Ice Fishing Tips & Tactics
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What Bait to Use When Ice Fishing
What Bait to Use When Ice
By Darin Skinny
As with any style of fishing, the bait you use when ice fishing depends entirely on the kinds of fish you want to catch. Live bait is a much more popular choice among ice fishermen than their summertime counterparts, since the layer of ice and snow over the water stops light from glinting off metal lures designed specifically to attract fish in this way. However, it is important to remember that much of the appeal live bait has for fish is how it wriggles around, and hooked live bait dies much more quickly in the frigid water under ice than it does in warmer weather. Everyone has their own personal preference, but both artificial and live baits have proven very effective when used for ice fishing if they are chosen carefully.
The best live bait to use when ice fishing for small pan fish is insects. Maggots are the traditional bait to use because their movements resemble those of what the fish naturally feed on. Waxworms share much of the same appeal to fish as maggots except they are a little bigger. More recently, people have started to use Eurolarvae when they go ice fishing. Eurolarvae can be very effective because they come in assorted colors, including orange, red, blue, yellow, or white. Also, if they are properly hooked they can survive in the cold water longer than other invertebrate baits. The best artificial lures to use for pan fish are rubbery and resemble insects.
If you are more interested in catching walleye on your ice fishing expedition, some good live bait options are Redtail chubs, Crappie minnows, or Shiner minnows. Redtails have a red tail fin, which walleye find particularly attractive, and have become increasingly popular recently. Crappie minnows are the smallest variety of minnow used for ice fishing, and they are traditionally the most popular. Shiners are best known for summer fishing because sunlight glints off their silvery scales, attracting many varieties of fish. They are also a little bigger than the Redtails or Crappie minnows, and are good for ice fishing because they can stay alive on a hook under the ice for longer than the other two. Walleye can see shiny, silvery objects very well because of their large eyes, so if you plan to use artificial lures, go for the ones with reflective, metal parts.
If pike is what you are planning to pull out of your ice hole, you will have to choose a bigger variety of live bait. The most popular options are Fathead minnows or Suckers. Fatheads are sometimes only a little bigger than Crappie minnows, but they range in size much more, so the bigger ones are more likely to land pikes, while the smaller ones are better for catching walleye or perch. Suckers are one of the largest bait minnows available on the market, and are the best for catching pike. However, sometimes they can grow to fifteen inches long, which is usually too big to be used as bait. The best artificial lures for fishing for pike resemble small fish, and it is important to remember to jiggle the line when using these lures to make the lure look more convincingly like a fish. Pike are unlikely to bite an artificial lure if it is just hanging there in the water, no matter how realistic it looks.
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