Ice Fishing For Trout

On Mid-West inland waters Trout behave just the opposite as pan-fish. In the Summer, stocked trout will go deep, sometimes suspending just below the thermocline. In the Winter, Trout move into shallow water or travel just under the ice. The reason for this behavior is that Trout are cold-water fish and like to stay in highly oxygenated water.

Tips On Catching Trout Through The Ice

Active Trout (Browns, Rainbows, Brooks, and Cutthroats) will look for shallow flats near drop-offs. Your best Trout fishing is on these types of terrains within 20 feet of the shoreline. The depths will vary depending on the lake, but 3 to 8 feet is good. Man-made lakes, such as quarries may be much deeper closer to the shoreline, in either case do not miss trying just under the ice. See Video below.

Finding The Trout

Keep moving and drilling holes until you find the fish. I will work around a lake, drilling 3 to 5 holes at each location. When I mark fish I try a series of trout baits with different jigging presentations, if I do not catch a fish I move again, spending no more than 20 minutes in each location. In the video below I finally found the trout, which were just under the ice and very visible.

The Bite – Sensitive

Stocked Trout seem to bite very sensitive in the winter, So you need to be ready and set the hook quickly on the slightest bump or limp line. Because of this I do all my Trout fishing by straight-line, no bobbers.

The Bait

Use small baits even for large trout. In the Winter, trout are not looking for the big bait so go small. I have found that the #3 Rapala works great (Silver or Gold). If this does not work then try a hook with a small minnow or a bluegill jig tipped with a small minnow. When jigging try different jig methods, early in the season you may find the aggressive jig works best, while late season a constant wiggle works best. In other words, the jigging presentation is just as important as the bait itself. I prefer to carry 3 jigging rods, each with a different bait to work. This speeds things up and keeps my hands in my gloves longer before changing baits.

Fishing Depths

First Ice is typically one of the most active and productive times to catch trout, as they will move aggressively into the colder and more oxygenated water. So focus on shallow water and do not pass up trying right under the ice.

During first ice, late October to early November, most trout are caught in 3 – 8 feet of water. As the season moves into late January they may move to deep water, however this does not mean they will go deeper. The video below is was taken on the last day of January, 20 feet from the shoreline, and in 15 feet of water. As you can see the trout were suspended just under the ice.