What Ice Fishing Bait Do You Choose?

There are a few choices for ice fishing bait, what bait you choose depends on the sport fish species that you wish to catch.

When you are fishing with a tip-up you will most always use a type of bait fish, leeches, maggots or wax worms.

Let’s discuss fishing bait for northern pike first. The most widely available bait for northern pike in Alberta is either smelts or anchovies. I purchase smelts most of the time. Most ice fishing bait is frozen when you buy it. Many gas stations, convenience stores, and grocery stores will sell some sort of frozen bait fish.

The size of the bait determines how much you will get in a package. It is good to have a variety of choices when heading out onto the ice. Some days smaller minnows will work best other day’s large minnows better.

When ice fishing for pike you will use a big game rig or a large treble hook to attach your bait to your fishing line.

With a big game rig you will push one hook through the head of the fish and the other through the tail of the fish.

Ice Fishing Bait Rig

When using a treble hook only, push the shaft of the hook through the abdomen of the bait so that the fish will hang fairly level in the water.


When I fish for northern pike I have started to use big game rigs almost exclusively. I have far more positive hook ups with them.

When Ice fishing for walleye I buy a container of small shiner minnows. Many people buy small smelts and have decent success, for most people shiner minnows work much better.

You can rig ice fishing bait for walleye the same as for pike if you wish and have good day fishing. I prefer to tip a jig with a minnow. The added color really seems to give me an advantage over a plain minnow.

When trout, perch or whitefish fishing you can use small minnows, leeches or wax worms/maggots.

When rigging minnows I use the same method as for pike but with a much smaller treble hook.

For leeches and worms type baits I use a single hook threaded through the leech, worm or maggot. It holds well and provides lots of available movement for the bait.


Burbot ice fishing bait is anything that will catch a pike or walleye but place pretty much right on the bottom of the lake.

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