Ice Fishing Tackle Tips

Ice Fishing Tackle Tips
Winter fishing allows anglers to enjoy the sport when fewer anglers crowd the lake. Different tactics and tackle are required when fishing during the winter months. Game fish respond to baits and lures differently due to lower water temperatures and because of their slower metabolism. Likewise, tackle that is different from the summer months is necessary to produce the biggest catches.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Auger or spud bar
  • Fishing rod and reel
  • Tip-up
  • Depth finder
  • Baits and lures
Step 1
Drill a hole with an auger or a spud bar. Both tools allow you to make an ice-fishing hole.
Step 2
Use an ice fishing rod that is much shorter than a summer fishing rod. A 2-foot rod is appropriate. Longer rods are unnecessary because ice anglers do not cast but simply drop a baited hook or lure through the hole in the ice.
Step 3
Fish with a flexible rod when pursuing small types of fish to feel the bite, and use stiff rods when fishing for bigger fish to avoid breakage. Match a light rod with 2 to 4 lb. test line and size 10 or 12 hooks for bluegill fishing. For trout, use jigging rods with 6 to 8 lb. test line and size 8 to size 10 hooks.
Step 4
Use a tip-up, a device that gives signal when a fish bites your line. When a fish takes your bait, a flag springs up from the tip up across the ice hole. A tip-up is ideal when ice fishing for northern pike and walleye, according to Pennsylvania Boat and Commission. Use tip-ups with 15 lb. test line and size 2 or 4 hooks for northern pike, and 6 to 10 lb. test line and size 6 or 8 hooks for walleye.
Step 5
Target fish by finding in the appropriate depths. Determine the depth by using an electronic fish finder or depth finder. A simpler tactic for determining depth involves dropping a heavy sinker to the bottom and tying a colored marker to your line just above the reel. Winter bluegills can be found in 10 to 20 feet in cover, while trout congregate in depths of 5 to 20 feet.
Step 6
Drop a variety of lures and bait depending on the game fish you are targeting. Minnows, night crawlers and insect larvae are effective ice fishing baits. Lure walleye with medium-sized minnows and waxworms while artificial lures such as shiny spoons and jigs are productive with largemouth bass. Entice winter crappies with small jigs, spoons, grubs and waxworms.

Tips & Warnings

Stay warm on the ice by wearing appropriate clothing. Always keep your hands and feet warm and dry.
Check the thickness of the ice before venturing out. A minimum of 4 inches is recommended by Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. Four inches of ice can support up to 200 pounds of weight.

Article Written By Rona Aquino

Rona Aquino began writing professionally in 2008. As an avid marathon runner and outdoor enthusiast, she writes on topics of running, fitness and outdoor recreation for various publications. Aquino holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications and English from the University of Maryland College Park.

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