to different preferences and gear setups:

On Foot:

  • Perfect for early ice or nearby hotspots. Access points at public landings like Breezy Point and Steamboat Bay offer short walks to shallower areas.
  • Consider hauling sleds with gear for longer treks. Be cautious of thin ice on established paths as conditions can vary.

Snowmobile:

  • It is ideal for covering vast distances and reaching remote honeyholes. Public access points like the Narrows and French Lake Narrows allow convenient entry.
  • Ensure thick ice and follow designated trails. Minnesota DNR regulations require snowmobile registration, and operation under the influence is strictly prohibited.

ATV/UTV:

  • Perfect for lugging heavier gear and ice houses. Public access points like Gull Lake Dam and County Road 77 offer designated entry points.
  • Follow designated routes and avoid driving on the lake itself. Ensure ice thickness is sufficient for the combined weight of your vehicle and passengers.

Ice House Rentals:

  • Pre-set ice houses offer warmth, amenities, and proximity to popular spots. Contact local providers like Breezy Point Resort or Big Fish Ice Houses for bookings and access details.
  • If you are renting a pre-fixed house with fixed locations, choose wisely based on your target species and preferred depth. Remember to factor in retrieval logistics at the end of your trip.
Remember to carry a reliable GPS device if you plan to venture on off-beat paths. Garmin Montana has been one of our favorites.
Remember to carry a reliable GPS device if you plan to venture on off-beat paths. Garmin Montana has been one of our favorites.

Regulations and Conservation

It's important to familiarize yourself with Minnesota's fishing regulations before heading out. These rules are in place to ensure the sustainability of Gull Lake's fish populations. Remember that:

  • Minnesota Fishing License is mandatory for everyone 16 years or older. Purchase online or at local bait shops.
  • A Walleye Stamp is needed if you plan to keep walleyes. Available with your fishing license purchase.
  • Tip-ups are limited to two per person, and trotlines are prohibited.
  •  Remember, exceeding size and bag limits is a punishable offense.
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Regulations include size and bag limits, and some areas may be catch-and-release only. Always check the latest guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Bait Shops & Gear Rentals

Whether you're a beginner or simply didn't bring your gear, local bait shops around the Lake are well-stocked with everything you need. From live bait to rattle reels and augers, these shops have it all. Additionally, gear rentals are available, including modern ice houses equipped with the latest fishing technology.

For the Minimalist:

  • Rod & Reel Rentals: Skip the bulky transport! Local shops like Breezy Point Resort and Big Fish Ice Houses offer rod and reel rentals, perfect for day trips or testing the waters before investing in your own equipment.
  • Bait & Tackle: Save space and hassle! Grab minnows, jigs, and other essentials at nearby bait shops like Brainerd Bait & Tackle or Gull Lake Bait & Tackle. They'll offer local advice on what's biting and the best setups for your target species.

For the Comfort Seeker:

  • Ice House Rentals: Ditch the tent and rent a pre-outfitted ice house! Companies like Breezy Point Resort and Big Fish Ice Houses offer cozy setups with amenities like heaters, fish finders, and even grills for cooking your catch.
  • Auger & Sled Rentals: Need muscle-saving solutions? Rent an ice auger to drill through the ice effortlessly, and grab a sled to haul your gear and fresh catches with ease. Many bait shops and rental companies offer these items.

Choosing the Right Gear:

  • Target Species: Consider what you're aiming to catch. Walleye and crappie require lighter tackle, while pike and muskie call for heavier setups. Rental shops can advise you accordingly.
  • Ice Thickness: Always prioritize safety! Choose gear appropriate for the current ice conditions. Thicker ice allows for heavier ice houses and augers.
  • Comfort & Budget: Opt for gear that suits your budget and personal preferences. Rented ice houses add comfort but come at a higher cost compared to basic rod and reel rentals.
ice shacks on Gull Lake
Ice shacks on Gull Lake

Accommodations Near Gull Lake

For those planning a multi-day adventure, numerous resorts offer cozy accommodations. Many of these resorts cater specifically to anglers, with amenities like bait shops, heated fish houses, and even meal services.

Some popular picks among ice anglers include:

Cozy Cabins:

  • Breezy Point Resort: Nestled on Gull Point, these rustic cabins offer lake views, fireplaces, and direct access to prime walleye and crappie spots. Perfect for groups or families seeking a secluded retreat.
  • Steamboat Bay Resort: Located near the Narrows, these charming cabins boast cozy interiors and proximity to excellent pike and perch fishing. Ideal for couples or solo adventurers seeking a peaceful getaway.

Lakeside Resorts:

  • Grand View Lodge: Situated on the north shore, this full-service resort offers modern cabins, delicious dining, and on-site ice fishing rentals and charters. Perfect for a luxurious experience with convenient access to various species.
  • Ruttgers Resort & Campground: Located near the French Lake Narrows, this family-friendly resort features cabins, RV sites, and a general store. Ideal for budget-conscious anglers seeking easy access to diverse fishing areas.

Convenient Towns:

  • Brainerd: This vibrant town offers a range of hotels, motels, and vacation rentals within a short drive of several public access points. Perfect for those seeking nightlife, restaurants, and shopping options after a day on the ice.
  • Nisswa: This charming town boasts cozy bed and breakfasts and quaint cabins within easy reach of popular fishing spots like Deadwater Bay. Ideal for couples and solo travelers seeking a quieter atmosphere with a touch of local charm.

Other options:

  • VRBO & Airbnb: Find unique cabins and rentals directly from owners. Popular options include "Cozy Cabin on Gull Lake" and "Fishing Retreat with Private Dock."

Remember:

Book directly through resort websites for special packages and deals. Check out Grand View Lodge's "Ice Fishing Getaway" or Breezy Point's "Winter Wonderland Package."

Popular options fill up quickly, especially during peak season. Secure your accommodations well in advance.

Choose lodging that caters to your needs, whether it's a fireplace for chilly evenings or a fish cleaning station for your catch.

Respect the Environment: Opt for eco-friendly accommodations and minimize your impact on the beautiful Gull Lake surroundings.

Charter Services and Ice Shacks

For those new to ice fishing or looking to maximize their catch, hiring a guide is a smart choice. Gull Lake's fishing guides are experts in locating fish and can provide insights into the lake's patterns. Charter services often include all the necessary equipment, including fish house rentals so you can focus on the fun of catching fish.

1. Big Fish Ice Houses & Guide Service:

They offer targeted trips for late-ice walleyes seeking spawning grounds and aggressive perch action near weed edges. Guides like Ryan Traxler boast extensive local knowledge and proven success with walleye, crappie, pike, and more. Enjoy heated comfort, fish finders, and amenities for a relaxing and productive fishing experience.

2. FishTraxx Outdoor Guide Service:

Seasoned angler Mark Traxler has years of experience navigating diverse fish populations. Choose from guided trips in your own gear, full-service ice house rentals, or a combination of both. Mark excels at finding late-ice crappie hotspots in shallower areas and offers ice house rentals close to prime locations.

Choosing the Right Service:

  • Target Species: Consider what you're hoping to catch. Each guide or charter may specialize in specific fish.
  • Experience Level: Choose a guide or service that caters to your skill level, whether you're a seasoned angler or a curious newbie.
  • Budget and Group Size: Prices and services vary. Choose an option that fits your budget and group size comfortably.

Local Eateries & Cuisine

After a day on the ice, nothing beats a hot meal. The Brainerd Lakes Area is home to a variety of local eateries serving hearty Minnesotan cuisine. From classic comfort foods to fresh catches of the day, these restaurants offer the perfect setting to relax and share tales of the day's adventure.

Here's a quick guide to tantalize your taste buds:

Local Specialties:

Jucy Jucy Lucy Burgers: Don't miss the legendary "Jucy Lucy," a Brainerd staple featuring a cheese-stuffed burger. Head to The Hub or The Crooked Pint Alehouse for your fix.

Minnesota Wild Rice & Walleye: Immerse yourself in local flavors with wild rice-crusted walleye, a quintessential Minnesota dish. Breezy Point Resort or Ruttgers Resort & Campground offers delicious renditions.

Fresh Fish Fry: Get your fill of crispy-fried fish, a Friday tradition in the area. Local favorites include Zorbaz and Big Fish Bar & Grill.

Diverse Dining:

Cozy Cabins & Lakeside Comfort: For a warm and inviting atmosphere, try Steamboat Bay Resort's fireplace-side dining or Grand View Lodge's lakefront restaurant. Both offer hearty comfort food and stunning views.

Craft Brews & Pub Fare: Brainerd's burgeoning craft beer scene offers thirst-quenching brews paired with delicious pub fare. Check out Lake Superior Brewing or Nisswa Brewing Company for a casual and lively atmosphere.

Sweet Treats & Coffee: Refuel with a steaming latte and a decadent pastry at The Local Grind in Nisswa, or indulge in homemade ice cream at Brainerd's iconic Brainerd Dairy Queen.

With this culinary compass, you're sure to find the perfect bite to complement your Gull Lake adventures. So, dive into the local flavors and savor the delicious memories!

Ice Fishing Culture and Other Attractions

Throughout the season, smaller tournaments like the Nisswa Lions Club Ice Fishing Derby and the Gull Lake Area Chamber of Commerce's Walleye Challenge offer friendly competition and exciting prizes.

Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza is an event that draws thousands of anglers for a weekend of competitive fishing, raffles, and winter fun in December. The atmosphere is electric, making it a must-attend for serious and casual anglers alike.
But ice fishing on Gull Lake is more than just catching fish; it's about the experience. The camaraderie among anglers, the serene winter beauty, and the thrill of the catch-all contribute to the culture.

Ice houses become lively gathering spots. Sharing stories, swapping tips, and grilling fresh catches over portable propane heaters forge lasting friendships and memories. Don't be shy! Chat with fellow anglers on the ice or in bait shops. You'll be surprised by the warmth and welcoming nature of the community.

Beyond fishing, the area offers snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and other winter activities to enjoy.

FAQ

What kind of fish can I catch while ice fishing on Gull Lake?

You can catch a variety of fish, including walleye, pike, crappie, tullibee, and burbot.

Are there ice fishing rentals available on Gull Lake?

Yes, there are many ice fishing rentals available, offering modern ice houses and all the necessary equipment for a comfortable fishing experience.

Do I need a guide for ice fishing on Gull Lake?

While not required, a guide can enhance your ice fishing experience by providing expert knowledge on where to find fish and how to catch them.

Also, check out our article on Houghton Lake Ice Fishing

Final Thoughts

Winter fishing on Gull Lake is an adventure that combines the thrill of the catch with the beauty of Minnesota's winter. With the right timing, gear, and knowledge of the lake's hotspots, anglers can enjoy a fruitful and enjoyable experience. Remember to respect the regulations, stay safe on the ice, and immerse yourself in the local culture for a truly memorable trip.