How To Ice Fish For Trout

If you aren't sure how to ice fish for trout, don't worry because it won't take you long to learn. All you have to do is gather the right gear, learn a few simple techniques in this section, and find a safe lake or pond that is populated with trout.

Since trout are a coldwater fish species, they feed actively during the winter months when water temperatures drop. This means that trout are an ideal species to target on an ice fishing trip.

Trout Tackle & Gear

Start out by assembling the gear you need to go ice fishing for trout. If you have a handy checklist of the basic tackle and gear to use, it can make your fishing trip preparations quick and easy.

Fishing Rods & Reels

The fishing rods to use when learning how to ice fish for trout are shorter than a standard freshwater fishing rod, generally between 24 to 36 inches. The action of the rod can range from medium or medium-heavy action, depending on the trout species you are targeting. You can try a medium action rod for rainbow trout; however, a medium-heavy action rod would be better when learning how to ice fish for lake trout.

You may want to choose an ice fishing reel with high line capacity if you are learning how to ice fish for lake trout because they are capable of long runs. If you are fishing for rainbow trout or brown trout, high line capacity isn't as important.

Fishing Line & Leader

When learning how to catch lake trout ice fishing, you can use 10 to 15-pound braided line and 6 to 8-pound fluorocarbon leader. Because braided fishing line has no stretch, it's a good choice for fishing in deeper water.

If you plan to fish for rainbow or brown trout, 4 to 6-pound test monofilament line with 8 to 10-pound monofilament or fluorocarbon leader is generally sufficient.

Trout Ice Fishing Lures & Baits

Selecting the best ice fishing lures for trout isn't hard. In most cases, you should choose lures and baits that are light and small.

  • Jigs: Jigs in the 1/64 to 1/8-ounce range (use the appropriate weight for the water depth and conditions) can be tipped with minnows or wax worms when targeting rainbow trout. Try tube jigs if you are focusing on lake trout.
  • Jigging Spoons: Metal vertical jigging spoons are another type of lure that can be effective when hardwater fishing for trout. Don’t be afraid to switch weights or sizes if you see trout, but can't seem to get them to bite. Sometimes a change is all it takes. Experiment to see what will work for you.
  • Minnows: Small, live minnows can be rigged on a #6 hook. Add a small lead weight or split-shot to keep your bait in the strike zone, and use a pencil-shaped bobber or float to help you detect light bites.

Where to Ice Fish for Trout

Trout are generally found in deep natural lakes, but they can also be stocked in ponds or reservoirs. Safety should be your first priority when selecting a spot to fish for trout through the ice. Always remember to follow ice fishing safety guidelines and check for safe ice before you go fishing.

When you find a safe fishing spot, keep in mind that trout usually move from deep holes into shallower areas during the winter months. This means that you should be able to find the fish if you find the areas where the water depth transitions from deep to shallow.

You can also check the places to boat and fish map or contact your state agency if you need help locating a good spot.