Ice fishing for trout is a challenge, however, with some simple tips and tricks, catching trout through the ice is both rewarding and exciting. Ice fishing for trout can even be more productive than open water fishing.

Trout and char are no strangers to the cold. As a cold-water species, trout are more active when water temperatures drop in the fall. They will feed on any remaining insect life in the water. Once winter sets in and lakes and reservoirs freeze, trout will have increasingly less forage to eat, making them willing and active feeders for ice fishermen.

Where to Find Trout Through the Ice:

Knowing the species of trout( or char) you wish to target through the ice is an important step in narrowing down your search for a productive location. Different species inhabit different structures and different depths.

However, generally trout will inhabit depths less than 30 feet when actively feeding. When ice fishing for brook trout and rainbow trout an angler should look shallower than cutthroat, or brown trout. In the morning a fisherman can expect trout to be shallower, in depths sometimes 12 feet or less. As the day continues, trout will either suspend over deeper water, or actively hunt a few feet off the bottom.

One strategy for catching trout through the ice, is to drill holes on a drop off adjacent to a shallow water flat. Set up on this transition and jig high in the water column for the morning and drop down deeper as the day progresses. Trout that are suspended and roaming over deep water are hard to pinpoint. However, a trout may be enticed to come up to your jig if its eyelevel on a drop off to where they are suspended over deep water.

For example, if you mark trout suspended at 20 feet over 30-50 feet, but cannot seem to consistently catch them. Move shallower up to the drop off, and fish on the bottom at 20 feet.

Ice Fishing Tiger Trout
Tiger Trout Caught Ice Fishing

Other notable locations to find trout are along weed beds, deep water humps or old riverbeds. Weeds and moss that are alive under the ice provide an environment for freshwater shrimp and scuds to thrive and for trout to eat. Depending on the type of lake, areas like these are not always easy to find, but are incredibly productive when ice fishing for trout. 

Another strategy to catch trout through the ice is to hole hop. Set up in shallow water first thing in the morning and drill an array of holes in different depths over a distance. As the morning bite becomes slow, hop from each ice hole. Often times trout within the first drop of your jig will eat simply out of a reaction strike. If a hole does not produce do not spend much time, and continue to move. Trout will cruise in small schools under the ice. If you catch one from a hole it is likely another could hit shortly after.

Trout Ice Fishing Lures

Spoons: Ice fishing for trout requires finesse and more than likely a small lure. Slender Spoons and Swedish Pimple spoons have a finesse profile that is enticing and non-intimidating to actively feeding trout. Fishing with spoons is productive throughout the day, however, in low-light conditions, a spoon with glow can really produce.

Plastics: Ice plastics can be dynamite for even the pickiest of trout. When ice fishing for trout, a lightweight jig head with a soft plastic is deadly jigged on the bottom. A technique to use when using ice plastics for trout is to jig your plastic suspended a few feet from the bottom and have another rod dead-stick an ice plastic a few inches off the bottom.

Some innovative ice plastics for trout include the Clam Maki Plastics or the 13 Fishing Finesse Plastics. While some classic and consistent producers for trout are Paddle Bugs and tubes of various colors and sizes.

Jig Heads & Flies: For either a reliable bite or for when the trout bite becomes hard, choose a brightly colored tungsten jig head and tip it with either a worm or a waxy. It is important to pay attention to how your line is tied onto the jig. A horizontal presentation is best.

Another finesse presentation when ice fishing for trout is to use a fly. Use either a fairy shrimp, scud or a midge pattern. Midges and crustaceans are in the water year round and often some of the only forage that trout have outside of baitfish in the winter.

Ice Fishing Gear for Trout:

When targeting trout through the ice, rods and the gear you use plays a vital role. Ice rods for trout should have a sensitive tip and a solid backbone. Often times trout hit so lightly that a bite is not detectable. Use a rod with an indicator rod tip so a bite can be seen. A light, medium-light, or medium weight rod is recommended.

The line size to use to catch trout through the ice can be as light as 2lb line to as heavy as 10 lb line, with the exclusion of lake trout. Too thick of diameter of line can be the difference between catching fish or getting skunked.

Splake Trout Caught Ice Fishing

For ice fishing its best to use as light line as you feel comfortable with. A safe bet, however, would be ice line in 4lb, 6lb, or 8lb.

Fluorocarbon line is nearly invisible and provides an advantage against finicky trout.

If fishing deeper water through the ice, it may be better to use ice braid tipped with a fluorocarbon leader. Ice Braid provides exceptional sensitivity. Use a leader length that matches the clarity of the water. More than likely when ice fishing for trout the water will be clear with high visibility. Downsize line sizes and increase your length leader.

Ice Fishing for trout is a blast and provides a unique challenge that offers fast action. From the strategy to the gear you use, to choosing lures to catch trout ice fishing all play a vital role. With these tips on how to catch trout through the ice, success will follow.

About The Author

Die-hard muskie & trout angler with a passion. Kayak fishing, Hybrid chasing, Sunrise ↠ Sunset,

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