TOP DRAW: Mike Frisch demonstrates why Big Stone’s perch are a top winter draw!

Big Stone Lake is a premier multispecies, multiseason fishery. Located on the Minnesota/South Dakota border, this 26-mile long, 12,610-acre border water lake is well known for its open-water walleye fishing. In addition to walleyes, however, the lake’s big bluegills and crappies are gaining notoriety and the lake is also home to some of the biggest largemouth bass in the entire Upper Midwest as well.

During winter, however, the lake’s booming perch fishery takes over as Big Stone has lots of fat 9- to 11-inch “eater” fish that make great table fare! Though not known for giant perch, the number of quality fish the lake hosts draws winter anglers from across the country.

Artie Arndt, a local bait shop owner from Ortonville also operates a winter fish house rental business on Big Stone, a business that caters to perch anglers. In addition to bait and fish house rentals, Artie and his son, Tanner, are two of the best multiseason, multispecies anglers on the lake.

When questioned about the lake and its winter opportunities, Artie was quick to point to Big Stone’s outstanding perch numbers. “Perch are king during winter on Big Stone,” Artie said when asked about ice fishing and this year’s outlook. “And, population surveys by the DNR show the lake has record perch numbers.”

Regarding prime fishing times, Artie pointed to the season’s first several weeks. “The great fishing often happens during the season’s first half, we still have good fishing later, but it can get tougher with more snow and fishing pressure,” Artie stated when discussing peak winter fishing times.

Artie and his guides favor the lake’s southern end for finding Big Stone perch. “We spend most of our time on the lake’s south end,” Artie said. He and his guides use a mobile approach to search for fish roaming the lake’s expansive 12- to 16-foot deep basin. “We stay on the move constantly looking for the schools because the perch move throughout that basin.”

Once found, Big Stone perch will eat traditional panfish lures like small jigging spoons as well as small minnows suspended under bobbers. However, Artie says tungsten jigs and spikes are key baits most days. “Day in and day out it’s hard to beat tungsten tipped with spikes,” he offered. “Our waters are clear, and that small profile and live-bait combination is hard to beat.”

Though the perch receive the vast majority of the winter attention, Big Stone’s big bluegills and walleyes appear some during winter too. “Perch anglers often catch some of those tank bluegills out in the basin with the perch,” Artie said. “And, the walleyes have shown up some the past couple winters too.”

Big Stone Lake is a very popular winter fishery for good reason as it offers one of the hottest winter bites for perch anywhere. For anglers wanting to travel to the lake, information on fish house rentals and Big Stone fishing in general can be had by calling Artie at 320-839-2480. Also, information on the entire Big Stone area can be had by visiting the website

Mike Frisch hosts the popular “Fishing the Midwest” TV series. Visit for more “fishy” stuff.

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