A lake trout, hooked and laying on snow

How to Ice Fish for Trout

Curious about ice fishing for trout? Ice fishing is a popular sport that has taken off in recent years. It involves catching fish through a hole cut into the ice on frozen lakes, ponds, or rivers. Ice fishing for trout is especially popular due to the versatility of these fish, which can thrive in both cool and warm weather conditions–and they’re delicious!

Ice fishing is a great way to get outdoors and test your skills during the winter months. Many states allow anglers to enjoy this type of fishing during certain parts of the year. Some states such as Maine, New York and Wisconsin even have dedicated ice-fishing seasons for trout. It can be a fun and rewarding experience for any angler, as ice fishing presents a unique challenge compared to open water fishing.

Before you head out on the ice, however, there are several steps you must take. For instance, you want to make sure you have all the right gear and know how to use it effectively. In this post, we will cover everything you need to know about ice fishing for trout, including where to fish, what lures to use, and the best techniques for success.

Best States for Ice Fishing

As previously mentioned, some states are better suited for ice-fishing than others due to their colder climates. Some the best states for ice fishing include Maine, New Hampshire, New York, the Dakotas, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. These states have dedicated ice-fishing seasons that make them ideal for those looking to catch trout through the winter months. Additionally, they offer a variety of locations that cater to all kinds of anglers—from novice to experienced.

However, just because your state may not be in the upper ice fishing echelon, doesn’t mean there are not opportunities! States like Washington don’t have the typical lower extreme temps that make for epic ice fishing in places like Minnesota. But in eastern parts of Washington, there are certain lakes that freeze over enough to give anglers opportunities. Check your regulations, your state could be a sleeper state! Other great opportunities exists in Idaho, California (who would’ve thought?), Utah, Montana, and more.

Ice fishing for trout is a great way to test your angling skills and enjoy some peaceful time on the ice. Unlike open water fishing, which requires a boat or waders, ice fishing only requires an auger, bait and plenty of patience. The most popular species of trout for ice fishing are Rainbow Trout, Cutthroat Trout and Brook Trout.

Where to Find Trout When Ice Fishing

The optimal way to go about finding trout is to find where they like to hang out before there is ice. This involves researching the area and its environment to identify potential spots where trout may be found.

You’ll want to research your destination thoroughly and scout your lake or pond before the ice starts forming. Make sure that the lake you plan to fish has a good population of trout and that the general ice conditions are safe for walking on. You will need a good safe path and a location or two that is at least four inches thick with newly formed ice–more if you are riding in with a snowmobile or vehicle.

Check with local authorities about any regulations or restrictions in place at the time of your visit. This is especially true if you’re going out of state.

When determining where trout are likely to be, look for features such as shaded areas, bodies of slow-moving water, and points of land that jut out into the lake. Also, consider the depth of the water, the presence of weeds or other aquatic vegetation, sandy or silty flats, and possible food sources like insects and small fish.

Additionally, structures like drop-offs and stumps, and underwater springs can attract trout.

Mark key areas that you think will hold trout on your GPS or app, so that you can access them later once the water is frozen over. The area will look quite different, but waypoints don’t lie.

Woman Ice Fishing with Ambush Ice House In The Background

Essential Gear for Ice Fishing for Trout

Once you have done your research, it’s time to prepare your gear. Some essential tools of the trade include hand or power drill auger, spud bar, measuring tape, ice tongs, ice saw, and a slotted scoop, A quality ice auger is essential for drilling through thick layers of ice. It’s not a bad idea to have both a hand auger and power drill auger in your ice fishing kit. A hand auger may not have the needed power to get through thick ice.

For a nice little slice of ice fishing paradise, an insulated shelter is a worthwhile investment. A skid house, pop-up, or other type of fishing shanty will protect you from windy conditions while keeping you warm when temperatures drop below freezing. A darkhouse will also keep you in low light conditions, which can be extra beneficial with spooky trout.

Bring along some extra layers, so that you can adjust to changing temperatures during the day. Hats, gloves, and a pair of insulated boots are vital and will keep you warm and comfortable. Don’t forget items like snacks and drinks which will help sustain energy levels in the cold.

You’ll also need these items:


Whether you’re out to catch rainbow or brown trout, a 3-4ft light medium action rod is best. If lake trout are the goal, then it’s time for an upgrade—go with something in the medium/medium heavy range.

Line and Reel

Look for a light line, preferably 4-6 pound test mono filament. A wide spooled reel is best as it will hold more line.


Make sure to bring plenty of jigs in different sizes and colors. You want to match your jig size and color to the types of baitfish available in the area you’re fishing. Commonly used jigs include tube jigs, soft plastics, spoon, tailspinners, feather spinners, and hair jigs.


Tip-ups use a spool of line that is attached to a spring-loaded flag. When a fish strikes, the flag is released, giving you an indication that something has taken the bait. Tip-ups can be used in deeper water as they take away the need for constant attention and allow you to focus on other areas of your fishing spot.


Live bait can be used while ice fishing for trout such as minnows, maggots, or worms. Dough baits are also popular when targeting trout. These baits come in many different flavors and colors – make sure to bring several types with you so that you have all the options available.

Location Finder

A portable fish finder helps determine bottom structure and aids in locating likely fish holding areas. Fish finders also give you an indication of the depth of water, which is essential when trying to target gamefish in deeper waters.

Safety Gear

Ice fishing can be dangerous so it’s important to have the proper safety gear with you whenever you go out on the ice. This includes items such as a life jacket, rope for self-rescue, a whistle for signaling help, ice picks or cleats for traction if you fall through the ice, and hand warmers or chemical heat packs to keep your extremities from getting cold.

Tips and Ice Fishing Techniques for Trout

When ice fishing for trout, there are a few essential tips and techniques to keep in mind.

Dead-sticking is one of the most effective techniques for trout ice fishing, as it requires minimal effort and ensures that bait stays fresh. It involves simply attaching bait to a jigging rod and placing it over a hole in the ice. Letting your bait sit quietly can attract hungry fish in no time!

Jigging is another popular technique for trout ice fishing, as it can attract more aggressive fish. The jigging rod will be used to move the bait up and down in a jerking motion that mimics the movements of their prey. Varying the speed and intensity of your jigging can help you find what works best for each individual situation.

Tip-ups are another great tool for trout ice fishing, as they allow you to target multiple fish at once. Tip-ups use two poles and a spool of line that is connected to a flag on the surface of the ice. When a fish bites, the flag will be raised, and you can reel in your catch!

Finally, it’s always a good idea to bring along several types of lures and jigs with you when ice fishing for trout. Different species of trout prefer different types of lures, so being prepared with a variety can increase your chances of success. Try different presentations until you find one that works best for your spot–jigging spoons, spinners and crank baits are all great options for catching trout through the ice.


Ice fishing for trout is a fun and rewarding experience that can be enjoyed by anglers of all skill levels. The key to success lies in understanding the techniques, lures, and bait needed to target these fish effectively. With some patience and practice, you’ll soon become an expert at catching trout through the ice. So, grab your gear, and find a spot on the lake–maybe one day you’ll land that trophy rainbow.

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