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
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
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.