Sunset over the frozen lake

What is one thing anyone and everyone can do in Okoboji all year long?  If you answered fishing you are exactly right! Believe it or not WINTER is one of the best times to fish in and around Okoboji.  Ice fishing opportunities abound in and around the Iowa Great Lakes and it has never been better.  Whether you hire a fishing guide, have an ice house with all the amenities of home, a portable shelter, or a turned over bucket on the ice you are sure to catch fish this winter in Okoboji.  You can even  ice fish right from the warmth of the Fish House at Okoboji Boat Works. The Fish House is heated and features a full bar, multiple TV screens for watching the big games, hot food and incredible West Lake views. Fishing is free with purchase

Ice Auger drilling hole to ice fish

According to fishing guide John Grosvenor, “We get more fishing pressure on these lakes in winter than any other time.  I raise eyebrows with that statement, but its true.  Okoboji is legendary in ice fishing circles. When the bite is hot, you’ll see license plates from Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.”  Grosvenor said Okoboji’s popularity especially on West Lake Okoboji is anchored in its ‘sight fishing’ capacity.  “West is one of the few lakes in America where you can sit over a hole in the ice and see at least 20 feet below on sunny days, watching fish approach and take the bait,” Grosvenor said. It hypnotizes anglers and hooks them for life on ice fishing. “Even the most negative of novices gets mesmerized by sight fishing,” Grosvenor professed. Fishing through the ice for panfish like yellow perch and bluegills is perhaps the most popular technique, although the walleye bite can get hot on Okoboji and Big Spirit as well, according to Grosvenor.

Winter fish

Ice fishing can be good all the way up to ice out, but Grosvenor warned anglers to fish over only safe ice. “It’s just not worth it to take chances on marginal ice conditions,” Grosvenor says. Always put safety first when heading out on the ice to fish, check recent ice fishing reports, or make a quick stop at the local bait shop to find out what’s biting and where. As always, be safe when you head out on the ice and follow these guidelines:

  • No Ice is safe Ice.
  • Avoid moving water
  • Ask a Local
  • Watch for snow (it can insulate the ice and make it weaker)
  • Listen (sometimes cracking ice is a sign to move)
  • Don’t fish alone
  • Have a valid Iowa fishing license
  • Know the size and day limits for the fish you hope to catch
  • Make a checklist of things you will need to be fun and safe
  • Leave a “float plan” with someone who knows where you plan to fish, where you will park your vehicle, and when you will be home.

Ice Safety Guidelines:

2″ or less – DON’T GO
8″ – 12″ – SAFE TO DRIVE CAR

For more information visit the Iowa DNR website at:

Note: These guidelines are for new, clear solid ice, AND ARE SIMPLY GUIDELINES. If something feels unsafe, err on the side of caution.

For up-to-date fishing information visit our local bait shops: Kabele’s Trading PostStan’s Bait & Tackle, and The Hook Up or check out the  opens in a new windowIowa Department of Natural Resources Fishing Report. Search for Lakes: “Okoboji.”

Icy view of the lake

For information on other winter outdoor adventures, things to do indoors, and where to stay and dine check out our Adult Winter Wonderland blog. If you are looking to bring the whole family for a winter boredom buster check out our  Winter Family Escape blog.  The beauty of winter is a GREAT time to explore all Okoboji has to offer.

Cross country skiing