How to Catch Whitefish Ice Fishing

Whitefish are commonly sought after by anglers, both for sport and for eating. However, catching whitefish on an ice fishing excursion is a bit different than catching them in the summer. There are certain types of bait, equipment, and techniques you need to employ for a successful catch. 

That’s why, in this article, we’re diving into the best tips on how to catch whitefish ice fishing. Keep reading to get insights into the winter habits of these prized fish. We’ll explain how the right setup can work to your advantage.

Types of Bait Needed for Whitefish Ice Fishing

First of all, let’s talk about the bait/lure. When it comes to ice fishing, most anglers agree that artificial lures or spoons are the best options. One decent lure is the Meegs jig – a Canadian lure and one of the most commonly used for whitefish.

You could also try a Badd Boyz jig for whitefish ice fishing. These tend to be brighter and color and even come in neon varieties.

One of the reasons these lures work so well with whitefish is that they’re heavy and capable of dropping low. This is essential with whitefish because they feed at or close to the bottom of the body of water.

And while artificial lures – typically those with bright colors – are ideal, you can also supplement with live bait. You might even use cut bait if it’s available to you. 

Below are some types of live bait you can top your lures with if you want something more enticing.

  • Maggots
  • Waxworms
  • Salmon eggs or other fish eggs
  • Wigglers 

Whichever type of live bait you choose, make sure it’s small so whitefish can fit it in their small mouths. And when hooking your live bait onto your artificial lure, make sure to add a second puncture if necessary. If it falls off the hook underwater, there’s no chance of getting it back.

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Equipment Needed to Catch Whitefish Ice Fishing

Next, you need to establish your gear set. Ice fishing itself requires a special rod and reel, and whitefish fishing requires a rod with a greater weight capacity. 

Choosing a Rod and Reel

Using a heavier, more heavy-duty rod and reel will enable you to manage those heavier artificial lures mentioned earlier. And considering it’s not absurd to catch a whitefish up to 10 or 15 pounds, you want something durable.

Choosing a Line

Look for an ice fishing rod that is about 2 ½ – 3 feet long. If you’re going to fish in deeper waters, you need a braided ice fishing line, like this one. But for shallow whitefish, stick to a traditional fluorocarbon ice fishing line like this one

Sufix 832 Braid Line-1200 Yards (Green, 30-Pound)
  • Featuring GORE Performance Fiber and R8 Precision Braiding Technology
  • Patent-Pending Construction with Dyneema Fibers
  • Ultimate Abrasion Resistance and Unbeatable Strength
  • Proven Castability Improvements
  • TGPTechnology Enhances Color Retention
Berkley Trilene® 100% Fluorocarbon Ice, Clear, 6-Pound Break Strength, 75yd Fishing Line, Suitable for Freshwater Environments
  • BERKLEY TRILENE FLUOROCARBON ICE: Don't let fish off the hook. This specially designed ice fishing line has been formulated to deliver exceptional performance in cold weather conditions.
  • COMPLETELY CLEAR: Target the wariest fish with a clear fishing line that is practically invisible underwater. The 100% fluorocarbon construction has a similar refractive index to water making it almost impossible for fish to see.
  • HIGH STRENGTH PER DIAMETER FLUOROCARBON FISHING LINE: This sturdy fish line offers a break strength of 6 Pounds. Length: 75yd. The Clear design disguises the presence of the line when submerged.
  • SUPERIOR HANDLING: Get a handle on things with this fishing line that boasts a thin diameter and lower memory to provide enhanced lure control and maneuverability.
  • WIDE RANGE OF BREAK STRENGTHS AVAILABLE, from 2 pounds to 6. Diameter of 0.010in | 0.25mm ensures exciting fights end well.


And of course, you need to come equipped to physically withstand the elements. Make sure you’re outfitted in waterproof boots, socks, thermal underwear, gloves, a hat, a coat, snow pants, etc. Your clothing should be able to stand up to your regional weather.


You’ll also need some gear, depending on your ice fishing plans. An auger is essential for drilling a hole in the ice. Aside from that, you might also need:

  • A sled for toting your gear and any catches
  • An ice fishing shelter for wind and cold protection
  • Extra lure/bait
  • A skimmer
  • A fish finder

Tips for Catching Whitefish When Ice Fishing

These tips and techniques should help you to zero in on the prize when ice fishing for whitefish.

Search the Right Depths

It’s good to know the habits of whitefish and where they roam. You generally find them roaming in schools and between 25-50 feet deep. A good sweet spot is to position your lure close to about 10-20 feet up from the bottom. You can drop your line accordingly for better results. You might also employ fish finding technology (sonar) if you want more accuracy.

Start Gently

Don’t make the mistake of chumming up the water too much. Whitefish are pretty aggressive when it comes to biting, so all you need is a gentle shake of your line. But if this doesn’t seem to draw them, try chumming the bottom mud and dirt and catch their attention.

Try Different Holes

Don’t stay at the same hole for too long or expect results when you’re not getting any. Whitefish are reactive, so if you go where the fish are, you’ll get hits. If you’re not getting hits, it’s probably because you’ve dropped your line in the wrong spot.

Weight Your Line

Weighting your line is essential when trying to catch whitefish because you’re more likely to catch them close to the bottom. With spoon lure and live bait, you can add on weight. Slider sinkers are useful for this purpose, although you could just use a heavier lure.

Choose the Right Time to Fish

You also need to be aware of feeding habits/schedules for whitefish. Most ice anglers have luck catching whitefish throughout the day. However, although it will be colder, you’ll have better luck if you go out in the early morning. They tend to lull around mid-morning, too.

Final Thoughts

Ice fishing for whitefish is incredibly popular, as these fish are coveted for their sport and for eating, too. Hopefully, this guide on how to catch whitefish ice fishing has given you some tips to get started. Make sure to set up with the right gear, bait, and conditions to have an optimal ice angling excursion.

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