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Use These Baits for Ice Fishing Success

In winter and generally cold temperatures, fish are less active and less likely to bite. This can be a problem for ice fishermen, so when artificial lures don’t work, it’s time to bring out the live bait. Ice fishing with live bait can be more effective, as the fish can smell the actual prey and are more likely to bite.

using bait to catch fish when ice fishing

Jigging is one of the most successful styles of ice fishing, and most ice anglers will live bait their jig to improve their chances of catching a fish. So it is important that you know what bait to use when ice fishing. Use our list of the best ice fishing baits to prepare for your next ice fishing trip!

The Best Baits For Ice Fishing

Live bait works wonders on ice, but it helps to know which bait works best. These baits are the top choices for expert ice anglers.

  1. Spikes
  2. Nightcrawlers
  3. Wax Worms
  4. Minnows
  5. Cut Bait


Worms, and more specifically, barbs, a type of worm, are one of the best choices for ice fishing bait. While these crawlers are unappetizing to humans, fish will be attracted to them.

The bills are small, so they are often used to catch smaller panfish. However, they can also take larger species and are cheap, easy-to-use prey. If you’re trying to catch a bigger fish, hook several barbs. Other larvae work great too!


Nightcrawler worms are the most classic fishing bait, and for good reason. They are extremely versatile so they work well for hard water fishing as well. Nightcrawlers are easy to hook, inexpensive, and their shape and movement are sure to attract a catch.

If you’re trying to catch walleye, trout, perch, or pike through the ice, try using a worm. Since they are larger than other live baits like barbs, they often work better for targeting larger species.

Wax Worms

Wax Worms are an ice fishing favorite! These little worms are actually bee moth larvae, and are often referred to as waxfish by ice fishermen. Waxies are not a natural prey for fish, but they work very well when trying to lure them in, especially through ice.

Wax worms are smaller than regular worms – only about an inch long. This means that they are often used to catch smaller species like panfish, but have also been known to attract larger fish.


Minnows are another popular and versatile bait. They are natural prey for many species of fish, so fish are familiar and more likely to bite. Minnows are great for catching fish such as perch, pike, walleye, crappie, and more.

Some states do not allow the use of live minnows as bait. Check to see if your state allows live minnows before fishing with them. If they are not allowed, dead minnows will also work.

Cut Bait

cut bait for fishing

Cut bait is actually just small pieces cut from a larger fish. You can choose from a wide variety of fish to use as cut bait, but popular choices for ice fishing are whitefish or tarpon.

Since the fish are slower and less likely to bite in the cold, it can be difficult to attract them. Cut bait has the added benefit of added aroma, as it is meat cut directly from a fish. This scent can be very successful in helping to catch fish through the ice.

Related: Surf Fishing Tips for Beginners: A Guide.

Ice Fishing Bait and More

Use these stock baits to make your next big catch on the ice! If you prefer artificial lures, there are many ice fishing lures and jigs to choose from. Make sure you have all the proper ice fishing gear before you head out!

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