How to Find Fish While Ice Fishing? [Short Guide]

How to Find Fish While Ice Fishing

Finding fish is never easy, especially for unexperienced beginners. And when we add ice to it, things become even more difficult.

Drilling holes in the wrong places and presenting your bait in empty parts of the water can be very frustrating, so how to find fish while ice fishing?

First of all, you need to learn about fish behavior to know where they are likely to spend time. Secondly, you must know the bottom features so that you can drill accordingly. And of course, having a fish finder or a flasher can make it even easier.

I would advise inexperienced anglers to visit places they know well. That makes it easier when it comes to locating hungry fish.

And of course, you have to be careful when navigating on ice. Take all the safety precaution measures and make sure you pack all the essential ice fishing gear with you.

Here I will tell you a bit more about where to find fish under ice and how to maximize your success.



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How to Find Fish While Ice Fishing? [On a New Water]

Fishing in familiar waters is not always possible, so I will skip the easy part and go straight to the harder one.

First of all, decide what fish you want to catch and study its behavior. For example, walleyes will spend time near larger underwater structures in deeper waters early in the mid-winter season. As the winter goes by, you will be able to find them closer to the shore, near water inlets. Steep drop-offs where deep water meets the shallow one is always a good option.

When you know where your targeted species likes to be, you must find those places on the lake. And the best way to study unfamiliar waters is to get the best lake map you can.

You can also find info online or talk to local anglers who will give you the best advice. And when you study the lake maps and decide which spot you will pick, make sure to drill multiple holes, preferably in the zig zag pattern.

Present your bait and start fishing. If there seems to be no activity, move on onto the next hole and don’t spend too much time in one place.

If allowed, you can attract fish with chum.

And lastly, you can use a fish finder. I will mention that a bit later.

What Depth Should You Fish While Ice Fishing?

When talking about how to find fish while ice fishing you must choose the depth correctly. First of all, not all lakes are equally deep, and what is the perfect depth in one place may not even exist in another place.

So, generally speaking, about 8 to 20 ft is the common depth. Depending on a situation, it may even be around 5ft or less, or sometimes even more than 25 ft.

But, this does not mean that you will always lower your bait exactly to the bottom. Most often, a few ft from the bottom, just above structures or weeds will do the job.

Having a fish finder can be extremely helpful here, as you won’t have to guess, and you will skip the boring part of trial and error.

Of course, it largely depends on a species too. Trout can be very deep, even in depths up to 60ft, while Northern Pike can be fished even in shallow waters like 5 ft deep. Crappies can be found between 8 and 40 ft. Of course, early in the winter they will be in shallower depths, then go to deeper areas mid-winter, and then transit to the shallower parts again as the winter comes to an end.

Do You Need a Sonar [Fish Finder] for Ice Fishing?

Learning how to find fish while ice fishing is best without any electronic help. I truly believe that beginners should learn how to read the water and study fish behavior. Leaning solely on devices may help you catch fish, but it doesn’t help your progress as an angler.

However, if you use them responsibly and you are willing to learn about fish behavior, then these devices can be excellent I and fully support their use.

Of course, depending on device itself, you can get very clear images of water depth, bottom contours, structures, and fish. Some will even show you your bait.

If you are looking for a multi-purpose and versatile device, go with a regular fish finder, however, if you plan to use it only for ice fishing, you should think about getting a flasher. They are a bit harder to read, but extremely useful for ice fishing. For more info check my article about ice fishing fish finder vs flasher.

In low temperatures batteries in devices can drain fast, so you should choose devices that are suitable for low temperatures. Flashers, due to simple displays, usually have better battery life.

Or if you just want to take a look underwater, you may even use an ice fishing camera.

How to Find Fish While Ice Fishing - Gear

Where is the Best Place to Ice Fishing? [Microlocation]

Again, learning how to find fish while ice fishing and choosing the best possible microlocation depends a lot on a fish species. But, all fish species have something in common, and that is the fact that they like places where they can stay hidden from predators while they also have food available. Hideouts also help predators hide from prey while lurking.

Most often, fish will spend time around weeds, rock piles, and steep drop offs. These drop-offs are the best when it comes to ice fishing. With just a few holes you can cover all depth ranges and present your bait accordingly. So, if I have to choose one best feature, it is definitely this one.

Weed lines, rock formations and humps, points and bars that are extending from the shores, and similar features are also great.

Of course, it also depends on a wintertime. Later in the season, places near water inlets may be excellent.


Knowing how to find fish while ice fishing is important of you don’t want to go home empty handed. Anglers, especially beginners, should learn about fish behavior ang get detailed lake maps.

Of course, a little help from fish finders can significantly increase your success. It is important not to give up, drill multiple holes, and change them if necessary.

No matter what you do, always be careful while on ice and make sure that you have a fishing license and obey all rules and regulations.

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