Expert Tips On Ice Fishing for Brown Trout

Brown trout are a beautiful fish species that adapts well to frigid waters. Like most trout species, brown trout feed vigorously under the ice throughout winter. Very few anglers often pursue brown trout for a variety of reasons. Hopefully, our expert tips on ice fishing for brown trout will help you change your mind this winter.

Although ice fishing is a strange novelty for many anglers, it’s a great way to combat deep winter cabin fever. Once you equip yourself with the right ice fishing tips, this may become some of your most productive fishing expeditions of the year. Although you can easily catch many fish species through the ice, ice fishing brown trout is a lot more fun.

Reliable Ice Fishing Tips for Trout

Brown trout is a native of Europe and has been widely introduced to many American water bodies. They will start to grow about 8-10 inches in size, but eventually, they will grow up to 40 pounds if the water conditions and food sources are favorable. Brown trout are aggressive and capable of eating huge prey such as mice. When brown trout ice fishing, make sure that your presentation is minimal. Most brown trout prefer small baits such as small minnows, mealworms or even a San Juan worm, especially when the water is so ice cold. Tiny lures that can be manipulated vertically, such as jigs or spoons, are preferred if the water is terribly cold.

Here are some reliable ice fishing tips for trout:

1. Use Appropriate Fishing Line

Some of the tips for brown trout fishing include the use of braided lines, but I would not recommend them. Because a braided line has multiple strands, it holds more water, and therefore, the fishing rod guides will likely get blocked more often with frozen ice jams than using standard monofilament. Here is a short video to demonstrate exactly what I mean:

2. Review Stocking Reports

It is important that you include stocking reports in any list of ice fishing tips for brown trout. If you do some stocking in a water body at the end of the fishing season, it will make drilling some holes through the ice a little easier.

3. Get the Right Ice Fishing Rod and Reel

The fishing rods to use for ice fishing for trout are much shorter than standard freshwater fishing rods. They are generally between 24 to 36 inches. The action of your fishing rod can be medium- or medium-heavy, depending on which species of trout you are targeting. Using a medium-heavy action rod to snag rainbow trout is okay, but it is better to ice fish for lake trout with a medium-heavy action rod.

If you plan to ice fish for lake trout, it is important that you get a reel with a high line capacity since they can run for a long time. But if you are fishing for rainbow trout or brown trout, a reel with a high capacity will not be necessary.

4. Choose The Right Time to Fish for Brown Trout

Late spring is often the best time to catch trout, particularly if you’re looking for larger fish. The warmer it gets, the more fish caught by anglers. And the thicker the grass and brush surrounding their areas, the lower the water levels are.

5. Pick the Right Fishing Line and Leader

When fishing for lake trout on ice, you should use a 10 to 15-pound braided line and a 6 to 8-pound fluorocarbon leader to lead the line. Because braided lines are very strong and don’t flex when fishing, they work well for deeper fishing. If you want to catch rainbow or brown trout, a line that consists of a 4 to 6-pound monofilament and an 8 to 10-pound leader will do the job.

6. Identify the Right Temperatures

Brown trout are very active from around 44 to 67 degrees. This is the optimal water temperature for them to be active. This is the ideal water temperature for brown trout to move about and eat. But if water temperatures rise to 68 degrees or higher, the fish will start to become stressed.

7. Use the Right Ice Fishing Lures and Baits

Anglers should choose baits that are easy to handle, such as live baitfish or even a minnow that can be caught on a tiny jig. If you are throwing a heavy bait, try using a weight to raise your hook higher than the water. This will help keep the bait in place and hopefully attract trout. Let the bait drift along like it’s an easy target.

The most common ice fishing lures anglers use to catch brown trout are Rapala jigging raps and jigging spoons. Jigging spoons come in many different shapes and sizes. They are also available in various colors and designs. You should try to match the size of the lure to the size of the fish spawning in the lake. Some people like to use traditional ice fishing spoons like the Kastmaster and the Cleo.

Rapala Jigging Raps are a very popular ice fishing lure. This device fishes like a jig because the line is tied in the center of the lure and sways like a jig while it falls. Brown trout are very selective and like to eat light bait fish. Fish like jigging raps drop like a small jig or a small spoon. For this reason, the Jigging Rap is often used as bait for brown trout.

Ice fishing for trout often starts to heat up when all other fish have already begun to slow down in the winter chill. The cold water game fish will go into hiding when the water temperatures start to get too high in the summertime, but when the ice starts to form, they will feel stronger.

Rainbow trout, tiger trout, brown trout, brook trout, and many other species of ice fishing lures offer endless angling opportunities in several lakes throughout the country, particularly in the northern states. Besides, rainbow trout is one of the most exciting fish to try to catch while fishing the ice.

It is hard to determine the best ice fishing lures to catch trout. But generally speaking, it is best to choose bait and lures that are small and light, such as:

  • Jigging Spoons: Fishing for trout with metal jigging spoons or similar lures works just as well. If you see trout in a lake but can’t get them to bite, try switching lures of different weights and sizes. Sometimes all you have to do is change the lure and set it up in a different way. Try different lures to see what works for you.
  • Jigs: Jigs in the 1/64 to 1/8-ounce range can be tipped with wax worms or minnows when targeting rainbow trout, but you need to use the appropriate weight for the conditions and water depth. Try using jigs with tube baits to catch lake trout.
  • Minnows: Small, live minnows are suitable for a #6 hook. Add some lead weight or split-shot to help keep your bait in the strike zone, and use a bobber or float that looks like a pencil to help you detect any light bites.

Here is a quick rundown of other ice fishing trout lures to consider a staple in your tackle box when ice fishing brown trout:

  • Swedish Pimple
  • Acme Kastmaster
  • Rapala Jigging Shad Rap
  • Northland Tackle Buckshot Rattle Spoon
  • Trout Magnets
  • Tungsten Scud Flies
  • Tungsten Ice Jigs

8. Observe Safety when Ice Fishing Brown Trout

When brown trout ice fishing, or when ice fishing for any fish species, be sure to stay safe. It takes about 5 inches of ice to support an angler, and you won’t find it in October. Be patient and prepare all the gear you need to start fishing when that grumpy Old Man Winter begins closing up the rivers and taking away your places to cast a line.

Best Tackle When Ice Fishing for Brown Trout

Anglers fishing ice for brown trout will need various rod and reel combinations depending on the water they are fishing. Fishing rivers and lakes where fish average a pound or two is fine with the same tackle you use to catch small walleye or panfish. However, anglers fishing big lakes and rivers where big brown trout may be the result will need to build up their fishing tackle a bit. A rod larger than 32 inches in length is better suited for big water fishing.

When it comes to fishing, it is important to carry lightweight fishing rods. Anglers fishing smaller ponds and lakes will try to keep the equipment lightweight. There are several companies that sell special lines that are specifically designed for ice fishing trout. These are usually fluorocarbon lines that are extremely hard to break. A 6-pound test line is a good all-around choice, though anglers may want to fish with just a 4-pound test in very clear water.

Ice Fishing for Brown Trout in Rivers

Brown trout are an excellent fish to catch in rivers. Steelhead trout and brown trout are the most common fish that can be found in rivers. Anglers targeting brown trout in rivers need to remember that they are fishing for life! Ice thickness is easier to measure in areas where current flow is difficult to determine. Anglers who are very safe will never fish in areas where there is not at least 4 inches of ice!

River Brown Trout Locations

Locating fish in open water and the right ice fishing position is also crucial in rivers. Brown trout are very adept at staying in areas where there is less current and where there are fewer breakwaters. Brown trout prefer to hold over sand bottoms, but sometimes you will find them swimming on top of rocks or even in pools. It is hard to know where brown trouts are when a river is covered in thick ice, so it is important to know where they are. One trick is to look at the shoreline and fish where there are rocks or sand beds.

Fly fisherman with a large brown trout

Brown trout can be caught in very shallow water, as shallow as one foot! This is very impressive. Fish are very difficult to catch in shallow water, as they are very shy and afraid of things that are difficult to see. Brown trout are often caught in water that is three to five feet deep. Sometimes pools will end up in eddies where brown trout will be able to hold in the wintertime.

Brown trout are not as active as their steelhead cousins. They prefer to hold over sandy bottoms or in areas with rocks and sand. They like to fish for slack water in pools and rivers. Moreover, they are well adapted to very cold water and will feed quickly. They tend to be a bit skittish in very shallow water, so tactics that work on lakes will not work in rivers.

Ice Fishing Techniques in Rivers

When ice fishing for brown trout, live bait is the best method. It is not practical to fish with lures that are aggressive because they are too difficult to catch. Anglers walking just a foot or two over them will freak them out. Fishing for fish on ice is best done with fresh spawn when it is available. Fishing for fresh spawns of steelhead is generally the best bait. It is important to keep baits on the ice as fresh as possible. Eggs will catch a lot of brown trout, too. Commercially made baits like Gulp Dough will also work and are easy to acquire.

When the water is a bit slow, anglers can use a #8 live bait hook to lower the bait. A split shot can be added if the water is very calm. It is possible to add a small shot or two to each line to fool fish into deciding that they want to take a bite. Anglers usually use a jig head that holds about 1/32 ounces of jighead when fishing in current. Using brightly colored jig heads attracts most fish. Some anglers use tip-down rigs or even fish with the Automatic Fisherman device. It is easier to fish in a shallow lake with a series of small holes dug and rigs placed with different baits along the bottom.

Brown trout can sense when anglers walk around them by looking up at them. There is no way to avoid this. That is the reason set lines are used. It is difficult to get a brown trout to bite if you are standing 2 feet above them. It is best to use a cover for the hole or to put some snow on the bottom of the hole to block light from entering the fish trap.

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Ice Fishing for Brown Trout in Lakes

Anglers fishing for brown trout on ice in lakes all over the country will find them. You can fish for them in lakes like Lake Michigan and Lake Superior in the United States. The tips and techniques we discuss below will be very useful for anglers fishing on the lakes, but they will work on any other ice fishery.

How to Locate Brown Trout Under the Ice

Brown trout are found in the water near or on a variety of structures. At first ice, they will normally be caught on breaks in the ice that are shallow or in the top 10 feet of the water column. Brown trout will normally be found on shallow water breaks that can go down to as deep as 50 or 60 feet. Anglers will also fish the mouths of lakes and rivers, though they must be very cautious about fishing on the ice. These spots tend to be popular with the majority of anglers. Most successful anglers ice fishing for brown trout will stay away from crowded areas and instead fish in their own hot spots. These spots will have several different kinds of structures. Anglers often find that rocky areas close to mud flats are very productive. Brown trout are generally very diverse in their diet. They will eat a variety of small fish, insects, and crustaceans. Brown trout are primarily attracted to feeding on bait fish. However, some other fish and crustaceans may also be found in their diet. They will happily devour other fish and crustaceans such as crayfish and larger insects.

Where to Go Ice Fishing for Brown Trout

Trout are found in deep waters in lakes that are normally deep, but they can also be stocked in ponds and reservoirs. When searching for a place to fish for trout, it is important to be safe. Always remember to use fishing safety guidelines and ensure that the ice is thick enough before you go ice fishing. Ice should be a minimum of 4 inches thick for safe fishing

When fishing at a safe location, remember that trout often move from deep holes to shallower areas during the winter. Use a fish finder to locate places where the water is the right depth and you will catch fish.


What color lures do brown trout like?

Due to its strong contrast with other colors, black is the most visible color in most conditions and is best at night. Use much darker colors like blue, black, and violet when fishing in low light or when the water is very deep.

How deep do trout go in the winter?

Fishing in cold water without a thermocline is great because the fish are not as deep as they were during summer. Anglers can catch trout that are stocked at depths of 10 to 35 feet in ice-cold water during the winter months.

How cold is too cold for trout fishing?

Trout generally are hyperactive when water temperatures reach their comfort range of 45 to 65 degrees. Fish can survive in water as cold as 35 degrees, but a stream in a mountain stream will rarely get that cold.

How long should an ice fishing leader be?

Consider using 10-foot mono leaders and add a medium-sized split shot at the center to keep the bait down. Use a variety of colored beads and blades close to the hook, but you can also use just plain hooks.

Wrapping Up

Being the first to go out onto the ice will help you catch lots of fish because they will be seeing baits or food for the first time this year. A lot of light is going through the ice, and no fish will be scared by it. It is still good to fish on the thick snow-covered ice, but by then, tens of thousands of people are on the shoreline. Imagine seeing bait after bait after bait. It is very difficult to trick a fish into biting a bait.

Consider using two sets of bait and one rod for jigging. Use tip-ups or an automatic hook setting device to set the hooks on the set lines. Set lines consist of an 8-15lb braided line and about 5 feet of fluorocarbon or monofilament leader. A size 6 single hook set 2-10ft off the bottom and a size 3 bait jig complete the rig. With these tips, you should be able to register one of your biggest catches this winter. Let us know of your experiences in the comment box below!

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Brian Hopkins

Brian is an outdoor writer and the youngest member of our team, but he is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to fishing and different techniques for catching different species. He shares valuable information that the younger generation can relate to. When he is not fishing, you can find him hanging with his friends and gaming on his computer.

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