Winter fly fishing in Minnesota – it's possible!

This rainbow trout was caught in December in the Whitewater River of Minnesota. 

Okay, I know this sounds crazy to all you anglers who love fishing on the ice or sitting in your ice-fishing hut, but there is another group of anglers in Minnesota who prefer fly fishing through the winter months. These anglers find open creeks and fish the entire winter for trout. 

Fishing this winter has been really good with so many days with temperatures in the mid-to-upper 30s.

One of the premier and most popular places for winter fly fishing is at the Whitewater State Park. This is a 2,700-acre park located in Winona County in the southeastern blufflands area. It features trout fishing in the spring-fed Whitewater River and Trout Run Creek. It is located seven miles north of St. Charles on Minnesota State Highway 74, a two-hour drive from Minneapolis. 

Along with landowners, the DNR has established over 250 miles of public fishing easements along the trout streams. Rainbow, brown and brook trout are found in these streams with brook trout being the only native species found in these waters. The DNR stocked 2,000 trout in two 1,000-release events the first two weeks of this past November. The majority of trout caught in the Whitewater Park are from natural reproduction with stocking done to help keep up with the fishing pressure. 

Most catchable trout are in the 10-12” range with anglers landing as many as 10-12 fish on a good day. Fishing in this area is all catch and release.

A trout and salmon stamp, in addition to the standard Minnesota fishing license, is the basic requirement for fishing the area. The trout season on these waters is open all winter. The DNR has a nice park building that offers brochures, staff and bathrooms. The DNR also offers a 6-page PDF on fly fishing basics for those folks just getting started in fly fishing. 

So, for anglers looking for a new winter fishing venture, consider trout fishing at the Whitewater State Park or surrounding trout streams. The area is beautiful with many scenic hills and valleys, and the trout streams are camera-ready for some excellent photography.  

Staying warm is also an important consideration. Some anglers wear heated vests and toe warmers in their boots; others tough it out as long as they can and then take a break to warm up. 

There won’t be crowds of people fishing like on Red Lake or Lake of the Woods, but don’t be surprised to see a number of fellow anglers working the trout streams with their fly rods. It’s just what some of these crazy fly anglers do all winter!

RAY GILDOW is a northern Minnesota fishing guide and outdoor writer. 


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