How Do You Hook a Minnow for Ice Fishing?

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When it comes to fishing, be it on ice or not, getting the fish to bite can turn out to be quite the challenge.

With ice fishing, specifically, one of the most reliable and effective baits to use seems to be a minnow fish (live or dead, whichever you prefer). So even if it’s as a last resort, it comes in handy to know how to hook one up to keep on ice fishing.

We’re going to go through some of the most commonly used methods for hooking a minnow for ice fishing, so you have a bit of a choice, and can use whichever suits your needs and preferences best. Let’s get right into it!

How to hook a live minnow for ice fishing

Using a live minnow is usually the most effective way to ensure you get to fish something, and this is because the minnow will be wriggling and struggling on the hook, attracting the attention of a possible catch.

Here are different ways to hook the minnow up when it’s live:


This is the easiest and most reliable hook method for ice fishing. You essentially hook a minnow through the back. This allows the minnow to then ‘swim’ and wriggle in a natural looking way, which attracts more fish.

Remember to hook right behind the dorsal fin, without going too deep so that you don’t hit the spine or restrict the minnow’s movement.


This method is used for when the fish are very wary of biting. This will have the minnow wriggle in a way that shows it more obviously struggling, rather than swimming, so it can be more enticing.

For this, insert the hook through the bottom lip, into the top, with the hook pointing upwards. However, this might kill the minnow very fast, so if you want it to remain alive for longer then only hook through the upper lip.


This isn’t a very popular method to use with live minnows, but it can be very effective for fish that are biting deeper down in the water.

For this, you need to insert the hook right in front of the tail, carefully so that you’re not hitting the spine. It’s best to use smaller minnows for this, as otherwise you will have many minnows being lost when the fish bite, as the meat around the tail is softer, and the minnow will come apart from the hook.

With a lure:

If you want to up your chances of enticing fish, you can add a lure to the live minnow. The lure will attract fish that are further away, and it can work wonders.

And paired with the live minnow it’s almost a guaranteed success. For this, hook the lure up, and hook the live minnow on top through both lips!

How to hook a dead minnow for ice fishing:

Using a dead minnow as bait might not always be as effective as a live one, but it certainly makes it a lot easier to manage.

Dead minnows will also be a lot easier to transport, and they can actually be a better bait for certain types of catch!

Here are different ways to hook the minnow up when it’s dead:

A quick strike rig:

This is one of the most popular and preferred methods amongst those that fish on ice, as it has a good chance of succeeding every single time. This is a double hook set-up, and it means that you’ll hook up fish that bite a lot faster, so that there’s less chance of you losing the catch.

The stinger hook should be put right behind the dorsal fin, pointing backwards. The normal hook should then be positioned behind the gill plate, on top of the head, also pointing backwards.


As a dead minnow won’t struggle or wriggle about, it can be a bit harder to entice the fish. A solution to this is to hook the dead minnow to a jig, which will give it a bit more movement.

To ensure it stays on, hook the jig through the bottom and upper lip, or even through the head if you notice that it’s still falling off. You can also switch between jig weights, depending on the type of fish you’re aiming for, or the circumstances.

Pieces of minnow:

Another good option is to cut up the minnow so that you’re using smaller pieces of the bait at the time. This can entice the fish in a whole different way, and it also gets you more uses out of each minnow, meaning you don’t need to use as many overall!

Whichever method you end up choosing, it’s good to be able to switch and adapt depending on the circumstances and situations you’re in. It always depends on what the fish are in the mood for!

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