Advanced Ice Fishing Tactics

Knowing how specific fish species act can help you catch brook trout like this one. (Steve Hickoff photo)

Certain ice-fishing species favor specific habitats and conditions. Knowing where they’ll be helps you catch fish more effectively. Park your ATV or SxS along the shoreline and look here:


Rainbow trout seem to prefer bait lowered just several feet below the ice, even if the maximum depth is much deeper. Brook trout can be found down there. Opportunists that they are, lake trout (or "togue" to native New Englanders) tend to take big baitfish just off the lake bottom.

Dubbed “panfish” since they’re fish that will fit in a pan, bluegills, perch and crappies (pronounced crop-pees) often provide consistent winter action when others won't. Still, this doesn't mean they're pushovers. Use thin 2-pound test lines, small hooks, and tiny baits (bits of worm or small shiners) to fool this tasty quarry. Such fish often take bait gently with a tap-tapping. Set the hook when you detect this.

Winter largemouth and smallmouth bass tend toward the lethargic. Loafing under the ice, they’ll respond to jigging and even well-placed bait. In my experience dropping your line’s business end on the edge of weedbeds and along drop-offs provides options for these staged gamefish.


Northern pike and chain pickerel hang in structure beneath the ice, often in fairly shallow water, and move fast to strike prey (and your fluttering baitfish).

Walleyes hang close to the bottom. Adjust your techniques and locations accordingly.

BONUS TIP: Weather (and daylight, or lack of) can influence fish feeding binges. A mild day above freezing temperatures with solid ice can put fish on the bite, while a lingering deep freeze can put them off. Heavy snow cover piled up on the ice overhead sometimes sees winter fish feed during brighter daylight hours. Alternately, clear ice on sunny days might reveal low-light biting tendencies. Daybreak and dusk are often productive then.


Recommended for You

Guns

MidwayUSA Pro Series Shooting Mat

G&F Staff

Shooters across the U.S. are using this competition shooting mat.

Records

No Kidding: Angler Smashes Record for Lake Trout

Scott Bernarde - May 21, 2019

The Pennsylvania man's trophy fish was more than two pounds heavier than the previous record.

Records

State Records Reported in Maryland, Michigan

G&F Online Staff - May 23, 2019

It must be time for summer fishing because records are falling everywhere.

See More Recommendations

Trending Stories

Bass

7 Best Bets For New Jersey Largemouth Bass

October 04, 2010

From Monksville Reservoir to Union Lake, plus five other picks, here's where you'll...

Catfish

10 Biggest Catfish World Records of All Time

Jack Vitek - December 08, 2014

Unless you live in Antarctica, the only continent they aren't known to inhabit, there is a...

Records

Upon Further Review: 70-Year-Old Catfish Record Voided

G&F Online Staff - May 22, 2019

Experts agree record channel cat caught in 1949 was actually a blue catfish.

See More Stories

More Fishing How-To

Trout & Salmon

Tailwater Trout: Back-Trolling for Success

Cal Kellogg - April 05, 2019

Some of the most productive trout waters are clear, cold tailwaters.

Saltwater

Popping Corks Work When Other Tactics Fail

John N. Felsher

This old technique will help you locate and catch speckled trout and other inshore species.

Other Freshwater

Killer Tips for Catching Pike with Dead Baits

Mike Gnatkowski

Dead baits under a float provide an easy meal for early-spring northern pike.

See More Fishing How-To

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×