Just because the lake is frozen, it doesn’t mean that you can’t fish. The only difference between summer and winter fishing is that the fish slow down and rest at the bottom in winter; therefore, you need better gear to attract and catch them. Therefore, we decided to prepare the following article on the 11 top fishing bait for ice fishing to help you out, so let’s dive right on in.
The best live bait for ice fishing are minnows, wigglers, spikes, larvae, and wax worms. If using live bait isn’t an option, you can try ice fishing lures, which are available in a wide range of colors and resemble the worms.
For anglers, the winter months present a new challenge, and for you to even access the fishes on the frozen lake, you have to be very careful. But, remember, cracking the frozen top layer is not the hard part. So, in this article, we will show you some of the top fishing bait for ice fishing in the market.
How Do You Attract Fish for Ice Fishing?
You don’t have to cancel your fishing trip simply because the temperature is below freezing and the lakes have frozen. In fact, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, over two million Americans try ice fishing every year. You only have to change your fishing techniques and use different baits and lures to attract and eventually catch some fish.
So before you try ice fishing, you should learn how to attract fish in a frozen lake. And one of the best solutions is using fish attractants.
Fish attractants are natural products made using food-grade products that are safe for the environment. Most attractants use bubbles and scents to draw fish to where you’re fishing. Plus, they are designed to sink to the bottom, making them the best option for ice fishing.
Other Methods of Attracting Fish in Winter
Twist the line: most folk love moving their lines up and down when fishing, which works. But in winter, you have to be very creative, so instead of doing the usual, you can try twisting the line between your forefinger and thumb.
Jigging the bait: Ice fishing requires an active fishing style, and one of the most efficient methods is jigging the bait. It means raising the rod a few inches and dipping it.
Cover the hole: Another reliable method is covering your fishing hole and preventing the light from disrupting the fish. Blocking the hole will make the fish feel safer and swim toward the bait.
11 Top Fishing Baits for Ice Fishing
After learning how to attract the slow-moving fish at the base of the lake, the next step is finding the best bait for ice fishing. During summer and spring, any live bait can attract a wide range of fishes, but in winter, things are different. And that is because the cold water forces all fishes to slow down and hide at the base of the ocean, where it’s a bit warmer.
Therefore, you need a special kind of bait that can convince the fish to swim towards your bait and enjoy some free food. And with the numerous live and artificial lures available, choosing the right option for ice fishing can be pretty challenging.
It would help if you had both live and artificial baits to attract the fish and eventually catch them with ice fishing. Luckily, live bait can work wonders when fishing in winter: after all, the smell and vibration of live bait can help attract fish. And if that doesn’t work, you can attach fake bait on the hook and hope that it does the trick.
Top Live Fishing Bait for Ice Fishing
Spikes are maggots used for fishing during the cold seasons, like in spring, winter, and fall. These larvae are the best option for ice fishing, and even though they are unpalatable to human beings, they do work wonders in the frozen lake. Even though they are small, they can attract and help you catch both small and huge fish.
Spikes are affordable baits that are very easy to use, but if you’re targeting a giant fish, you should hook several spikes to the hook. Anglers throw a handful of these larvae to attract fish to their fishing spots. Once they have achieved their target, they lower their hooks with maggots to catch them.
Spikes are pretty popular in Europe; the European commercial maggot breeders supply them to millions of anglers all over North America and Europe. It is because spikes can help you capture a wide range of fish species and attract them to your fishing spot before you start fishing.
Worms are classic bait that has been used for centuries and for a great reason. Worms are versatile and work even in hard water fishing. In addition, worms are affordable and very easy to hook. Plus, their movements and shapes will attract some specific fish species.
The most common worm used in fishing is the earthworm, particularly Lumbricus Terrestris found in our gardens. However, Lumbricus Terrestris is not the best option for commercial worm breeding because they are deep burrowers and readily breed. The best candidates for worm farming are Red compost worms like the European nightcrawlers and red wiggler.
European nightcrawlers and red wiggler are surface-dwellers. The European nightcrawlers are the best option for ice fishing because they can tolerate freezing temperatures. In addition, the European nightcrawlers are the best worms for saltwater fishing.
If you’re targeting pikes, perch, trout, or walleye, you need to use worms instead of spikes. Worms are bigger than most live baits; therefore, they work perfectly when targeting huge fish.
Waxworms are quite popular among ice anglers, and they usually refer to them as waxies. Waxworms are the larvae of caterpillars belonging to the snout moth family. The two most common wax worm species breed for fishing are the greater wax moth and lesser wax moths.
Waxworms are not natural prey for most fish species, but they work perfectly when luring fishes in a frozen lake. Waxies are smaller than the other worms; therefore, they are ideal for catching small fish species. They can also capture huge fish species, but make sure you attach several waxies on the hook when fishing a huge fish.
Cut bait refers to small pieces of a huge fish that are used to attract fish. Luckily, a wide range of fishes is preyed on by bigger fishes, so you only need to find the most popular option and prepare your bait. Some of the best winter fishing options are pieces of the American shad and whitefish.
Remember, fishes are slower in winter and have a low probability of biting anything in the cold; therefore, you will have to work hard to attract them, but with cut bait, that won’t be an issue. And that is because they will provide you with the added benefit of the smell of fresh fish.
The smell of fresh meat and a lure is enough to get any fish out of its hiding spot and swim through the ice toward your bait, thus guaranteeing you success.
Another reliable and versatile bait for ice fishing is minnows. Minnows refer to a group of small fishes belonging to the Cyprinidae family. But only the small minnows from the subfamily Leuciscinae are considered true minnows by anglers.
Minnows are natural prey for a wide range of fish species; therefore, you have a high probability of capturing a massive fish with minnows. In addition, minnows can come in handy when catching numerous fishes like crappie, walleye, pikes, and perch, among others.
Unfortunately, numerous American states have prohibited the use of minnows as baits. So make sure you confirm if it is allowed in your hometown or where you plan on fishing before using them.
While most anglers prefer using salmon eggs for fishing in streams, some use them in ice fishing. After all, eggs are natural baits that are more efficient in frozen lakes. When it comes to ice fishing, salmon eggs are more efficient than floating marshmallows or cheeses.
They’re the best option for luring lots of fish species, including trout, steelhead, and salmons. But if you plan on using salmon eggs, you must build a roe bag or sack to prevent them from floating away. You can either make the bag by hand or purchase some mesh sheets.
Once you have purchased the sack, you can safely place a few eggs and attach them to your hook before lowering it. Buy four by 4 inches spawn nets and place one on the table. Add about 20 eggs at the center and a few plastic baits on top of them before tying the rue bag.
Lower the bait through your fishing hole and hope the bait and the smell of salmon eggs can do the trick.
Smelt are small fishes that can be found in the North Pacific and North Atlantic Oceans. They can also be found in lakes, streams, and rivers; they are ideal for ice fishing. Some anglers use pieces of smelt to attract other smelts when they run out of baitfish.
A smelt fish with the skin attached can make excellent bait that attaches tightly to the hook. And when lowered, the scent of fresh meat and the smelt’s shiny skin can attract other fishes from the lake’s bottom.
Artificial Fishing Bait for Ice Fishing
You’re split for choice if you prefer using lures over live bait in winter. After all, numerous effective baits in the market are designed to resemble the prey and produce some sound or vibration that can help you catch fish.
Therefore, it’s always a good idea to have some artificial bait even when using live bait; you can still use them to lure the fish.
So, as you’re preparing yourself for ice fishing, make sure you add the following artificial baits to your arsenal. You will have fun ice fishing the entire day with an assortment of baits that vary in size and color. Some of the best artificial baits for ice fishing include:
The gliding baits are the most innovative ice fishing lure ever hit the market in the last few years. They are the best artificial baits for luring fish. After casting this bait, you can tighten your line after casting this bait by jerking the line and then jerking it the second time.
It will force the gliding bait to dive and glide from side to side as it attracts the fish’s attention. Rapala set the standards with their unique jigging rap bait. The Rapala jigging rap works perfectly with live bait, and its vertical presentation allows the bait to remain on the lower side while it pauses in an upward direction.
Other gliding baits in the market are:
- Northland puppet minnow
- Johnson Johnny Darters
Vibrating bait is ideal for attracting fish to your lure within the shortest time possible. And the fact that they can attract slow-moving fish is the main reason they are associated with ice fishing. The hard wobbles and loud vibrations produced by the vibrating baits make the fish’s lateral lines tingle.
The fact that they can easily attract the fish’s attention makes them the best option for ice fishing. Some of the best-vibrating baits include:
- Lindy darters
- Rapala Slab Rap
- Sebile Vibrato
- Sebile Vibrato Blade Bait
The Rapala rap is artificial bait with a deep belly profile designed to rip, swim and crank. This bait flutters when dipped into the water thanks to its skin body. This bait is famous among ice anglers thanks to its attention-grabbing vibrations, smooth swimming motion, and horizontal hook tie.
It is one of the most popular lipless crankbait among ice-fishing anglers. It features a large body that produces lots of flashes with jerks like dead prey sinking. Its unique loud BB-rattling system helps attract a wide range of fish species.
This artificial bait has the most unique, lifelike pattern that you will ever find in lipless crankbaits. Their horizontal hook-tie design makes them ideal for open-water fishing and jigging. Plus, it has the same features and anatomical details as a young baitfish.
Their weight helps them sink quickly into the water while providing you control over its jiggling motion. This crankbait weighs about half an ounce and is available in a wide range of natural color patterns.
Spoon baits have an excellent track record in the ice fishing industry; they have been used by anglers for decades. Spoons can be divided into two categories: jigging and flutter spoons. Luckily, they both have a vertical presentation and have varying actions and properties.
Flutter spoons are wide, thin, and concave-shaped, which produces a slow sinking motion that flutters and flashes while sinking. And to attract fishes using flutter spoons, you can generate hard strikes to attract the huge fish. Flutter spoons are perfect for fishing lake trout.
Jigging spoons are typically lowered into the water column just like the flutter spoons, but the only difference is that they don’t produce flashes or wobble. Instead, jigging bait presents itself to the fish in a darting action that attracts fish and encourages them to bite. Jigging spoons also produce a rattling sound that attracts fish.
Does the Spoon Work in Ice Fishing?
One of the most famous and efficient artificial bait for ice fishing is spoons. Fishes can eat anything when hungry, but when they have eaten, the spoons’ color, shape, and action can make the difference between capturing and not catching anything.
What Is the Best Time for Ice Fishing?
Most experienced anglers agree that the best ice fishing time is two hours before sunset and the first few hours after sunrise. However, the situation is different since every species has its fishing habit; therefore, you can catch something if you understand their habit.
How Can You Attract Walleye in the Frozen Lake?
The best baits for walleyes in clear water are silver lures and spoons because they resemble minnows. And in stained water, you need bright-colored lures. But when dealing with less active walleyes, you will need some live bait.
Fishing Guide: 11 Best Ice Fishing Tip Ups
Conclusion – Top Fishing Bait For Ice Fishing
Fishing in winter can be a bit challenging but fun, and for you to capture something, you have to be creative and use the right bait.
Remember, not all live baits can attract fish in winter, so pick the right bait for your target species. But most anglers prefer working with artificial lures, which can’t be affected by the cold, instead of live bait.