6 Ice Fishing Tips to Target Species Through the Ice

By Debbie Hanson

Jan 18, 2015

It has been said that variety is the spice of life… I firmly believe that this concept should also apply to your life as an ice angler.

It has been said that variety is the spice of life… I firmly believe that this concept should also apply to your life as an ice angler. Don't let the chilly winter temperatures deter you from experimenting with new baits or lures on a variety of different species.


If you're new to ice fishing, and are wondering which types of fish are most likely to bite during the winter months in the northern regions, check out this list of ice fishing tips based on the species.

  1. Walleye. Lower light conditions in the morning and evening will generally trigger more walleye activity. One of the best ice fishing tips for this species is to fish in the hours around sunrise and sunset due to the walleye's ability to search for and see prey in dim light conditions.
  2. Perch. They tend to roam and can be a challenge to find them beneath the ice, but once you've located a school, it's not too hard to get them to bite if you're prepared with the right bait -- try a jig head paired with a live minnow or grub. Drill holes through the ice near lake areas where there are plenty of healthy weeds. If ice fishing in bays, check tapering drop-offs, areas with soft-bottom or structure.
  3. Crappie. If crappie is your desired ice fishing target, try drilling a hole with your auger near the mouths of shallow bays. To entice crappie to bite, use a small jigging spoon tipped with a small piece of minnow or a tiny jig tipped with a wax worm.
  4. Northern Pike. Find vegetation through the ice and chances are good that you will find a northern pike. Northern pike like to suspend in the water column, and are often found near areas of vegetation since the vegetation will conceal this predator from prey.
  5. Lake Trout. If you are planning an ice fishing trip to Alaska or the Great Lakes region, the lake trout is a good species to target. Try fishing on the bottom using either dead ciscoes or live minnows in depths from 15 to 40 feet.
  6. Largemouth Bass. During periods of ice-cover, largemouth bass are usually found in the deeper parts of lakes where the water is warmer. Smaller lures and baits worked slowly will be more effective when targeting bass through the ice. You may want to start by using a small spoon or jig tipped with a wax worm.


If you want to learn more about basic ice fishing techniques like jigging, tightlining and the use of tip-ups, you can find more information by heading over to the ice fishing techniques section.

Photo Credit: Daniel Kenney

Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit shefishes2.com or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.