Winter Fishing Tips — How To Fish In Ice

If you’re like most anglers, then you are probably used to fishing during the spring, perhaps even the summer.

However, there’s no reason to count out winter fishing! You’re in luck, we’ve put together a host of ice fishing tips for you to still catch your favorite bass…even if you have to wear a thick jacket.

winter fishing on the lake
Winter fishing on the lake is tiring with a hand crank auger ;P

As long as you are able to brave the cold, this option will be open to you. Of course, if you want to be as successful during this period as you are in the spring, here are a few guidelines you should follow.

Winter Fishing

In the winter, there are two types of fishing you can try:

  1. Traditional fishing
  2. Ice fishing

Thus, the first thing you need to do is to figure out what kind of fishing you prefer. Then, depending on that, you can select the location.

If you want to stick to traditional fishing, it is best to head out to a river or even go deep-sea fishing. Deep moving water is less likely to freeze which will give you opportunities to find fish in the deep pockets.

And if the ocean freezes…well, there are other concerns you should be worrying about.

Ice Fishing

In case you’d like to go ice fishing, a lake will be your best option. This is because, with smaller lakes, the topmost layer will freeze over in relatively icy conditions. However, the lower layer will be cold but not frozen. So, you should be able to find a fair amount of fish like northern pike that would be a joy to catch.

Of course, if you are planning on going ice fishing, it is important to be aware of the temperatures over the previous days. Remember, although lakes may look frozen over, there is no guarantee that they are. It can be incredibly dangerous to fish on a lake that has only partially frozen over.

Depending on the depth of ice you need to drill through, you’ll likely need an ice fishing auger.

Spear Ice Fishing

Some ice fishermen like to sit around in their ice fishing cabin and wait for a fish to bite their line. Others, however, like to test their abilities with the trident. If you haven’t seen ice spearfishing, then you’re missing out!

YouTube video

Winter Bass Fishing

The main issue with fishing in the wintertime is the lack of prey. Therefore, you need to be strategic about the kind of fish you’re looking for. The exact fish species that will be available depends on where you live. To get a good idea of what is in season, check out the website of your local Department of Wildlife and Fisheries or check out our fishing guides.

Winter Bass Fishing Tips

This doesn’t mean that you only need to target winter species, however. There is still the opportunity to go after bass and carp, even once the temperatures have dropped. As you can imagine, you will need to change your strategy a bit.

For instance, let’s take the ever-popular largemouth bass. In most spots, you will find that bass fish prefer hiding among vegetation. Of course, during the wintertime, this option is unavailable to them. Due to this, they are more likely to be found in the drop-off section in lakes and reservoirs. This is the point where the shallow and deep portions of the lake meet.

When hunting for fish that aren’t easily found at this time of year, it can help to pay attention to their preferred food sources as well. Now, before winter hits, most fish will gobble up virtually anything, trying to fatten themselves up for the impending cold spell.

However, during winter, they are more lethargic and, thus, selective about what they eat. In the case of bass, their main food sources include small panfish and crawfish. So, when selecting lures, make sure to find those that mimic these creatures.

How to Catch Bass in Winter

winter fishing lego man with fish
I hope you’re as productive as this guy winter fishing!

If you are opting for traditional methods of fishing, you probably don’t need to make too many changes. Again, because fish aren’t as cautious during the winter, you can scale down your tackle. Don’t be afraid to go lighter with your line on your ultralight ice rod, ice fishing reel, hook, and hook bait.

One thing you should get into the habit of doing, though, is to use a line conditioner on your fishing line. This should prevent it from freezing up, especially when you are ice fishing. Apply the same conditioner to the guides as well, and you shouldn’t face any difficulties when passing the fishing line through.

Now, if you are someone who prefers to fish from a kayak, you might want to re-think the type of vessel you are using. Due to the plummeting temperatures, it is important to stay as far away from the water as possible. Heading out on a sit-on-top fishing kayak will go a long way in reducing the risk of you getting splashed.

Now, it goes without saying that warm clothes and shoes are probably the most important part of your gear and equipment. You should always cover up as much of your skin as possible. Also, keep an eye on weather reports to know just what kind of coat, shoes, and gloves will do.

For instance, if you are anticipating snow, water-resistant or waterproof clothing can go a long way in keeping you comfortable. Another good option is to get yourself an ice fishing hut to shelter you from the elements.

Fishing Tips Cold Weather Edition

During the winter, it can be difficult to anticipate which depths the fish are most likely to be in. So it is a good idea to set up lines at different depths. Then, it is a matter of playing the waiting game. After a while, you should find that the fish are biting more at a certain depth than others.

Once you have identified what this depth is, you can focus your attention on this particular area. As mentioned before, fish will be notoriously lethargic during this time of the year. Therefore, moving the line around will probably not give you too many results.

Winter Lake Fishing Needs Patience

Instead, intervals without movement will most likely lure the fish in. So, if you are planning on going lake fishing during this time of the year, patience really is key.

These are the top guidelines to keep in mind when fishing during the winter. It will certainly take a while for you to get the hang of it. However, once you understand what works and what doesn’t, you are sure to be hooked!

This was an article by Cast & Spear reader Chathurika

Jon Stenstrom
Founder & Angler
Jon Stenstrom is a fishing enthusiast. He has over 25 years of fishing experience, and 6 years of spearfishing experience, and is currently learning how to boat. Jon has his Open Water PADI Certification and FII Freediver Level 1 Certification. Jon has traveled the world to fish and dive, most notably in the Great Barrier Reef, Baja Mexico, Thailand, and Malaysia. More Articles
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Articles » Freshwater Fishing » Winter Fishing Tips — How To Fish In Ice