Lake of the Woods

It may be a stretch to call Lake of the Woods a hole. The most impressive remnant of the great glacial lake Agassiz, Lake of the Woods sprawls out over some 950,000 acres, reaching into parts of Minnesota, Ontario, and Manitoba. Yet despite its tremendous size, an outing on Lake of the Woods can feel remarkably intimate. Unlike the state's other big waters--Superior, Mille Lacs, and Winnibigoshish, to name a few--it's never hard to get out of the wind on Lake of the Woods. That's because of the astonishing number of islands here (some 14,000 in all), which form a lovely and seemingly endless maze of coves and bays. A few of the islands are big and forested, but most are stark little rock outcroppings populated by ever-growing flocks of white pelicans and cormorants. The birds are drawn by the same thing that beckons the anglers: vast swaths of ideal fish habitat. Most big lakes have a lot of deep and relatively uninhabited waters, but Lake of the Woods is shallow, generally between 20 and 40 feet. The enormous rock-covered reefs are favored feeding grounds of the walleye, which has earned the lake a well-deserved reputation as one of the world's top walleye fisheries. There are also healthy populations of muskie, northern, smallmouth bass, jumbo perch, sauger, and sturgeon. With more than 65,000 miles of shoreline to choose from, novices might be best advised to hire a guide before exploring. On the other hand, is there a better place to get lost? Just bring along a fillet knife and some cooking gear for a shore lunch to tide you over--and maybe a set of binoculars to get a closer look at the many moose, bears, and timberwolves that reside in the still-wild countryside.


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