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Fast Fact- Minnesota's Crappie Limit is 10.


Live Bait Options for Ice Anglers

Ice anglers have a wide variety of bait available to them, and each type of bait has its place and time. Maggots come in all different shapes and sizes, and recently, even colors. Minnows are a very broad category, and are used throughout the ice fishing season and for almost every species. Determining what type of live-bait to use can dictate the reaction and success when out on the ice.

Maggots and panfish often times go hand in hand, and rightly so. Maggots can imitate what panfish feed on during the winter. When water temps drop and ice forms, a fish’s metabolism begins to diminish, and smaller baits are preferred. Maggots are generally smaller in scale and are very productive throughout winter. Waxworms, Eurolarvae, spikes, mousees and mealworms are the most popular choices for maggots.

Waxworms are larger maggots and are typically milky-white in color. Waxies are a very productive live-bait option during the winter, and for a variety of species and conditions. Waxies are great for tipping on both vertical and horizontal jigs, as well as spoons.

Eurolarvae and spikes are smaller maggots. These maggots can come in a variety of colors including red, orange, yellow, blue and white. Eurolarvae and spikes are another productive option during the winter, and are often times more valuable than waxies come midwinter. These maggots stay alive for long periods of time when properly hooked, and have some excellent action and wiggle. Another big advantage of Eurolarvae or spikes is their color. There are days when a red maggot will out produce all other colors, and same with blue or white, and this can make the difference in your success on the ice some days. Eurolarvae and spikes are one of my preferred live-bait options throughout the winter months. I use them on jigs, spoons and swimming lures.

Mousees are very similar to other maggots; except for mousees have a small tail. Mousees are rarer than other maggots, but still seem to catch fish day after day. The tail can act as an added finesse feature on negative days, and can trigger a lot of fish into biting. Often times it’s the tail that seals the deal.

And than you have mealworms. Mealworms are more popular during open water than they are in the winter, but don’t let that fool you; they are still producing fish out on the ice. Mealworms die quicker in cold temperatures, and this is the main reason they are more of an open water maggot.

Minnows are a very versatile live-bait option, and are constantly considered a top fish catcher. Minnows are a desired food source for a number of species under the ice. Walleyes and pike rely heavily on a minnow diet, as do crappies and perch from time to time throughout winter. Minnows come in a variety of sizes and can play an important role in both attracting and triggering fish under the ice. Crappie minnows, fatheads, redtails, shiners and suckers are the most popular type of minnows during the winter. All of these come in different sizes.

Crappie minnows are a very common choice for ice fishing. Crappie minnows are generally the smallest type of minnow available. There are different sizes of crappie minnows, ranging from small to large. Every once in awhile you might find “pin-nail” crappie minnows, these are very small minnows and can be very productive. Crappie minnows can be tipped on just about anything and can be used for most species one time or another.

Fatheads are slightly larger than a crappie minnow, and sometimes are mixed with larger crappie minnows. Fatheads are an excellent choice for walleyes, perch and pike. And like crappie minnows, fatheads will come in different sizes as well.

Redtails are a type of chub, and actually have a red tail which can make the difference in your success. Redtails have become more and more popular in the last couple years, and there are days where redtails are the desired bait by both anglers and fish. Redtails are another popular option for walleye and pike.

Shiners are your larger, shiny minnows. These minnows are similar to a cisco or tulibee in looks, but are smaller. Shiners also come in a variety of sizes and are good choices for walleyes and pike. Shiners work well on jigging rods, deadstick or bobber rigs and on tip-ups. Shiners are a very lively minnow and will stay alive for long periods of time once hooked too.

Suckers are generally your more popular, larger live minnows. Suckers range anywhere from about 4 to 15 inches. Larger suckers are used for decoys often times. Suckers are used quite often for pike, although walleyes, bass and other fish will take them too.

Live-bait options for ice fishing can seem endless at times, and sometimes there is no magical bait. Having a variety of live-bait options available is nice, and having those options out on the ice can make your job easier once you find the fish. One day the fish might want a maggot, and the next day a minnow, so we need to be prepared for whatever curveballs are thrown at us. Regardless of what you choose, live-bait has proven to be a valuable tool to have when out on the ice.

Good Fishin,
Matt Johnson

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