Panfish On Ice

panfish on ice
Locating panfish through the ice is easy with a Vexilar unit. Photo by Jerry Carlson

Locating Panfish Under The Ice

Fish near other ice anglers with panfish on ice. If you are new to a lake and you see a congregation of ice anglers at one end of the lake you can bet there is a reason. I don’t recommend crowding these anglers but stay back on the fringes of their area and they won’t get upset and you just might catch fish they spook out of their area. This is a great way to take advantage of the noise these anglers are making spooking panfish out to you. You might not get one bite after another but be patient and you can get a good mess of panfish.

Fish Finder For Ice Fishing For Panfish

A fish finder can be a great way to locate  panfish in your lake. Late season, panfish will likely be in the deepest part of the lake. During early ice they’ll still be shallow. They can be found in the same areas you find them all year long. Whether it be deadfalls, shallow grass or boat docks, panfish are still active during new ice. Once you locate a likely area that should hold panfish use your fish finder to see if they are down there. You can search the depths with your fish finder without drilling a hole in the ice.

While any fish finder will work for ice fishing the Vexilar has become the standard and by adding a little water under the Vexilar transducer on top of smooth ice you can search for fish without drilling a hole in the ice and spooking the fish below. This allows you to move around easily and save time in your search. Once you find some fish drill a hole and start the next challenge of getting those fish to bite. Sometimes they can be very aggressive and not much of a challenge but if those fish are lethargic it can be a challenge to get a bite but with a good fish finder you can at least know when a fish is looking at your presentation.

Ice Fishing Bait and Tackle

Ice fishing is a huge sport in the North so there is a lot of information out there and many artificial baits have been developed for panfishing through the ice. The easiest and most popular baits for us in the southern ranges is live bait. Minnows, worms, wax worms dominate the ice down but there are times when artificial baits outperform live bait. There are many choices of artificial baits for ice fishing but remember panfish under the ice are lethargic and sometimes need a little enticing to get them to bite.

Whether you prefer live bait or artificial, keep it small. While there are times when the fish are active and eat larger baits, the rule of thumb through the ice is small and subtle. Being cold-blooded fish move slower. They instinctively seek smaller meals. Keeping it small is crucial for consistent bites through the ice. A great combination for iced over panfish is a small colored jig head with a live bait of your choice. This adds a little color and some flavor to your presentation.

You can use ice rods and fancy tip-ups for ice fishing but you can use regular fishing gear if you don’t want to invest money in rods you might only use a few times. It does make it tough to fish inside a blind or ice hut with regular rods but otherwise they work fine. Your rods should be rigged with spinning reels and light line. Light line is vital when fishing for picky panfish through the ice.

Ice Fishing Gear

Ice augers range in price from $500.00 all the way down to $40.00 and you can even get an ice auger attachment for your cordless drill. I have the lowest priced hand auger you can buy and it works great and with the little ice we get I would recommend a hand auger. You will also need an ice spoon to remove ice chunks from your hole. You can buy an ice scoop or you can just use a large serving spoon to do the same job.

Safety is very important when ice fishing and your gear should have a few things to make your trip safe and enjoyable. The most inexpensive safety item could also be the most important. Ice picks can save your life if you fall through the ice. At around $10 no one that goes onto the ice should be without them. Ice picks will help you pull yourself out of a hole if you fall through. Always exit the hole in the direction you were traveling when it broke to ensure solid ice that you know will support you.

Another great part of your safety gear is an ice spud. Use the spud to probe ahead of you to make sure it is safe. Remember, four inches is safe for walking. It’s best to poke your ice spud ahead of you. If the ice is weak it will poke through or crack. This will tell you to back out and find another area to fish.

Heavy bibs and parka can make your time on the ice more comfy. You can get by with some long johns and hooded jacket with gloves if you use an ice hut. I use my deer blind with a small heater and it works great. One thing you should have to help you stay longer on the ice is a good heavy pair of boots. It can be tough to keep your feet warm, even with a heater, when they are on ice all day.

The cold has crept down to our southern ranges again this year. Ice fishing is well under way on some great panfish lakes in the Midwest. Ice fishing is a great way to spend the day  and get out of the house. With this tips you can head out to seek your panfish on ice this season.

Great Ice Fishing Video

About Ken McBroom 216 Articles
Ken McBroom is an accomplished outdoor writer and photographer. Growing up in Lynchburg Tennessee allowed him many opportunities afield as a boy and young man. Later in life, after Desert Storm, Ken’s wanderlust took him to Alaska to live and work and experience the last frontier. Married now with two beautiful children, Ken now calls Kentucky home where he continues to communicate our American outdoor traditions and the lifestyle it offers.

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