Skip to main content

Advanced Ice Fishing Tactics

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.

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

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Action and Power Ratings- How to Choose the Right Bass Rod

Action and Power Ratings- How to Choose the Right Bass Rod

Most fishing rods feature both an action and a power rating, but what do those ratings mean and how do you use them to select the right rod for different scenarios? In this video, outdoor writer and tackle specialist Shane Beilue breaks down the difference between a rod blank’s action and power and discusses what the various ratings of each mean.

Catch More Bass on a Jerkbait in the Cooler Months

Catch More Bass on a Jerkbait in the Cooler Months

This one simple trick will trigger more bass strikes on a jerkbait during the fall months.

Understanding Reel Retrieve Ratios and How it Affects Lure Presentations

Understanding Reel Retrieve Ratios and How it Affects Lure Presentations

Increase a lure’s effectiveness by pairing it with the ideal reel speed.

Hunting Elk with the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter in 6.5 PRC

Hunting Elk with the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter in 6.5 PRC

Michael Cassidy and Paul Pluff talk about their elk hunt in New Mexico using the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

We found 10 secret (and proven) catfish baits that have the staying power to attract catfish time after time.10 Secret Catfish Baits You Didn't Know About Catfish

10 Secret Catfish Baits You Didn't Know About

Anietra Hamper

We found 10 secret (and proven) catfish baits that have the staying power to attract catfish...

Anglers can find catfish in practically any freshwater system in the South, but some waters really stand out for monsters.The South's Best Waters for Trophy Catfish Catfish

The South's Best Waters for Trophy Catfish

John N. Felsher - August 21, 2020

Anglers can find catfish in practically any freshwater system in the South, but some waters...

Quick look at common, easy-to-catch fish species (video).Get On Board: Species 101 for Beginning Anglers Other Freshwater

Get On Board: Species 101 for Beginning Anglers

Game & Fish Staff

Quick look at common, easy-to-catch fish species (video).

In need of a rugged container to sip from in the backcountry? We've got you covered. From tumblers to bottles to flasks (and even clever bottle openers), we've rounded up some of the best bar gear for the outdoors.Ultimate Outdoor Bar Gear Roundup The Deck

Ultimate Outdoor Bar Gear Roundup

Chelsie Walters and Jessyca Sortillon - August 31, 2020

In need of a rugged container to sip from in the backcountry? We've got you covered. From...

See More Trending Articles

More Fishing How-To

Looking to expand your fall Chinook fishing repertoire? These tips on trolling in bays and river mouths will help.Tidewater Trolling Tips for Fall Chinook Success Trout & Salmon

Tidewater Trolling Tips for Fall Chinook Success

Scott Haugen - October 20, 2020

Looking to expand your fall Chinook fishing repertoire? These tips on trolling in bays and...

The bite at night turns on in late summer in the Midwest. Go get your limit now.Night Stalking Late-Summer Walleyes Playbook

Night Stalking Late-Summer Walleyes

Mike Pehanich - August 14, 2020

The bite at night turns on in late summer in the Midwest. Go get your limit now.

Try these 3 bass strategies during the hottest month of the year.Go Big, Fast or With the Flow for August Largemouths Bass

Go Big, Fast or With the Flow for August Largemouths

Ken Duke - August 25, 2020

Try these 3 bass strategies during the hottest month of the year.

Here's what to throw to tempt the biggest fish below a dam.Hit the Tailwater Buffet for Eastern Trout Trout & Salmon

Hit the Tailwater Buffet for Eastern Trout

Jeff Knapp - October 26, 2020

Here's what to throw to tempt the biggest fish below a dam.

See More Fishing How-To

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

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

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now