Fishing Tips and Resources for Leech Lake
Seasonal patterns and presentations for walleye, northern pike, muskie, bass, perch, sunfish, crappie and eelpout. Information provided by Leech Lake’s legendary fishing guide and MN Fishing Hall of Fame inductee, Al Maas. Good Luck!
If you are looking for quality largemouth bass fishing look no further – Leech Lake will not disappoint you. The average size is on par with the top bass fisheries in the nation. Catch and release is advised in order to maintain this great fishing. Boy Bay and River, Headquarters Bay, Sucker Bay and River, Shingobee Bay, Waboose Bay, Leech River, Steamboat Bay and Moonlight Bay are all prime bass areas. Other smaller bay areas with heavy cover are also scattered around the lake.
Tip…. Leech Lake bass are shallow, slop fish all year – rarely deeper than 4’. Shallow, heavy cover is the key and 35#-50# braided line is needed to pull them out.
Spring: Fish shorelines, bogs, cattails, reeds and wild rice beds. Jig & pig in black/blue and crawfish colors are great. Salamanders and tubes will also work well.
Summer: Fish the same areas but concentrate on pockets, points and outside edges as the emergent vegetation becomes more prevalent. Throw Northland Jawbreaker spoons into heavy cover to locate fish. If they blow-up on the spoon and miss, then follow-up with a jig & pig, tube jig, jigworm, etc. Overcast days are best because the fish are more active out on the edges of cover.
Fall: In the early fall the wild rice will dry and stand up off the water. Once the wild rice has been harvested, lots of pockets can be found that were inaccessible earlier in the season. Bass and pike will concentrate in these areas throughout the fall. Northland Reed-Runner single-spin spinnerbaits in natural colors work well, as will jigworms. As always, a jig & pig is also great – particularly for big fish.
Bluegills and sunfish are numerous in Leech, but only found in the shallow bay areas. Kabekona, Steamboat, Miller, Shingobee, Boy, Headquarters, Waboose and Sucker Bays are all good choices.
Spring: The fish are in extremely shallow water – 3’ or less. Harbors and muddy back bays are full of sunfish. Use small ice jigs, black ants, micro jigs or small hooks on a slip bobber rig with waxies or maggots. Use a trolling motor to move slowly until you locate fish, then anchor and have fun.
Summer: Same approach will work, but a better tactic is a small jig and slip bobber with a small leech or piece of crawler. The fish move a little deeper into cabbage beds, reeds and wild rice edges. Don’t hesitate to use a long extendable pole, 10’-15’ long, and doodle in the reeds. You can lift the fish directly out.
Fall: Sunfish are starting to shift to their winter staging areas so they are on the move. Try weed edges from 10’ up to the 20’-30’ range. The same small jigs and waxies or grubs will work. Locate the depth the fish are holding at and fish with a slip bobber to stay in the zone.
It can be challenge to locate crappies during some seasons, but the quality of the fish can be exceptional.
Locations on the lake and patterns are similar to those for sunfish.
Tip…. crappies bite best early and late in the day.
Spring: Harbors, marinas, shallow back bays, but specifically in dead bulrush stems. Fish 1/32 – 1/8 oz. pink/white jigs with small minnows or wax worms on a slip bobber rig. A long pole is an advantage to probe specific holes in cover where fish are found. Little jigs with spinners and grubs work well for more aggressive fish.
Summer: The fish move into the weed beds and wild rice during the day and toward the edges at dark. Run the edges, usually in 10’ or less, with an electric motor until you locate fish using small jigs with plastic trailers, grubs or twisters, or small spinners like Beetle Spins and Roadrunners.
Fall: Crappies move back into weedlines and bays where they will spend the winter. Some fish will be deep also, so use electronics to locate them and then drop a small jig on them.
They’re not much to look at, but they taste great. These freshwater cod are very deep and hard to locate during the open-water season. Fortunately they’re active and not hard to catch through the ice.
Winter: Found in the same areas as walleyes – flats, bars, humps, etc. The late-February spawning period is particularly good. The most productive time is before first light in the morning and from sunset on. A Northland Buckshot Rattle
Spoon or jigs tipped with a minnow head and fished near the bottom will trigger them.
Tip…. glow colors are hot!
Leech Lake has been world-famous for its monster muskies ever since the legendary muskie rampage, when dozens of fish were caught during a hot, calm spell in July 1955. Due to catch and release practices, today the lake produces even more big fish over 50 inches than it did decades ago.
Spring: Fish are migrating from spawning areas to summer habitat. Look for 6’-8’ cabbage weeds or areas of heavy perch concentrations. Use trolling motor and sight fish. When located, pitch bass creatures or bigger jigs in front of them. Small topwater lures, small cranks and bucktails will also trigger them.
Summer: Fish are now on all kinds of structure – weed beds, sand bars, rock reefs and open water. Increase the size of lures and use all types. Be sure to try topwater, twitch baits, bucktails with trailers, Bulldawgs and troll bigger crankbaits like Jakes, Grandmas, Magnum Cisco Kids and Depthraiders. Jerkbaits like Suicks, Reef Hawgs, and Wade’s Wobblers work well. Bucktails like Hawg Spins, M&G, Cowgirls, and Eagletails are good.
Tip…. Fish low light periods – dawn & dusk, cloudy days, windy days and stormy weather.
Fall: The later, the better for big fish. The fish are on rock reefs and sand bars more than weed beds. Hit windswept points. Large baits like Bulldawgs, Cowgirls, Suicks, big cranks or twitch baits work well. Find baitfish in open water with your electronics and troll through them with big crankbaits.
For great fun and a big fight, northern pike are the bread and butter, fast-action fish for many fishermen. They are located throughout the lake and usually active and willing to bite.
Spring: Will find pike in weedy, shallow bays and also where walleyes and perch are found. Shallow weeds, reeds and cabbage and points in 6’ or less Patterns – stand-up jigs with minnows, bright colors, use a 20# fluorocarbon leader or steel leader to 20# braided line. Spinnerbaits – bass style or small muskie spinnerbaits, white/chartreuse (bright days) or black/orange (dark days) are good color choices.
Summer: There are always some shallow pike, but the majority of the bigger fish will move deeper and into cabbage beds or on humps at 20’ or more. A jig with a bigger minnow, 6” sucker or plastic trailer works well. Lots of pike are caught while bass fishing on a jig & pig in a black/blue or crawfish color. Use a short steel leader and 15#-20# Fireline or Stealth braid. Nice pike will also come out of cabbage beds on jerkbaits like Suicks, Reef Hawgs or Wade’s Wobblers. Twitch baits will also work well.
Fall: Great time to catch lots of pike and good size ones too. Cabbage beds, reeds and the edges of wild rice beds are all productive. Jigs with large minnows are again effective – pitch and snap aggressively. Lots of 10-20 fish days.
For what many people say is the best eating fish in the lake, try 1/16 oz. to ¼ oz. jigs with minnows – spinner rigs also work. Fatheads or 2 1/2” Gulp minnows work best. Pitch jigs out and work slowly towards boat or troll slowly with small spinners.
Spring: From ice-out until the second week in June the fish are usually in shallow areas near weeds or rushes in 4’-8’ of water. They are spawning and usually eat whatever is in front of them.
Summer: Fish scatter to all depths. Best areas are cabbage beds found along and in the rushes. Pitching jigs & minnows in there will get walleyes and pike also. Use weedless jigs (Northland Weed Weasel) and a trolling motor to cover water until a school is found. Then set up on them and enjoy.
Fall: The best time for perch, as they are aggressive and predictable. Often there will be walleye and pike mixed in with them. Shallow weeds, sandgrass flats and shorelines are good. Pitching any jig and minnow combination will work, as will a simple bobber set-up.
The walleye is king in Minnesota and Leech Lake (Lake Map) is known for being one of the premier walleye lakes in the state. This is in large part due to the extensive local task force effort in cooperation with the DNR in stocking walleyes, cormorant control and rusty crawfish research. Fishing is as good as it’s been in decades and it’s only getting better. Expect to catch a lot of fish from 14” to 25”.
Note – there is a 4 fish limit, and you may keep one fish over 20″ as of 2021.
Spring: Location is fairly simple – points, shorelines and shallow flats of 10′ or less. Nothing fancy, basic jigs & minnows – particularly shiners – are hard to beat. Try these jigs – Northland Stand-up Fireball, Bait Rigs Odd-Ball jigs; colors – green/chart, lime green, blue/white, orange/black, gold. Rigging – 36″-48″ Roach or Lindy rigs – try minnows, leeches and crawlers, keep sinker as light as possible while still maintaining bottom contact
Summer: Locations can be flats, rock reefs, points and shorelines where the wind is blowing in. Cabbage weeds will also hold fish, along with deeper weedlines and humps. Pitch jigs & minnows or Gulp into cabbage weeds – try Northland Weed Weasel jigs Rigging – try rainbow minnows but expect better productivity from leeches and crawlers on Roach Rigs or Northland spinners.
Tip: One of the most productive presentations has been a 48″ gold spinner on a 1 ½ or 2 oz. bottom bouncer with a Berkley Power Worm or Gulp crawler in natural color. Crankbaits – #5, #7 & #8 Shad Raps, Salmo Hornets and Bullheads, or Berkley Frenzies. Colors – crawfish, perch, shiner, blue/silver, chartreuse, firetiger.
Tip: Dusk into dark is an extremely productive time, but cranks will work all day long also.
Fall: Basically the same locations as spring – points, shorelines where the wind is blowing in, as well as some flats. However, later into the fall a deep bite also occurs. Look for fish on your electronics along the edges of deep points and humps – particularly where the hard bottom transitions to a softer bottom. Same shallow patterns – jigs & minnows, but rainbows are the 1st choice. Bigger minnows, such as redtails are also effective either on jigs or rigged