**This post may contain affiliate and ad links from which I could recieve a small commission**
What Bait To Use Ice Fishing

What Bait To Use For Ice Fishing? There are a wide variety of baits both artificial and natural that you can use for ice fishing. Below I will address some of the more popular ones that i have personally used, as well as some that have proven to work well over time.

Jigging Lures For Ice Fishing

Artificial lures are perfect for jigging. There are three types of lures that are perfect for ice fishing. A quick overview of the type and what fish you can expect to catch. All three types should be part of your fishing tackle arsenal when heading out on the ice for a day of fishing. Fish act differently on different days, so have all possibilities covered could mean all the difference.
Swimming Jig
Most experienced fishermen will tell you that when fishing through the ice, the swimming jig is a must-have in the tackle box.
Walleye, Bass, Pike, and Lake Trout are the common fish caught with these. But don’t be surprised if you catch other species of fish as well. The most common size swimming jigs are size 5 and size 7.
Lipless Crankbait
These lures are short and fat and have a noisy rattle to them when jigged rapidly.
This lure will also catch Walleye, Bass, Pike, and other gamefish.
This rattle will tend to put the predatory fish into an irritated state. This causes them to bite, not because of hunger but because they are mad.
Jigging Spoons
Jigging spoons like Swedish pimple and Fluted spoons work well for most smaller gamefish.
you can fish them as is, or place a small minnow head attached to the treble hook.

Photo by Glenna Haug on Unsplash

Night Crawlers For Ice Fishing

Night Crawlers are great bait for ice fishing. Doesn’t matter if you are fishing for Perch, Trout, or any other gamefish. They all love crawlers. The big tip when using crawlers as bait is to not use a big gob on the hook. A small piece works just fine when jigging or using a tip up. Too much crawler protecting the hook will result in more false flags and near misses when jigging.
But before heading out on the ice with crawlers, check your local laws and make sure the area you plan on ice fishing allows the use of crawlers for bait.

Minnows For Ice Fishing

Minnows (Shiners) are popular bait for Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Walleye, Pike, Bass, and muskellunge. You can rig up the minnow and fish it live, dead, or even as cut bait. Depending on the fish you are after and the size, live bait will get the best response.
If you are fishing for perch, you may want to tip the treble hook with just the head of a minnow. If you are jigging with a dead minnow, you might want to puncture the air bladder so the bait sinks faster for better wounded fish action.
But before heading out on the ice. Check your local laws and make sure the area you plan on ice fishing allows the use of live bait.

Smelts As Bait For Ice Fishing

Rainbow Smelts make great ice fishing bait for Most fish you are fishing for, but are really great for Salmon, Togue (Lake Trout), and Bass. There are three ways you can use smelts when ice fishing. You can cut the smelts into chunks and bait your hook with the pieces, you can bait your hook with a live smelt or a dead one that was previously caught and froze.

How To Hook Live Smelts For Bait

There are two popular ways to hook smelts. One is to pierce the hook through their mouth. The belief is most predatory fish swallow their prey, tail first. While this does work, many live smelts have broken free before any fish are caught.
The other way is to use a thin sharp hook and hook just under and behind the dorsal fin on the smelt. This works best if the smelt is a little on the larger size. Big game fish tend to try and attack from the side taking bites out of the middle of their prey.
Be sure to check your local fishing laws. Make sure the area you plan on ice fishing allows the use of live bait.

How To Rig Dead Smelts For Bait

When fishing with dead smelts the most common method is to take your knife and poke a hole in the smelt to get the air out so they will “dive” quicker once placed in water. Do not use sinkers on your line, the weight of the smelt is enough. Hooking them just under the back portion of the dorsal fin will give them a nose down position. This helps imitate a wounded, dying smelt.


You can use whole suckers to fish for Northern Pike, Bass, and Walleye. But the most common use of suckers for ice fishing is as cut bait. One of the best ways I have fished for Togue through the ice was with a piece of a sucker as bait. I cut a rectangle shape piece from the back, about “1.5 by “2, and removed half of the meat from the skin. What is left is a big piece of skin with a smaller chunk of meat. Hook the hook through the meat side. Now with your knife, starting at the meat side, cut one slit straight to the edge of the just skin side. The piece of sucker should now look like it has two legs. When it is jigged, the “legs” will move independently in the water imitating a frog. I have caught many togue this way when all other baits have failed. So keep this secret to yourself so the next day you and your friends are having no luck, you can win that bet before the day is out.
New to ice fishing? Check out Ice fishing Gear.