Big Stone Lake: the Midwest’s new winter perch hot spot!

By Mike Frisch

Big Stone Lake, on the Minnesota and South Dakota border, has long had a reputation as a top-notch walleye fishery. Because of the lake’s walleye fishing opportunities, this 26-mile long, 12,610-acre border water lake is a top open-water fishing destination and has hosted many walleye tournaments sponsored by some of the country’s top tournament circuits.

While the walleye has long been king, Big Stone also has a booming perch fishery that now offers anglers another top-notch open-water fishing opportunity. News of the good perch fishing is drawing more and more summer and fall anglers, but winter is the time when the perch fishing really takes center stage!

Artie Arndt is an Ortonville, Minn. native (Ortonville is at the foot of the lake, which is also the headwaters of the Minnesota River) who has fished the lake since childhood and has a good handle on fishing the lake during all seasons. Recognizing the great perch fishing opportunities available, Arndt started renting fish houses and guiding anglers on Big Stone though his bait shop in Ortonville two winters ago. Most of his rental service and guide business is geared towards the lake’s numerous perch.

“I started the rental business as the perch boom started,” Arndt offered when asked about his new business. “It goes hand-in-hand with our bait shop and is enjoyable for me because I like helping others catch fish,” he went on.

Arndt and the guides who work for him are a hard-working bunch who are constantly on the move searching for the best bite. “Much of the winter perch fishing occurs on the south end of the lake,” Arndt offered when asked about where anglers should start their perch search. “Rocky ledge and the islands are popular areas for finding perch, though anglers are advised to stay on the move as the bite often moves from day to day and even during the course of the same day.” he added. “If you want to stay on the fish, you have to be willing to move,” Arndt advised.

The key to catching perch on Big Stone is usually finding them. Once found, a variety of traditional jigging spoons and lures tipped with spikes will often catch fish. When the bite is tough, downsizing to tiny tungsten jigs still tipped with spikes is often the key to putting some fish in the pail.

While the perch is king during the winter on Big Stone, the walleyes are another good option as well. “The north end of the lake holds lots of walleyes during the winter months,” Arndt offered when asked about finding those fish. “The late afternoon bite is good, though anglers willing to fish after dark into the night are often rewarded for their efforts,” Arndt went on.

Perch and walleyes are the top winter draws on Big Stone though other species, most notably bluegills and crappies, are present in the lake as well. “We are very excited about a growing population of crappies and bluegills in the lake,” Arndt stated. “The lake’s bluegills are big and seem to be growing in numbers, while the crappie population is really booming now as well,” he continued. “The area by the islands is also good for these fish, though I’ll bet there are some unknown hot spots for both bluegills and crappies that we don’t know about because these fish don’t get much pressure,” he concluded.

If these top winter fishing opportunities are of interest, anglers can talk to Arndt himself or one of his guides by stopping at Artie’s Bait and Tackle in Ortonville. The friendly employees there are always ready to lend a hand in helping visiting anglers get dialed in to the top fish-producing areas and they have a full supply of bait and tackle. Anglers and hunters wanting up-to-the minute fishing and hunting reports or those interested in guided fishing or a rental fish house can also call the bait shop at 320-839-2480.

In addition to fine fishing, the Big Stone area also has fine dining and a variety of lodging options for the out-of-town angler as well. Information about the entire Big Stone Lake area, including food and lodging details, can be found by visiting the Big Stone Lake Area Chamber at

Mike Frisch is a western Minnesota fishing guide and co-host of the popular Fishing the Midwest television series. Learn more by visiting or following Fishing the Midwest on Facebook.

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