General Information About Mille Lacs Lake

Mille Lacs Lake is a large but relatively shallow natural walleye (sanders vitreum) lake located in central Minnesota. Mille Lacs Lake is located roughly eighty miles north of the Minneapolis, St. Paul Twin Cities Metro area of Minnesota. It is located in three different Minnesota counties, which include Mille Lacs, Aitkin, and Crow Wing.


The meaning of Mille Lacs is “Thousands Lake” in French, where indigenous native Americans referred to Mille Lacs as “Grand Lake”. 

Learning About the Walleye Captial of the World

Referred to as the “Walleye Capital of the World“, Mille Lacs Lake is 132,516 acres large and is the second-largest lake (Red Lake being the first) with all of its shoreline entirely within the state’s borders.


A list of major habitat features include sandy breaks along the north shore bottom with a muddy flat bottom in and around the center/mid areas, and rocky reefs with small exposed islands and points encompass the southern half of the lake. These are telltale signs the lake was formed by the glaciers that encompassed North America during the last ice age roughly 2.6 million years ago.

Image of lake Mille Lacs located in central Minnesota, the Walleye capital of the world.

Mille Lacs Lake History

The Mille Lacs Lake area is home to the earliest known human settlements in the state of Minnesota. The Rum River starts at Mille Lacs and flows down the Rum Anoka, MN, where it meets the Mississippi River. The Native Americans and explorers would have used this as a major highway. The French called Mille Lacs Lac Buade or Minsisaugaigun, and as late as the nineteenth century Mille Lacs was also referred to as “Mini Sagaigonin” on U.S. government maps.


To the Native American tribe the Dakota, Mille Lacs was known as Bdé Wakháŋ, meaning spiritual or mystic lake. The Ojibwe tribes referred to Mille Lacs as Misi-zaaga’igan megwe Midaaswaakogamaakaan, meaning grand or great lake within the land of thousand lakes. The French were the ones who named the lake what we have known today, “Mille Lacs Lake.”


Father Hennepin State Park and Mille Lacs Kathio State Park are two of the parks located around the lake, and portions of the Mille Lacs Reservation, of the federally recognized Mille Lacs Ojibwe, can be found on the western side of the lake.

Fish of Mille Lacs Lake

Beautiful sunset from August 2013 at Hunters Point Resort on Lake Mille Lacs in central Minnesota

Shallow mud and reef-top angling can be found on almost all sides of the lake. The southern deep gravel and rocks offer deeper water angling, and mudflats in the middle to the north half of the lake offer almost a different fishing approach. Shoreline fishing on varied bottom types can be found across the lake, where fishing from docks to natural points offers excellent shore fishing opportunities at walleyes and perch. The weed line disputes around the nine to twelve feet mark, and there are many names for lake features of the lake.


The fish species of Mille Lacs include walleye, northern pike, muskie, jumbo perch, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, black crappie, burbot, and tullibee. Mille Lacs is Minnesota’s most popular fishing lake because of its natural reproduction and amount of walleye and its closeness to the Twin Cities Metro area.

During the winter, thousands of ice fishing houses can be found on Mille Lacs and are among the largest congregations in the world of ice anglers and fish houses. Mille Lacs is a natural reproducing walleye lake that produces billions of walleye eggs and fry every year. Mille lacs are absent of thermocline, allowing fish to travel all areas of the lake. Mille Lacs is genuinely a unique lake and one of the treasures of Minnesota.

Nations Smallest Wildlife Refuge in the Middle of Mille Lacs Lake?

The Maximum depth of Mille lacs Lake is roughly 53 feet, but the majority of depths range from twenty to thirty feet of water. Mille Lacs Lake is home to the smallest National Wildlife refuge in the country. The Mille Lacs National Wildlife Refuge is a 0.57-acre Wildlife Refuge that encompasses Hennepin and Spirit Islands on Mille Lacs.


Two islands on Mille Lacs are Spirit Island to the west and Hennipen Island to the east. These are rocky outcrop type islands that are native bird nesting havens.

Spirit Island National Wildlife Refuge Mille Lacs Lake
Hennepin Island National Wildlife Refuge Mille Lacs Lake

These two small islands are only rocky outcrops that are small in size, but each holds hundreds of nests of native threatened common tern, ring-billed gulls, herring gulls, and double-crested cormorants. Woodrow Wilson set aside Spirit Island on May 14th, 1915. Then on October 13th, 1920, Woodrow Wilson expanded the Mille Lacs National Wildlife refuge to include Hennepin Island. Together, the two islands constitute the preservation and breeding of Minnesota’s native birds.

Watch as the Ice Tsunami From Lake Mille Lacs Destroys Houses 

Further Trivia About Mille Lacs Lake

  • European settlers began harvesting fish for market purposes in the late 1800s. Modern sportfishing is probably best defined as starting in the late 1970s by introducing leeches as walleye bait.
  • Recent evolutions in sport fishing management included several special regulations. The first of these was the introduction of the early-season night ban in 1983. The present regulation prohibits possession of fishing gear on the lake between 10 P.M and 6 A.M. for about four weeks, starting on the first Monday of the season.
  • Also, in 1983, the winter spearing of northern pike Esox lucius was eliminated. In 1985, the first special walleye regulation was added that allowed only one of the six walleye bag limit to be longer than 20 in.
  • Since 1997, in response to 1837 Treaty litigation, walleye and northern pike regulations have been revised to keep harvests below allocations. Regulations for other species have also been revised to reduce angler harvest or maintain fishing quality.
  • Anglers target several species on Mille Lacs Lake. Year-round species include walleye, yellow perch, Perca flavescens, and northern pike. Additional summer species include muskellunge Esox masquinongy and smallmouth bass Micropterus dolomieu, while tullibee Coregonus artedi and burbot Lota can be important in the winter.