Michael Thompson has lived in Minnesota most of his life. After a year away from Minnesota, travelling the country fishing kayak tournaments, Thompson decided to explore his own backyard. “Minnesota offers four seasons of fishing,” he says. Thompson lives close to Lake Superior, Mille Lacs Lake and the Mississippi River, but one of his most memorable trips was just outside of town. “Minnesota is a wilderness state, but I caught my biggest muskie in sight of the Minneapolis skyline,” he laughs.

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One day recently I was fishing on Lake Harriet, part of the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park that serves as the city’s most popular outdoor area. Located in southwest Minneapolis, Lake Harriet has bike and jogging paths and a band shell, plus some excellent kayak fishing. When I catch a big fish there, I usually end up with an appreciative audience.

Kayak Fishing in Minnesota

The wind was blowing 30 miles per hour on this day, so I had the lake to myself. To target muskie, I cast a huge lure to points, grassy areas or any lake structure. Muskie season starts in June, but my favorite is late summer into autumn. 

On the lake, I keep a lookout for muskie swimming on the surface or chasing bait. Sometimes, the fish will follow my lure back to the kayak.

Man hauls in a Minnesota muskie while kayak fishing on Lake Harriet
Minnesota muskie are a big reason to visit the state with 10,000 lakes. | Feature photo: Michael Thompson

Wrangling a Personal Best Minnesota Muskie

On this trip, I worked all day and didn’t see a fish. Just before dark, I changed lures to a Lindy M&G bucktail spinnerbait. On the next cast, I hooked a fish. At first, it didn’t seem big, but then the shoulders surfaced and I knew I had a huge muskie.

The 40-pound green and silver fish jumped out of the water like a tarpon. I used heavy tackle to get the fish to the boat quickly, so it still had a lot of energy when I pulled it into my net.

I was desperate to get a hero shot of my biggest muskie. I didn’t have my bow camera, so I sat on my knees and tried to lift the 50-inch fish for the stern camera. In the process of removing the huge muskie from the net, the fish saw open water and wriggled overboard. Just like that, the biggest fish I ever caught swam away.

Minnesota angler holds up a smallmouth bass he caught while kayak fishing
Minnesota is also home to native smallmouth bass. | Photo: Michael Thompson

Minnesota Kayak Fishing Tips

Top Tactic

Looking for giant muskie on the surface and casting huge lures. I use a St. Croix heavy-action rod and Abu Garcia 6500 baitcasting reel with 100-pound test braid and 100-pound fluorocarbon leader. Big muskie are looking for a big meal like a Lindy M&G bucktail spinnerbait or Whopper Plopper. Later in the fall, I throw large Bull Dawg soft plastic lures.

Best Kayak

NuCanoe Pursuit is fast and seaworthy to paddle lakes with shallow draft to drift the rivers.

Where to Launch

The municipal lakes have a boat ramp and pay parking for vehicles with trailers. I often just park on the roadside and drag my NuCanoe to the water.

Where to Stay in Minnesota

Camp on the Mississippi or St. Croix rivers. I like to stop on a sandbar overnight.

Where to Eat in Minneapolis

Hit the Black Forest Inn for German food and beer. Try the Deutschburger Casserol with an oatmeal stout beer.

Other Minnesota Attractions

Fort Snelling State Park is a great place for hiking and nature photography. I often see big whitetail bucks, families of owls and river otters.

This article was first published in Kayak Anger Issue 44. Subscribe to Kayak Anger and get the magazine delivered to your front door. Download the Kayak Angler Magazine+ app to seamlessly glide between the digital archives, the latest articles and videos or browse the digital archives for your desktop here.


Minnesota muskie are a big reason to visit the state with 10,000 lakes. | Feature photo: Michael Thompson



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