Ice Fishing for Trout: 10 BEST Tips of All Time!

Ice Fishing for Trout Tips

Fishing is a year-round activity, and even when waters are frozen, anglers have many fishing opportunities.

Ice fishing for trout is one of them, and if done right, you can catch many of them! Of course, fish behave differently in winter, and you have to know how to adjust your approach. From lure selection to finding fish, there are many tips that can help you catch a big one!

As an angler, you know how frustrating it can be to go home empty handed. That is why I decided to create this list of the best tips and tricks to catch trout under ice. Try it out and see does it work for you, because it does for me!

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Tip #1: Know Your Local Trout Species

Not every trout is the same, and that is the first thing you have to know. Depending on your location (here is mine), one or more species can be present, and you should decide which one you want to catch!

Ice fishing for rainbow trout is not the same as ice fishing for lake trout. Equipment and bait selection depends on it a lot. The same goes if ice fishing for brook trout or ice fishing for brown trout.

When it comes to locations within the lake, they all behave similarly and like to spend time in places with similar features.

Your first step should be informing yourself about trout species in your area and their habits. I will mention some specifics for various species in the following chapters.

Tip #2: Choose Your Equipment Carefully

Ice fishing rods and reels are quite smaller than those used during warmer months. You can also downsize your lures and use thinner lines because fish are less active and more cautious.

No matter the species, rod should be within 24inch-36inch range. For larger species like lake trout, go for medium-heavy rod power, while for a bit smaller species like rainbow trout you can use medium.

For rainbow and brown trout, you can use regular reels with some standard line capacity, while for lake or brook you should choose those with a bit higher capacity.

Lines and leaders for rainbow and brown may be thinner, while for lake trout you will need stronger lines and leaders.

Tip #3: Think About Bait Selection

As already mentioned, downsize a bit when choosing trout ice fishing lures, an if you are in doubt between two options, go for lighter one. Jigs and live bait always give the best results.

Minnows are an excellent option because they are natural trout prey and can survive in cold water.

Jiggs are excellent on their own, or maybe spiced with worms if you want them to be extra-effective. Less active winter trout may need a bit more attraction. This works excellent with rainbow trout.

For larger species like lake trout, you can use larger jigging tubes.

Jigging spoons (while jigging) are a third option, and I would advise you to always have them with you. If nothing else is working, spoons may surprise you and make a trout bite!

Ice Fishing for Trout Tips - Lures

Tip #4: Find a Perfect Location

Trout are quite different than many other fish when it comes to winter behavior. Rainbow trout can sometimes be present in much shallower areas than you would expect. Weed beds and mud flats are one of the areas that anglers often skip, but rainbows love them. They can be found in areas that are just a few feet deep.

Even larger species, like lake trout, will come up the water column. That doesn’t mean that you will find them in the shallows like rainbow trout. Think about presenting your bait in upper areas of the water column where water is a bit deeper, around 10 to 15ft. Trout can sometimes swim under ice in search of food, which is quite different than many other fish species.

You can also find them near steep drop offs.

Tip #5: Start Drilling Early

Ice fishing for trout is all about drilling holes. You probably know that you need more than one to cover larger areas, but there is something else very important for trout fishing.

These fish are cautious and can see and sense your presence. This is why you should arrive at a location much earlier than you plan to fish and drill holes well before daylight (and keep them from freezing). Drilling will spook the fish and they will need some time to start feeling safe again. Presenting your bait right after you made a hole is not going to bring any success.

Trout are pack-predators, and they spend time in schools. If you spook one, you spooked them all. This is why you need to drill carefully, quietly, and early.

Ice Fishing for Trout Tips - Hole

Tip #6: Pick the Right Time of the Day

Trout love cold water and unlike many other fish, they can be caught early in the morning when winter temperatures are the lowest. Rainbow trout may be found in very shallow areas at this time. As the day goes by, they will move deeper.

During low light conditions, when the sky is cloudy, they can stay in the shallows all day.

Their activity will also change during the day, and from late morning until midafternoon they will slow down. Often, they move into deeper water and become more scattered. When they are not in schools their activity drops.

In later afternoon, as evening approaches, their activity will increase again. If you need to drill new holes during day, do it around midday.

Tip #7: Think About Fish Finders/Flashers

Locating fish, especially the ones like trout, is never easy. Fish finders can be a great asset here. Don’t rely completely on them and learn about fish especially if you are a beginner. Use them wisely. If you can’t get a bite, use a fish finder.

These devices will show you what is underneath the surface, and they are excellent for any kind of fishing, anywhere.

Flashers are great for ice fishing and have limited use in warmer months. Cameras, however, are not recommended for trout.

To see details with a camera, you will have to move it around, and that can scare the trout. If you scare them, it will take a long time for them to come back again and become interested in your bait.

Tip #8: Get Ready for a Bite on the Downfall

Among these ice fishing for trout tips, I have to mention their willingness to strike your bait during certain movement. When jigging, especially if using jigging spoons, trout will wait for the perfect moment before it bites.

These bites often occur when the lure is falling back down and fluttering. Many anglers are expecting bites when they are working their lures upwards, and bites on the downfall surprise them.

In addition to that, trout have a tendency to check out your lure by just hitting it, without baiting. If that happens it means that they are in the vicinity and very interested. This is a great sign that one of them will bite in just a few moments!

Tip #9: Look for Smaller Fish

Trout are predators that feed on smaller fish species. If you see perch or any panfish, or you know where exactly they are, present your bait near them. Trout will often follow these fish and prey on them.

This is why you can find them on weed beds. Small fish hide there, and trout know it. Fish finders and flashers can also help you here to locate prey fish.

When doing this, try not to use lures or baits that can be eaten by those smaller species because then you will end up with one of them, instead of a trout!

If allowed, you can even attract these fish by chumming them, and hope that trout will follow. Be creative.

Tip #10: Use Lake Maps

And last, but not least, there are maps (you can check my comparisonNavionics vs Lakemaster and Navionics vs CMap).

Maps can show you underwater structures and bottom features in great detail. Study the area you are fishing in to find places where trout are likely to be.

Trout love underwater structures because structures provide safety and enable preying on small fish without getting noticed.

If there are very large structures, trout are more likely to swim around them than over them. Drill holes and present your baits accordingly.

Underwater funnels and similar bottom features are also good. They will naturally direct and lead fish towards your bait.

Ice Fishing for Trout Tips - Lake

Conclusion

Ice fishing for trout can be tricky because their behavior is much different than in many other fish species. And some differences between trout species also exist.

It is important to learn about these differences and plan our fishing trip accordingly. Of course, you may need to change certain techniques to suit your specific situation. Everything stated here can be slightly adjusted.

And of course, think about ice fishing safety and a fishing license. Check the ice thickness, go with a friend, and use essential equipment that will keep you warm and safe!

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I'm Sina, the guy behind Slo-fishing.si and eBook writer. This site is base camp for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. I love fishing and want to share all my stories, knowledge and my experience with any and all potential anglers. Read more ...

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