Lake of the Woods is an amazing ice fishing destination.
Everyone who enjoys fishing, even just a little, should know about this place. I tell people who have never fished the huge lake on the borders of Minnesota, Manitoba and Ontario that the best fishing day on most other lakes will not hold up to the worst day on Lake of the Woods.
Going fishing with friends is quite simple, especially for experienced travel and fishing partners. Everyone takes care of their gear, the group makes travel and food plans, and with great anticipation, the trip is planned and executed, hopefully with a great result of fun and fish.
Planning family fishing trips is a little more difficult, especially with young children. Parents these days are busy and want to provide their children with outdoor experiences, but don’t know where to start.
Heading to Lake of the Woods with the family can seem a bit daunting. Fortunately, there are places like Border View Lodge.
I had wanted to take my family on an ice fishing trip to Lake of the Woods for a long time, but I knew I would need help.
I waited until my kids were old enough to handle the drive north and time in the fish house.
It’s a good idea to find an age where your children are old enough to go, but at the same time you can’t wait forever, as one day may never come; the kids will take up activities, the excuses pile up and pretty soon, you’ve lost the trip you envisioned when your kids were born and you’re looking forward to making memories on the water.
I had an extra incentive to make the trip this year as my wife and I hosted an exchange student from Germany, a high school sophomore named Marisa who had never fished before coming to the States.
There’s also the reality that you won’t get a second chance at a family fishing trip if the first one goes wrong. I needed to make sure this trip was going well.
Our family of five made the drive north on a Thursday, arriving for dinner in the evening. We checked into our cabin and settled in.
Border View Lodge was founded in 1981 and was named for its unique position along the Rainy River where it meets Canada, near the river’s terminus at Wheeler’s Point on Lake of the Woods.
Staying at Border View gives families plenty of options and helps you maximize your time together. There are remodeled, clean and modern amenities, with cabins that can accommodate parties of up to 16 people.
If you want to cook, the cabins include kitchenettes with stoves, microwaves, pots and pans, dishes, and a full refrigerator and freezer.
If you want to take a break from cooking, there is a full service restaurant and bar. Bring your fresh catch and you’ll enjoy a walleye dinner with all the fixin’s.
Fishing is even easier with Border View. In the morning, load into a heated shuttle pulled behind a light tow vehicle and head to your fish house for the day.
Around sunset, you will be picked up and taken to the shore.
Later in the winter, when the ice is thicker, you can drive your own vehicle to your fish house or you can go out with their truck and trailer combinations.
Best of all, you don’t miss anything just fishing during the day. Lake of the Woods is notoriously dark and tinged with tannins and is best fished during daylight hours.
It regularly has some of the best fishing action in the state, with walleye and walleye moving in waves throughout the day, as well as occasional prowling eel, pike, yellow perch, lake sturgeon and schools of cisco.
Most of the resorts on the southern end of the lake will be plowing roads and opening rental houses, deepening as winter progresses.
Our fishing guide, Mark Hamberg, was in his seventh year working at Border View after retiring and selling his shop in Brainerd. Mark loves fishing and helping people, making his work as a fishing guide after retirement an ideal way to occupy his time.
He especially enjoys watching families bond and children having fun.
“It can be very cold here in the winter,” admits Hamberg, “and it doesn’t take much wind to produce a white. That’s why it’s a good idea to come and stay with us so you can get on and off the ice safely.” .
Hamberg says, and it’s not an exaggeration, that the fish are biting better at Lake of the Woods than anywhere else. Our flashing screens had fish on the move at all hours of the day, but most were pronounced between 10 and 2 o’clock.
Mark and the other guides set guests up in dayhouses, give fishing tips like what works best for colors, patterns and depths, and come back a few times each day to check on clients.
A treat for me was to discover that Border View guides will fillet your fish as part of your stay.
I packed fillet knives with the intention of slicing our family’s catch, and to my delight, I had to turn in those duties. Mark and his team hand cut the fish for us, giving us a neat package each day to deliver to the restaurant or pack in the freezer to take home.
As a Lake of the Woods fan with a good lake experience, it doesn’t take much twisting and turning to convince me to come back. The biggest critics would be my family.
So what did my wife Jackie think of the experience?
“I’d go again,” he said on the drive home, a resounding endorsement if ever there was one.
The children agreed that they had a great time and enjoyed their stay. Even Marisa enjoyed the ride, taking her first lips. He might have enjoyed eating them even more than holding them!
And for all the ladies in my troop, they especially enjoyed the heated ice bath.
There wasn’t much to do on our trip, which is important for families because you’ll only fish if it’s easy and comfortable.
Just like the trips home, my kids did what they usually do on the ice. They caught a few fish, then played with toys, read books, painted their own artwork and put on bibs and parkas to play outside, making snow cones with their refreshments and the large amount of snow on the lake.
They even cleaned up their own ice skating rink.
We heard the end of the most dramatic comeback in Vikings and NFL history, caught plenty of walleye and walleye, as well as a few eelpouts and a large northern pike from the protected slot, and laughed as Marisa he was talking to his parents in Germany. , showing them a giant white lake dotted with fish houses and Canada a few miles away.
To his parents, ice fishing was an incredibly foreign concept. “What are you doing? And how cold is it?
We had great meals at the restaurant, played board games every evening, and enjoyed a trip that I’m sure we will look back on fondly in the future and that I hope will plant the seed for future trips.
Ever the humble winner, I will modestly note to the masses that I mercilessly beat my family on Scattergories and scored a convincing victory with not one, but two Yahtzees in the namesake game.
After a day of fishing, what parent doesn’t want to outdo their kids beyond the fish house as well? Fatherly respect was earned on this trip.
So if you’ve never been to Lake of the Woods or if you just want to make some memories with your kids or grandkids before they grow up and move away, make time to visit Border View Lodge.
Plan this trip. Eat a walleye dinner. Catch a lot of fish.
These memories will last a lifetime.
Scott Mackenthun has been writing about hunting and fishing since 2005. Email him at [email protected]