Ice fishing is just as much about finding fish as it is getting fish to find you. When hoping from hole to hole won’t work or you’re targeting fish on the move, sometimes bringing the fish to you is more effective.
Whether you are fishing a popular lake with pressured fish or it’s just a tough bite, my 10 favorite ways to attract more fish while ice fishing are bound to help. What’s even better is that at least one of these tricks almost always turns a slow day into a hot bite.
Keep scrolling to learn how you can use these fish attracting techniques to improve your next ice fishing outing.
1. Chumming and scents
Chumming is the most obvious way of attracting fish to a centralized location. Don’t know what chumming is? Simply put, it is the process of spreading large amounts of bait or scent in the water to draw in schools of feeding fish.
Throwing chum in the water is used most often on open water but it is easily applied to ice fishing as well. Before you try this, there are a couple considerations to think about.
First, you need to determine if it is legal to chum where you are fishing. Check the local fishing regulations. Not only will they confirm if it’s legal, it will also list what types of chum can be used.
Second, determine the best type of chum for the species of fish you are after and how much to use. Common ice fishing chums include wax worms, cut up bait fish and corn. However, too much is not a good thing. Coating the lake bottom might draw in fish but they won’t find your baited hook among the mess.
Chumming works wonders when used right. Pre-made chum with added sparkle is a great option. Give it a try but use it sparingly.
When chumming is not allowed use gel scents on your lure. Even under the ice there is a bit of natural current that can disperse scents to nearby fish. The gel scents also linger for a long time and can keep fish coming back to the area.
There are dozens of scent varieties that work for any fish you want to target. Bring along your favorite and add it generously to your lures. It is also great for covering up human scents which can actually drive fish away.
2. Glow lures
If you’re having trouble attracting fish to your location, it might be because it is too dark under the ice. More light penetrates through the ice than you think but a thick snow layer or a gloomy, overcast day cuts way down on the amount of ambient light in the water.
Typical shiny lures require light to reflect an eye catching flash. Without the extra light, try out a glow in the dark lure. Fish can see the soft glow from a long ways off in clear water. Glow in the dark is also perfect for capitalizing on a night bite.
Several types of glow lures or jigs are available. If you prefer jigging a spoon, I recommend the Do-Jigger in white glo by Bay de Noc Lure Co. Most tungsten jigs also come in glow colors. Tipped with some of your favorite bait, it may attract more fish than you bargained for.
3. Bottom bouncing
When fish are few and far between, you need to appeal to more than just their sight. Try getting a fish’s attention under the ice by thumping your bait on bottom.
The noise from a few good taps on soft silt or hard rock can resonate relatively far into the surrounding water. Fish are ultra sensitive to vibrations and may come to your call for dinner. Tapping the bottom also stirs up a small cloud of debris that mimics a feeding frenzy or struggling prey.
Careful you don’t over do it though. Too much commotion may signal danger to the fish you are trying to catch. The occasional bounce is all you need for success.
4. Turn on the transducer
I know it sounds odd but the transducer from your flasher or fish finder can actually attract fish. According to some anglers, the clicking sound emitted by the sonar occasionally spikes a fish’s curiosity and attracts it to your ice hole.
There is a fine line though between attracting fish and scaring them away. Sonar in shallow water is quite powerful and is actually disturbing to fish. Turn down the power when you are in 15 feet or less of water.
5. Change up your presentation
As with all fishing, there will be long durations of boredom between the thrills of catching fish. It is all too easy to sink into a repetitive pattern of jigging on the ice. Attracting more fish means snapping out of that routine and spicing things up.
When things slow down, change up your presentation. Jig more aggressive, randomize your jigging pattern and don’t shy away from switching baits often. The change in sound and commotion may provide the encouragement needed for a strike.
6. Match the hatch
Some days it feels like there is not a fish to be found on the whole lake. It may have less to do with you failing to attract fish and more to do with no fish being interested in your bait.
The old fly fishing add-age that you should ‘match the hatch’ is just as true for ice fishing. When fish are in a specific feeding pattern, it’s like they have blinders on. Any food other than what they want is ignored.
Don’t fight it. Experiment with baits and lures until you match the hatch. When you stumble onto the right bait, it’s almost like magic as fish flock in from all directions to devour it.
Picking the right bait doesn’t need to be a chore. Read our comprehensive article where we discuss the best bait for ice fishing and how to use them.
7. Cover the hole
This tip has less to do with attracting fish and is more about not scaring fish away. Opening a hole in the ice sends a bright shaft of light into an otherwise dim environment below.
The spot light effect of an open hole seems to keep fish at bay no matter what lure you use. This is especially true for trout in clear, shallow lakes.
Dim the light from your hole by using a pop-up shelter, a hole cover or just scoop a bit of slush in the hole to take the edge off.
8. Bring in some flash
Few things attract fish to your location like a bright, flashy, jigging spoon. Two of my favorites include Kastmasters and Swedish Pimples. The fluttering action sends shimmering light around just like a struggling baitfish.
When finesse jigs and live bait fail to produce, add the bright action of a jigging spoon to your bag of tricks.
9. Noise and vibration
Sound carries further and faster underwater than it does above the ice. Whether it’s a school of bait fish, a hatching larvae or a feeding bass, everything makes noise underwater. Get noticed by adding some noise and vibration to your bait.
Lures like Northland Tackle’s Buckshot Minnow or the Acme Google-Eye tungsten jig have built in rattle chambers that resonate sharp pings in the surrounding water. These type of lures are popular for a reason. Dispersed fish key in on the unusual noise from far away. Many times I have switched to a rattle spoon in lifeless water only to have fish suddenly appear moments after the noise starts.
10. Double down with two rods
One rod is good but two is better. Attracting fish and keeping them interested in what you have to offer may mean giving them some choices. It’s a one-two punch approach that really pays off when fish won’t commit to a particular bait.
I like to actively jig one rod with a vibrant colored spoon or Jigging Shad Rap while using a more subtle presentation on a second rod. The second rod can be fished in a nearby hole with a small baited jig or a live minnow. Work the jig until you see fish coming in on your fish finder and switch to the bait rod to mimmic a feeding frenzy.
Some days it may seem like nothing is working. All it may require is a bit of creativity until you find what brings the fish to you. Don’t hesitate to try some of these tips next time you experience a tough day on the ice.