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Detroit Lakes’ Local Guide Offers Tips for Spring Fishing



With more than 400 lakes within a 25-mile radius of Detroit Lakes, MN, anglers have an abundance of options for catching walleye, northern pike or panfish. Local fishing expert and guide, Brad Laabs, has been fishing area lakes for 35 years and just completed his 30th season of guiding. He offers these tips below for reeling ‘em in this spring!

Panfish Activity Starts About Now

“May fishing usually starts out with panfish activity in the area, especially before the opener,” says Laabs. The “opener” is the official start to the walleye and northern open water season.


Height of Land and Tamarac Lakes that offer great panfish during ice fishing season tend to also be great early season lakes for sunfish and crappies. Other popular and quality panfish activity occurs within most of the Detroit Lakes area.


Explore and try some of the smaller and lesser-known lakes for quality crappie and sunfish. Some of the larger and well-known panfish lakes include but are not limited to: Big and Little Toad, Long, Floyd, Cotton, Rock, Melissa, Little Pelican, and Island Lakes.


Try to Catch & Release Bass

Even though the bass season does not open until Saturday, May 25th, you can target them to catch and release. Bass fishing in the area is very good on most lakes and are under-fished in the area. Great numbers and quality size consistently come off Floyd, Big Detroit, Sallie, Melissa, Long, Cotton, and Toad lakes. Smallmouth bass is also present in many area lakes with good populations of above average size in Cormorant, White Earth, Lida, Pelican, and Island lakes.


Targeting Walleyes & Northern Pike


Popular lakes for walleyes in the area have been Big Detroit, Sallie, Melissa, White Earth, Cotton, Island, Big Toad, Pelican, Lida, Star, Height of Land, Shell, Round, and Many Point.


Northern pike is abundant on almost all the area lakes, and with a very liberal limit now, getting fish for a meal is no problem. Sallie and Melissa lakes have special regulations for northern and catching one over 30 inches is common.


Muskie season opens June 1st. Muskie Lakes include Big Detroit, Sallie, Pelican, Beers, Many Point, and a small population is also showing up on Melissa.



Plan Your Fishing Trip to Detroit Lakes

There’s an abundance of resources available in the Detroit Lakes area to make your fishing trip one to remember. Try fishing on your own, or improve your catch by calling on guided fishing services. Have a memorable day fishing for walleye, northern, muskie, bass, crappie, sunfish, trout, bluegill, perch or rough fish.


Hire a Professional Fishing Guide



Brad Laabs Guide Service

14821 Co. Hwy. 19

Detroit Lakes, MN 56501

(218) 847-1089



Brad is a full-service fishing guide and supplies all bait, tackle, equipment. He specializes in walleye fishing in the 412 Lakes Area. Brad’s a veteran guide and tournament angler!

You can also connect with Brad on Facebook.


Upcoming Fishing Tournaments & Events

Think your angling skills are trophy-worthy? Think about joining one of these summer fishing tournaments.

Fargo Moorhead Walleyes Unlimited Fishing Tournaments:

  • Pelican Lake Spring Classic Cup: May 30-June 1
  • Big Cormorant Fall Cup: Sept 20-22 on

Get tournament details, regulations and rules and register.  

Take a Kid Fishing Event: June 8 at Cedar Crest Resort

Cedar Crest Resort Walleye Tourney September 14-15:

Vergas Fire and Rescue’s Annual Fishing Tourney takes place July 20 on Long Lake, fishing for walleye, bass, northerns.

Book Your Stay

Our local hotels and resorts can provide you with the latest fishing reports, information on Minnesota fishing clubs and local Detroit Lakes fishing guides. Whether you’d prefer a place by the lake, in the woods, or near downtown businesses and attractions, the Detroit Lakes area can accommodate!

Check out all of our lodging options:

Or visit the Interactive MN Lodging Map.

Food & Fun After Fishing

After a day of fishing, Detroit Lakes offers a variety of restaurants and an area brewery and winery to unwind. Many restaurants come with a stellar view of the area likes - including Detroit Lake, the city’s largest lake.

Explore the area’s restaurants and bars.


We’ll see you at the Lakes!