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Fishing Voyageurs National Park's Rainy Lake

Author Larry Sickmann
Fishing Voyageurs National Park's Rainy Lake

My son and I were invited to go along on a 4-night trip to Rainy Lake with a group that has been going for a few years. As a result, much of the trip was well planned out: we had a group site about 5 miles from the boat launch that included bear lockers, dry toilet, optimal tent pads, and two docks.


Being a fairly new boat-owner, anxiety set in when seeing maps of the lake showing a multitude of rocks, islands, and buoys. Previously, I've only fished areas around south-central Minnesota, where most lakes have a fairly muddy or sandy bottom.

I began preparing by ensuring we had ample deep cell batteries that could last a day out on the water if trolling motors were utilized all day. I researched ways that I could charge them, from solar chargers to generators. I finally decided that a generator was the best in order to ensure a full charge, as solar may not work well if the sun was a no-show.Rainy Lake boat launchI wasn't sure that investing in a generator I'd only use once a year was a good idea, so I borrowed a Honda 2200 from a friend that utilized it for powering his Ice Castle fish house. I was surprised that the others in the group hadn't the need for a generator. Turns out, they primarily used the main motor for trolling, and leveraged the wind for drifting.


As mentioned, there are a lot if rocks that could take out your lower unit or put a nasty hole in your bow. A trusty official Voyageurs map is worth the investment, even if you have a GPS. Reason being, the lake is massive and seeing a the map on 5-inch screen doesn't provide you that birds-eye view that's necessary to understand your route and any obstacles along the way. There are routes marked with buoys that you must travel within, unless you're in the act of going from one fishing spot to another that isn't near the route. This allows for a sort of gentlemen's highway that's shared by all. And by doing so, every fishing boat, houseboat, or sailboat isn't zipping past you while you fish – unless you're fishing right on the travel route of coarse.

Trailer repair

A full tank of gas is ample depending on your capacity. Ours was 20-gallons, so we were good. If your capacity is less, I'd recommend bringing extra. Also, ensure your trailer bearings are in good working order, one of ours was burning up after the long drive from the Twin Cities.


The first year, we targeted smallmouth bass a bit more than walleyes. Or, we had more success finding the smallies, if I remember correctly. Being late July, the walleye hot time was nearly past. The following year, we had much better success for walleyes in June. Depending on the time of the year, minnows can be an option, but mid-summer seemed to lean crawlers or leeches.

Youth in Lund boat holding dark Rainy Lake walleye - Voyageurs National ParkFirst, I'd experiment with 5 to 6-foot snell with plain hook, and with spinners. Shorten or lengthen the snell if necessary. Jigging seemed less successful, but time of the year and skill level may play a factor as well. It seems we had less success fishing around rocks that nearly protruded out of the water (I call them dump trucks due to their size), and more success on deeper rock piles and small vegetive islands. Tip: you can shop by lake with Omnia Fishing, to guide you to all the right gear for Rainy Lake!

Man holder Rainy Lake walleye - Voyageurs National ParkIf you don't have spot-lock or the equivelant on your trolling motor, you may still want to bring an anchor or two. There can be some roller waves and using them instead of your trolling motor can save on battery if you need to. If space is of essence, then you could risk leaving without them, especially if you stray from the water if weather is inclement.

16 items to make your boat-in fishing trip a success:

  • Generator with cord 
  • 1 gallon of gas
  • Charger or onboard charger
  • Leeches and Crawlers
  • Minnows (optional)
  • GPS 
  • Official Park Map
  • Trolling motor
  • Wind sock (optional)
  • Fishing net
  • Anchor(s)
  • Rain gear
  • Life jackets
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip Balm with Sunscreen
  • Lakes Supply Co. Neck Gaiter

Youth in Lund boat holding Rainy Lake smallmouth bass - Voyageurs National Park

Fishing Voyageurs National Park Conclusion

Your first time to Rainy Lake will be a ripe with overpacking and unpreparedness, but hope this helps a bit. Wiith each following year you'll refine you gear list as to not be bogged down by non-essentials. To get the lay of the land, check this map. To make reservations, and learn more visit 


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