Are Minnows Good for Ice Fishing?

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An important part of fishing is knowing what type of bait to use, and what will work better to catch certain fish, in certain circumstances. When it comes to ice fishing, minnows are one of the best types of bait to use. So yes, minnows are indeed good for ice fishing!

You can use both live and dead minnows, depending on your preference or aim, and there are also different methods for hooking the minnow up (depending on whether you’re using a live one or a dead one.)

In fact, for many ice fishers, using minnow is almost like a last resort safe bet, as it’s one of the more successful baits in these circumstances.

And of course, different types of minnows can be better suited to different aims, so let’s look at some of the most commonly used and what they’re good for!

Best minnows for ice fishing

Almost any type of minnow will be effective and useful for ice fishing. However, different types of minnow are better suited to specific jobs, or specific aims and goals within fishing.

Knowing which one to use in each circumstance, can be the difference between success or failure!

Here are some of the most common minnows used in ice fishing:


This is the absolute best type of minnow for catching walleye and pike, so they’re a good guarantee for successfully getting a catch.

They can be as big as 12 inches, but it’s best to use the smaller chubs. They’re popular in ice fishing, but they’re not always easy to find, so they’re rarer.


These minnows are by far the most popular and commonly used as bait. They are very small in size, usually below 3 inches long, and they are highly accessible and cheap.

They’re also versatile when it comes to water conditions. They’re perfect for catching crappie, perch, and walleye, and they’re almost always a guaranteed success.


This type of minnow is a popular option amongst those that opt for ice fishing, they work great both dead and alive, and they’re pretty cheap. (Which is good, because they’re not very resilient, meaning you will need a few!)

They’re usually between 2 and 4 inches long, and they’re great for catching different types of fish under the ice.


These are a great choice of minnow, as they are pretty hardy, and can last around a full day out on the ice (if they’re in a well ventilated bait bucket).

Smaller suckers are perfect for catching walleye or pike. Larger suckers, on the other hand, are better suited to catching a trophy muskie. It’s good to have a selection of sizes.


This is the best minnow type for bigger and more predatory gamefish. Lake trout, trophy muskie, and pike are amongst the most common catches with this bait.

Plus, tullibee is pretty easy to find in the market!

The best minnow rigs for different types of fish in ice fishing

It’s important to know how to adapt to each type of fish that you’re aiming to catch, to improve your chances of success. Using minnow as bait is a pretty safe bet, as it works for most fish under the ice.

However, the way in which you present that minnow can entice certain types of fish or others.

So here are some of the most common minnow rigs, according to which fish they are most likely to attract in ice fishing:

The northern pike and muskie:

As big fish, these need bigger baits, so you should be using the biggest minnows that you have on you.

The best set-up is a dead minnow (as big in size as possible), that is hooked in any way, so long as it is secure. These fish can put up a fight, so be ready!

The panfish:

This is usually one of the more reliable catches when fishing under the ice. The best way to entice them is to use a minnow hooked through the tail, or through the back.

However, it’s important that you use a small minnow, as that is what this type of fish favors!

The rainbow trout:

This type of fish feeds on shallow water during the winter, so you can lip hook a small minnow. Keep it small in size, and simple, with a few tugs for enticing with action.

The walleye:

This type of fish is one of the most popular to catch, both in open water and under the ice. To catch this, what works best is a dorsal-hooked fathead minnow, especially if you add a jig to the set-up.

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