9 Best Trout Fishing Rivers and Lakes in Minnesota

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Minnesota has almost all of the lakes, as everybody knows: Over 10,000 of them. What it doesn’t often get credit for is the number of fantastic trout rivers and streams running across the state.

What gets lost with all those walleye and muskies is that the best trout fishing in Minnesota can go head-to-head with any other state and hold its own.

This article explores the best of Minnesota’s best trout fishing streams and lakes, from the Whitewater and Root’s pristine waters to Trout Run Creek’s challenging currents.

Minnesota’s general trout distribution has rainbows, browns, and brook trout spread across the south and central regions, with steelhead, lake trout, and brookies comprising the northern reaches.

Minnesota’s Best Trout Fishing Spots

We’ve included seven rivers and creeks in this list. They punched their tickets to be included among the best based on their high catch rates or trout sizes, as well as accessibility and location.

We got even more selective with the lakes, trimming at least 9,998 from the list to whittle it down to two you really must fish if you want to catch flat-water trout in Minnesota.

Whitewater River

The Whitewater River is a trout angler’s dream. Known for its crystal-clear waters, the Whitewater is home to a healthy brown, rainbow, and brook trout population.

The river’s blend of riffles, pools, and runs provides diverse fishing opportunities, offering a plethora of prime spots that add up to an epic fishing experience.

The stretch near Elba, where the stream winds through scenic bluffs and valleys, epitomizes the Whitewater’s diversity of habitat and provides ideal conditions for trout to thrive.

Heading downstream, the Middle Branch of the Whitewater River near Beaver and Beaver Creek is another epic brown and rainbow hotspot. The river’s meandering course creates deep pools in this section holding sizable brown trout that will rise to a well-placed streamer or terrestrial.

For a more secluded experience, the Upper Whitewater offers a serene setting in Whitewater State Park. Here, the river narrows, creating riffles and runs that attract both brown and brook trout.

Camping and lodging are available along the river, and most of the communities along the way have whatever you need for food, gear, and bait. Check with the local fly shop for current flows and what they’re biting on.

Root River

The Root River in southeastern Minnesota is a premier destination for trout anglers. In the heart of Minnesota’s Driftless Area, the Root offers a ton of prime trout-fishing spots.

The stretch near Lanesboro is known for its impressive population of brown trout. The confluence of the South Branch and the North Branch of the Root River creates a perfect environment, with deep pools and riffles providing plenty of habitat for bugs. The browns in this area can get into the 20-inch+ range.

Upstream on the South Branch, the area around Preston is another favorite. This section is full of well-maintained habitat, making it the perfect spot. There are enough hatches in the summer to keep you returning day after day. The challenging currents and diverse aquatic life in this part of the river create an environment where brown trout thrive.

For those seeking solitude and a more secluded fishing experience, the upper reaches of the Root River, particularly near Chatfield, offer a tranquil setting. Here, the river meanders through wooded areas, offers deep, slow pools, and really shines as a top-tier trout river.

Preston is known as the “Trout Capital of Minnesota.” They have several bait shops and guides. Any amenities you need are close at hand.

Trout Run Creek

Trout Run Creek, also nestled in southeastern Minnesota’s scenic Driftless country, stands out as a fly-fishing haven. It packs in some of the best trout fishing spots in the state.

Try along the lower creek closer to where the cool, clear waters flow into the Root River. A series of riffles and pools through this section provide plenty of room for casting flies.

The meandering stretches of Trout Run Creek, particularly around Bucksnort County Park, are great for targeting rainbow trout. The cool, well-oxygenated waters in this area create the perfect habitat for rainbow trout, attracting anglers looking for a chance to tackle a 5-pound fish.

Moving upstream, the section near Saratoga offers epic trout fishing. The challenging current and occasional deep pools make this another hotspot for brown trout enthusiasts.

If you want solitude and a more secluded fishing experience, head to the upper section. This less-frequented area receives less pressure and offers epic brown and rainbow trout fishing.

While Trout Run Creek is small, it offers big fish. The area has plenty of amenities, though along the creek itself doesn’t offer any. Stop by Chatfield for anything you need.

Vermillion River

The Vermillion River is the perfect destination for those coming from the Twin Cities. It’s just a short drive south, but it feels like a different world. Browns and rainbows make up the majority of the trout section on the Vermillion.

One of the best spots to cast your fly is near the Cannon River confluence. This area is known for its underwater structure, featuring deep pools and rocky runs where brown trout often lurk.

Continuing upstream, the section near the Vermillion River Trail Bridge and Vermillion Falls Park is another favorite among anglers.

The combination of gentle riffles and slow-moving pools provides an excellent environment for rainbow trout. Anglers here often find success using nymphs and dry flies, especially during the prolific hatches in warmer months.

For those seeking a more secluded experience, venturing towards Farmington offers a tranquil setting. The slow, meandering waters in this area hold both brown and rainbow trout, offering a peaceful retreat for anglers looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

Vermillion has all the amenities you might need. The river isn’t far from the Twin Cities, so there’s plenty of lodging and food in the area.

Snowbank Lake

This pristine glacial lake, characterized by its crystalline waters and rugged shoreline, provides an epic trophy lake trout fishery in the Boundary Waters.

Snowbank Lake is renowned for its deep, cold waters, creating the perfect habitat for lake trout to thrive. The lake’s deep basins and rocky structures offer diverse fishing opportunities. Anglers can target lake trout in various depths, ranging from the shallower shorelines to the deeper pockets of the lake.

One of the prime spots for lake trout fishing on Snowbank Lake is its deepest points. Trolling with downriggers or using vertical jigging techniques should get you on the fish.

Ice fishing for lakers is generally consistent. Head to the rocky outcroppings and drill some holes. You’re bound to catch some big fish, so be prepared.

For those planning an extended fishing trip, the surrounding area offers camping options, providing an immersive experience in the wilderness. Outfitters and guides are also available and willing to share local knowledge.

Straight River

Straight River, meandering south of Minneapolis, unveils itself as a hidden gem for anglers seeking a diverse and rewarding fishing experience.

Known for its gentle flow and clear waters, this river offers a range of fishing spots. One thing it’s not: straight.

Head along the Straight River near Owatonna. This section features riffles, runs, and pools that create an excellent environment for brown and rainbow trout. The cool waters and the river’s meandering path make it accessible and castable from shore or kayak.

Moving upstream towards Faribault, anglers can explore additional prime fishing spots.

The confluence of the Straight River and the Cannon River, in particular, provides an opportunity to target trophy-sized brown trout. The combination of deeper pools and faster runs in this area offers everything you’re looking for.

For those seeking a more secluded adventure, the upper stretches of Straight River, near Ellendale, offer a tranquil escape. Surrounded by scenic woodlands, this section provides a serene backdrop for anglers looking to connect with nature while pursuing brown and rainbow trout in a more secluded setting.

Whether casting from the riverbanks or venturing onto the water in a kayak or canoe, Straight River promises an epic time catching big browns.

Faribault and Owatonna have everything you need for a great trip. Stop by one of the fly shops for an update on what’s hatching.

Knife River

Knife River is a perfect spot along the North Shore of Lake Superior. Known for its challenging currents, stunning scenery, and massive steelhead run, the Knife River provides an incredible opportunity to catch these feisty fish.

Start your search near the river’s mouth, where it meets Lake Superior. This area is a hotspot for steelhead. As the river flows into the lake, it creates a dynamic and nutrient-rich environment that attracts steelhead seeking to spawn.

Heading upstream, west of Two Harbors, is another fantastic area. This section of the river is home to brook and rainbow trout. The rocky terrain and waterfalls add to the beauty, and the deep holes and riffle sections hold big fish.

For those adventurous anglers looking to hike a bit, the upper reaches of the Knife River offer an opportunity to target coaster brook trout. These unique trout, adapted to run upstream from Lake Superior, provide an exciting challenge.

Local guides and outfitters along the Knife River are available with local knowledge of the best techniques and spots for a successful outing. The surrounding area provides lodging, camping, and all the food you can eat!

Lake Superior

The North Shore of Lake Superior stands as a mecca for trout anglers. Steelhead, lake trout, and coastal brook trout await your well-placed lure. This region is renowned for its crystal-clear waters and rugged landscapes.

Lake Superior boasts healthy steelhead runs. The expansive shoreline, rocky outcrops, and pristine rivers that flow into the lake create ideal spawning grounds, making the North Shore a hotspot for pursuing these acrobatic and powerful fish.

Duluth, Two Harbors, and Grand Marais are a few of the towns along the shore that provide access to excellent steelhead fishing.

Hundreds of smaller creeks empty into Lake Superior in this region, each capable of steelhead and brook trout fishing. Explore the area, and you’ll never have to fish in the same spot twice.

The lake itself is massive and can hide its secrets, but if you unlock them, the payoff can be huge. Literally. The Minnesota state records for both brown trout and lake trout come from Lake Superior.

You can find everything you need in Two Harbors, Duluth, and Grand Marais. Several campgrounds dot the coastline.

Cascade River

Nestled along the breathtaking North Shore of Lake Superior, the Cascade River in Minnesota stands as a trout fishing haven, captivating anglers with its stunning scenery and thriving trout population. Cascading waterfalls, rocky terrain, and slow, deep pools make this a must-fish river.

Near the river’s mouth, where it converges with Lake Superior, is a hotspot for brook, rainbow, steelhead, and brown trout. The river and lake offer the perfect environment for casting bugs or conventional tackle.

The entire area of Cascade River State Park has excellent fishing spots.

Moving upstream towards the more secluded stretches of the Cascade River, particularly around the Big White Pine and Cut Log campgrounds, you’ll find yourself surrounded by deep pools and the Superior National Forest.

The river twists and turns through here with several deep bends and excellent rocky structure.

Campgrounds are readily available and usually don’t fill up. Be prepared for a hike if you’re headed to Cut Log Camp. It has about 100 steps up to reach the sites.
Grand Marais is a short drive from the river and has most of what you’ll need.

Catch More Trout

Kind of new to trout fishing? Check out our simple trout angler’s guide to the top tackle and tactics.