How to Find Fishes Under Ice

How to Find Fishes Under Ice

It becomes more challenging to find the fish when the cold weather of winter converts water into ice. Ice angling is different from warm-weather fishing in many ways. You have to cut a hole on the hard ice surface to cast a line in it. An angler doesn’t need much casting skills for sticking under the ice. Still, if you fish in warm or cold weather, if you have no knowledge about fish species, you can’t tackle them.

Undoubtedly, the ice gives you full access to the lake, but it is difficult to creep around the hole with your trolling motor. From planning the strategy to frigid tempts, using different lures, and understanding the low-oxygen behavior of fishes, there are lots of things that you have to understand.

You need more knowledge about fish species, more fishing tactics, and savvier to tackle some muskies, pikes, walleye and other fish species in the winter season. In this informative guide, I will share some important tips that you should keep in mind before going to Ice fishing.


Below is a list of our favourite fishing gear that you check quickly if in hurry. Scroll down to read the rest of the article.

  1. Best Fishing Reel: Penn Squell Level
  2. Baits For Rainbow Trout: Berkley Power Bait 
  3. Best Indore Fishing Rod: Royale Legend
  4. Best Ultralight Fishing Rod: KastKing Perigee II
  5. Best Spinning Reel Under 100: Daiwa BG Spinning Reel
  6. Best Walleye Trolling Lure:  Original Floater Fishing Lure
  7. Best Pike Lure:  Jerk Bait Fishing Lure from Rapala
  8. Best Fishing Kayak under 1000: Intex Explorer K2 Kayak
  9. Best Fishing Kayak under 300: Sun Dolphin Journey 10
  11. Best Fishing Gloves: BERKLEY FISHING GLOVES
  12. Best Fishing Cooler: AO Coolers Sportsman Vinyl Soft Cooler
  13. Best Portable Fish Finder: Reel Sonar Wireless Bluetooth Smart Sonar
  14. Best Inflatable Fishing Boat: Sea Eagle Green
  15. Best Fluorocarbon Line: KastKing FluoroKote Fishing Line

10 Important Tips You Need to Keep in Mind When Going to Find Fishes Under Ice

1. Safety

If you are going for ice fishing, then it is important to observe several safety measures such as

2. Never go alone

If you go for ice fishing, tell someone before going and when you return.

3. Leave your vehicle on the shore

Every year, many vehicles go through the ice and drown. You never know when you will encounter an animal (such as a bear) or poisonous fish species. So for your safety, it is important to leave your vehicles nearby on the shore.

4. Learn basic knowledge

Do you know which fish species can deliver poison in you? Several cold-weather fish species are known as ice water monsters. So, I’ll recommend you to learn more knowledge about fish species before going ice fishing.

5. Safety gears

Always wear ice fishing safety equipment and never go fishing alone.

6. Thickness and condition of the ice

Ice varies in thickness and condition. It is important to bring yourself an ice chisel or spud for measuring the thickness of the ice and how much weight ice can take.

7. Melted ice

Don’t get into the lake, if the ice is melted away from the shore. This situation indicated that underwater ice is melting, and it can change its position in the direction of the wind.

8. Fully-charged mobile

 It is the most important safety tip; don’t forget to bring your fully-charged mobile phone.

9. Safety line

Carry a safety line with yourself that you can throw in the ice with someone who has already gone through ice fishing.

10. Open water waves

Open water waves can easily break the large pieces of ice. So if you observe open water waves and wind changing its direction, immediately back off.

5 Techniques for Ice Fishing

In winters, fishes don’t have enough energy to give a sudden reaction means they are slow to move. If you are moving jig or bait too fast, the fish will release the hook to save its energy. So, it is important to move your jig and bait according to the fish’s moving speed. Eventually, there are 4 types of fishing techniques that you should learn before going ice fishing.

1. Light-up Fishing Rod

 You can probably use your old summer fishing rod or purchased a new ice fishing rod for ice fishing. You have to buy a whole in-line set and spring bobber with an ice fishing rod. Moreover, light-up ice fishing requires you to use either live bait or artificial lures.

2. Tip-up Fishing

Probably tip-ups are an ingenious jigging device that allows you to fish multiple holes in the ice. These are basically rigs that allow anglers to straddle holes and suspend the hook or jig in certain depths under the ice without taking it out. Usually, a tip-up fish finder is used to figure out that in what depth fish usually stay. You can make tips on this information and walk away because you don’t have to babysit jigs.

3. Spear Fishing

It is the least popular and inconvenient ice fishing technique in which anglers use plastic powered spearguns, compressed gas, and pneumatic-powered guns for tackling fish species. This fishing technique is not only harmful to the underwater environment but also for anglers.

4. Clubbing

Clubbing is fairly an old ice fishing technique but frequently used today. \the process of this ice fishing technique is simple but requires lots of skills and speed. An angler walked on the clear ice in the shallow water. When he sees a large hunt of his desire, he immediately slams the club directly into the fish and takes it out of the ice.

5. Spring Bobber

Spring bobbers are made up of spring coils that you can find in ballpoints. Ice fishing spring bobber is a little device that works like an extender for your fishing rod. A line of spring coil clearly passes through the spring bobber and attaches to the tip of the fishing rod and act as an extension.

Why is Spring Bobber Important?

This little jigging device is an important gear in your ice fishing kit. Spring bobber increases the sensitivity of the fishing rod. It allows the anglers to feel even the slightest bite and movement of fish under the water.

It Gives Visual Clues

Spring bobber is an old but the best technique that gives the visual clues to anglers and alerts them about the smallest bites of the fishes that may go unnoticed in other conditions. During the winter season, fishes have less energy, and as a result, their bites can be a lot weaker. Due to this reason, many of the ice fishing rods even come with built-in spring bobbers.

Other Important Functions

Spring bobbers also lose the line when the fish bites so the line does not break, and the hook does not tear the lip of the fish. Moreover, a spring bobber smooths out the jig’s movement, so artificial lures and baits will move more naturally under the ice.

Click here to Learn the importance of using a spring bobber.

Finding the Fish

Locating the fish under the ice is not an easy task. It requires lots of skills and knowledge about fish species. 2 methods help you to find the fish underwater.

1. Technological Solutions

·     Ice Fish Finders

Ice fishing finders with a flasher and sonar will help you to detect fishes under the water. With the help of sonar, the flasher displays the movement of objects underwater on the circular screen. The flasher allows the anglers to go in-depth, locate the fish, and find its activities with their lures and baits. Some of the flashers feature a zoom option that monitors the activities in the whole water column on the right side. While on the left side of the display, there is a 5ft zoom option.

Marcum M1 and Vexilar FL-8 are basic flashers and sonar models. These devices are suitable for beginners and have some general features such as

· Range (depth)

· Interference Reducer

· Display Wheel

· Zoom

· Transducer

· Gain (Sensitivity)

2. Social Solution

· Ask Experienced Mates

Whether you are a hardcore experienced in ice fishing or a beginner, it is simply beneficial to take a more experienced on your ice fishing outing. If you don’t have any angler friends and do not able to connect any local guide, then you have to put some time and energy for befriending with a local angler. The main benefit of having a companion on ice fishing is that everything will go smooth and fast. You can learn new techniques, and you have plenty of time to ask your friend useful questions about ice fishing.

·     Study the Patterns of Last Season and Summer

Don’t fish blindly. The worst thing you can do is go on fishing without any idea about the fishes’ activities in a particular season. For locating the fishes under ice, it is important to carefully learn the patters of last winter season and summer. This will help you and give an idea about casting a line and digging a hole.

  1. Seek out Your Quarry’s Habitat Topography, Structure & Oxygen
  • Quarry’s Habitat and what Kind of Habitat your Fish Like  

Without any doubt, old rock quarries and gravels are some of the best habitats for most fish species. Quarry lakes are typically deeper and clear as compared to other lakes. The best part of Quarry lakes is that you can find any fish species within the 10 or 20 miles. For understanding what kind of habitat your fish would like, you have to focus on some important points

  • Topography and its Importance

The topography is the study of the shape and features of any area and landscape. It describes the physical features of any area, such as natural formation (rivers, lakes, mountains, and forests). Topography also records the details of manmade features such as dams, roads, and towns.

Topography describes the relief, shape, features, contours, and roughness and dimensions of any area. This natural science includes both nature’s geographical and manmade features. Topography has further

Topographic maps: it is an important tool because it represents the 3-dimensional shape of the landscape in 2-dimensions. A person who can read topography maps can understand the lakes, valleys, rivers, and other land features. In ice fishing, the topography map helps you to find Ice lakes for fishing.

  • Start on the slope

Whether you are fishing for muskies, pikes, walleyes or panfish species: start ice fishing from the point where you have left in the last season. For example, open waterfalls are one of the best ice-fishing spots. If you have not done fishing in open water, then start making your classic-structure from the start. The topographic map helps you find the high-potential areas from which you have to start from the nearest structure and give the fastest drop in the depth of the water. Keep in mind that fish is not always on the slope itself, but they are not so far away from edges.

  • Structure of Lake

Keep in mind the structure perspective for finding the lakes for ice fishing. The easiest lakes for ice fishing are shallow, flattened, and bottom with little structure. These lakes are hotspots for finding pikes, muskies, walleye, trout, salmon, and Sanger because these fish species concentrate on only isolated deep holes. If the lake is less than 12-feet depth, it might fill with cavernous fish species in winter. Fishes in such type of featureless waters prefer to stay close to the bottom. It is difficult to detect them on sonar and flasher screens.

But a mini jig with a minnow and a live worm or lure can work for you. The moment you drop the jig into the barren hole, you will see a panfish rise immediately from the bottom to intercept the worm. The same formula works for the large fishing species; use a larger jigging lure or spoon and tackle your desire fish species.

  • Role of Oxygen in the Presence of Fish

Like humans, oxygen is essential for the survival of fishes underwater. During winters, the amount of oxygen reduces, and ice makes it difficult for the fishes to get enough oxygen for their survival. In frozen lakes, fishes get oxygen in several ways. For instance, some amount of oxygen is released from the plants that can survive under ice.

  • Weeds and Drop-offs

Do you know weed areas provide shelter, plenty of oxygen, good sources of prey, and easy access to the various water temperature layers? Many fish species (such as walleye, pikes, and panfish) like to stay near the immediate adjacent and steep drop-offs weedy locations. Fish species enjoy their time in the liminal weedy regions; there are 2 favorite places to drop a line or 2 for ice fishing

ü Drop-off the line adjacent to the weed bed

ü Ice lake shallow water weeds fishing

Keys to Find a Fish

There are many important key points that anglers should keep in mind for finding a find in the winter season.

  • Test Patterns

During summer, anglers with a systematic casting method, try their best to cover maximum water surface searching for possible strikes. Anglers use the same phenome in the winter season for finding the strikes.

  • Move to find the fish.

Like summer, following the movement of fish is also important in winter. If you are jigging a hole for several minutes with no action, movement, and you have changed lures and presentations. It means you are jigging in the wrong area. It’s time to move on and start jigging holes at another place, which is why it is important to drill test holes in more than one place.

  • Multiple Holes; How to make a hole in the ice?

With a topo map of your ice fishing location, it is easy to identify the structures and locations of test holes. It is important to drill more than one hole at one time. To successfully congregate the movement of fish, it is important to jig a hole every 75 to 100 feet.

  • Try 15 or 20 feet deep.

Shallow and bottom ice fishing lakes are less than 12 feet deep. So from the perspective of structures, you should also jig holes 15 to 20 feet deep. In shallow lakes, fish species concentrate on the isolated deep hole. If you keep this jigging strategy in mind, then a hollow winter fish in only 15 or 17 feet deep underneath your boat.  

Best Depths To Try while Ice Fishing

It is truly a difficult task to find a fish in the spring and summer season even under the single layer of the ice. In winter, it is nearly impossible to hit the right spot at the first attempt. So, it is important to understand the behavior of fish under the ice. It is essential to head out fishing when the fishes are feeding actively. Here, daylight plays a crucial role. It is necessary to learn the amount of daylight reaching the water column and the species you are looking for. For example, crappies, muskies, and pikes feed actively in the middle of the day while Sanger and walleye species intensely feed on dawn to dusk.

Every lake has its own structure and ecosystem. The location of fish in one lake is completely different from the other one. So for your easiness, here I have compiled the list of depth for different species while ice fishing.

Fish species Mid-Late Winter Early Winter
Walleye 15 to 25 feet 18 to 25 feet
Crappie 20 to 40 feet 8 to 12 feet
Lake Trout 20 to 60 feet 20 to 60 feet
Northern Pike 5 to 15 feet 5 to 15 feet
Yellow Perch 20 to 35 feet 12 to 15 feet

 Try ice fishing on these depths, and you will definitely catch any of the fish mentioned above species.

Importance of Patience & Waiting for Fish

Walleye feeds actively from dawn to dusk, while dusk is the more active period among two. Most of the anglers don’t realize that walleye start feeding and stay more active 40-45 minutes before the sunsets. In early and mid-winter, the walleye are more triggered to feed because sunlight quickly fades away, or the sun is just above the horizontal. So make sure you go for ice fishing at least one hour before the sunset. Make sure you have drilled plenty of holes covering various depths. In this way, you cannot scare the walleye and easily trail their activities. Moreover, this advance half-hour hole-digging activity allows you to follow the movements of walleye.

Get the Gear

No matter if you already have ice fishing clothing such as a cold-weather suit, high-insulated boots, and fishing license, there are still 9 other essential ice fishing gears that every angler must have in their hands.

The list of important ice fishing gear that every angler must have:

  • Baits and lures (a container of live baits)
  • Electronic ice fishing equipment
  • Jigging ice fishing reel & rod
  • Ice auger and skimmer
  • Bucket and a comfortable chair
  • A fish finder with sonar and flasher
  • Ice fishing tip-ups
  • Terminal ice fishing tackles such as hooks, pliers, grabbers and line
  • Ice shelter and ice scoop


No matter if you have the finest fishing equipment in your hands or not, you cannot catch any fish if you don’t know basic fishing skills and information. Ice fishing in early and mid-winter brings a new set of challenges. But if you work on your strategy and study the structure of your lake, you can catch pretty large fishes. I hope all the above-mentioned ice-fishing tips and techniques will help you prepare your homework before fishing.

Steve Hudson

I have been an outdoor activities enthusiast from teenage. I have been going out with my parents on different outdoor activities such as camping and hiking. After moving to a town surrounded by three well known fishing spots, I started fishing and started using all kinds of tricks and equipment to make the most out of each adventure I pursued. Over the years I have been camping outdoor, hiking and following my passion of enjoying life at full. Few years ago, I started writing about my thoughts, experiments and ideas about outdoor, fishing, hiking and more. This blog is a compilation of that plus tips, ideas and products that can make life more meaningful, enjoyable and a pleasant.

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