Last Updated on August 5, 2023

Best places for ice fishing USA

What Is Ice Fishing?

Ice fishing is a type of fishing that involves drilling holes into large bodies of frozen water in order to catch fish underneath the ice.

This method of fishing requires specialized equipment, such as an auger or drill, tip-ups, and jigs and the most popular species targeted by ice fishers include walleye, panfish, northern pike, and lake trout.

Ice fishing has become a popular winter activity in many areas of the world due to its accessibility and the chance to enjoy nature even in colder months.

Safety should always be a top priority when ice fishing, as falling through the ice can be life-threatening.

Being well-prepared and informed about the environment can help ensure a safe and successful ice fishing experience.

When ice fishing, it is also essential that you understand how to assess ice safety before venturing onto the lake.

Ice fishing can be done from shore or by using an ice shanty, which helps protect you from cold temperatures and harsh weather conditions.

Ice fishing shanties can be outfitted with shelters, heaters, stoves, and other amenities to make the experience more comfortable.

Ice fishing shanty
Example of an ice fishing shanty

Best Time to Go Ice-Fishing

The winter months of December, January, and February are considered the prime ice fishing season in the United States.

In northern states like Minnesota and Michigan, there are a few prime times to hit the ice.

Early winter is usually ideal for catching walleye or northern pike, while late winter brings in panfish like crappie and bluegills.

If you’re planning on going ice fishing in these regions, keep an eye on the temperatures as they get colder so you can hit the ice at the right time.

Ice fishing on Lake Tahoe

What Equipment You Need for Ice Fishing

Ice fishing requires more gear than traditional, open-water fishing.

It is important to be prepared for whatever conditions you may face on the ice and there are certain things you WILL need for ice fishing, including the following:

1. Fishing Rods and Reels

Ice rods are typically shorter with less flex than their open-water counterparts so you can feel your bait move more easily.

You will also want to invest in reels designed to withstand the cold temperatures you will be facing while out on the ice.

2. An Auger

An auger used for ice fishing
An auger used for ice fishing

An auger is a tool used for cutting a hole into the ice so you can drop your line into it.

There are several types of augers, ranging from manual hand augers to power augers.

The type you get will depend on how often you plan to go ice fishing and where you’re going.

3. Ice Skimmer/Scoop

Used for clearing slush and debris from your holes as well as scooping out fish that don’t make it all the way up onto the ice.

A net is also useful for this purpose.

4. Tackle Box

Just like open-water fishing, you will need the essentials.

Make sure, for example, that you have hooks and weights, and don’t forget the tackle.

Your local sporting goods store should have a wide variety of ice fishing tackle available to choose from.

5. Heaters/Safety Gear

To stay warm while out on the ice, you’ll want to bring along a few items such as hand warmers or chemical heat packs, and extra layers of clothing including gloves and hats.

Consider also taking an emergency shelter in case you find yourself stuck out on the ice with nowhere else to go.

Additionally, it’s important to make sure that your vehicle has been inspected for safe travel on the frozen lake before venturing out.

25 Places to Ice Fish in the USA

Lake Tahoe ice fishing

Ice fishing has become a popular winter activity in the United States and it’s not hard to see why. But where can you go ice fishing in the United States? Here are 25 recommendations:

1. Mount Hood, Oregon

This picturesque mountain range offers some of the best ice-fishing opportunities in the Pacific Northwest.

You can catch a variety of trout, bass, and steelhead in the many icy lakes that dot the region.

2. Upper Red Lake, Minnesota

This lake is renowned for producing some of the best walleye fishing in Minnesota.

The main ice fishing season kicks off around December and continues through to February.

I recommend contacting Scott of Red Lake Adventures if you want a guide.

3. Devils Lake, North Dakota

Devil’s Lake is known for its abundance of northern pike, walleye, and perch.

From late November to the start of March is a good time for ice fishing at Devil’s Lake.

4. Lake Oahe, South Dakota

I love Lake Oahe and love catching walleye here.

You can also expect to catch a variety of trout, bass, and catfish at this massive lake.

5. Saginaw Bay, Michigan

This bay on Lake Huron provides anglers with access to some great ice fishing opportunities for whitefish, steelhead trout, and salmon.

6. Williams Fork Reservoir, Colorado

This large reservoir near Grand County offers some of the best trout fishing in the state.

As an ice angler, you can find rainbow trout, brown trout, lake trout, and cutthroat trout here.

7. Chautauqua Lake, New York

This popular lake is a great destination for ice fishermen looking to catch yellow perch, bass, and walleye.

8. Denali National Park, Alaska

The pristine beauty of Denali National Park makes it a great place for ice fishing. There are plenty of lakes within the park that offer up some fantastic catches, including Arctic char, lake trout, and whitefish.

With its abundance of species, beautiful scenery, and unique cold climate, ice fishing in Alaska is an unforgettable experience as an angler.

9. Moosehead Lake, Maine

This large lake in the remote northern region of the state is known for its scenic beauty and excellent ice fishing opportunities.

The lake is stocked with lake trout, landlocked salmon, and smallmouth bass.

10. Green Bay, Wisconsin

This huge bay on Lake Michigan is one of the top destinations for ice fishing in the Midwest.

It’s known for its abundance of whitefish and smelt, as well as other popular species such as panfish and walleye.

11. Big Spirit Lake, Iowa

This popular lake in northwest Iowa is well-known for its ice fishing opportunities. Anglers can find walleye, crappie and bluegill all winter long.

12. Oneida Lake, New York

This long and shallow Finger Lakes tributary is one of the premier destinations for anglers looking to catch yellow perch, walleye, and northern pike.

The lake is regularly stocked with these species, making it a great fishing spot in the winter months.

13. Nushagak River, Alaska

This is another great option in Alaska for ice fishing. You can catch huge king salmon during the winter months here.

With its wide-open views and excellent fishing opportunities, it’s another of my favorite ice-fishing locations.

14. Lake Champlain, Vermont

This large lake bordering the U.S. and Canadian borders is another top destination for ice fishermen looking to catch yellow perch, walleye, and lake trout.

15. Great Sacandaga Lake, New York

This man-made reservoir is one of the best lakes in upstate New York for ice fishing.

Expect to find walleye, northern pike, brook trout, and landlocked salmon throughout the winter months in this area.

16. Seneca Lake, New York

This long and narrow Finger Lake located in western New York is a great place to try your luck at ice fishing.

The lake is stocked with lake trout, landlocked salmon, and bass.

17. Great Salt Lake, Utah

This huge body of water located in northern Utah offers great ice fishing opportunities for anglers looking to catch various saltwater species like whitefish and burbot. The winter season typically runs from December through March here.

18. Pyramid Lake, Nevada

This large natural lake located in western Nevada is a popular destination for ice fishermen looking to catch cutthroat trout and other species throughout the winter months.

Ice fishing season typically runs from December through February here.

19. Lake Tahoe, California, and Nevada

This large lake located on the border of California and Nevada is home to some excellent populations of rainbow trout, brown trout, and kokanee salmon.

20. Kenai River, Alaska

This iconic river is known as one of the premier destinations for salmon and trout fishing in Alaska.

During the winter months, you’ll be able to find a variety of fish species here, including rainbow trout and Arctic grayling.

21. Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin

This large natural lake in eastern Wisconsin is home to great populations of walleye, northern pike, and perch.

22. Chautauqua Lake, New York

This shallow natural lake located in southwestern New York is a popular destination for ice fishermen looking to catch panfish and other species throughout the winter months.

23. Lake Erie, New York, and Pennsylvania

This is another large lake located on the U.S. and Canadian border and it’s home to plenty of walleye, yellow perch, and other species.

December through February tends to be the best time for ice fishing on this lake.

24. Clear Lake, California

This shallow natural lake located in northern California is a popular destination for ice fishing, with the chance to catch various panfish species throughout the winter months.

25. Big Bear Lake, California

This large lake located in southern California offers great opportunities for catching largemouth bass during the winter months.

Ice fishing season typically runs from mid-December through February here.


Ice fishing in Wisconsin

1. Is Ice Fishing Good at Night?

I have only been ice fishing once at night but I have to say that it was a great experience and one that I recommend.

Fishing in the dark can be an exciting adventure, full of surprises and potential rewards.

It’s also a great way to catch fish that you wouldn’t sometimes have the chance to catch during the day.

But before you grab your gear and head out into the dark, there are a few key things to consider.


I know you might get bored of me saying this but it is essential that you make sure that you have the appropriate safety equipment in place.

Make sure that you have a light source so that you can see your surroundings, as well as a floatation device if you’re fishing in open water.

It’s also important to pay attention to any local ordinances concerning night fishing and to make sure you understand the laws and regulations that apply.


Once you’re all set up, you’ll need to consider the type of bait or lure you would like to use.

Glow-in-the-dark lures can be particularly effective as they will attract attention from fish in low-light conditions.

If you are using live bait, try to use bait that will stay alive in cold temperatures.

The Environment

Ice fishing during the night can be a great way to catch fish, but you should also take precautions to make sure you don’t overfish or damage the environment.

Make sure you practice catch and release whenever possible and always make sure to keep your lines taut so that they don’t snag on any underwater plants or structures.

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2. What Should I Wear When Going Ice Fishing?

When going ice fishing, it is important to dress warmly and in layers.

Make sure that you are wearing boots that provide a good grip on the icy surface so you don’t slip or fall.

Layering the clothing you wear is important because it will make it easier for you to keep warm as temperatures can fluctuate near the water.

I recommend wearing thermal underwear to start with.

Next, add a couple of lightweight layers of clothing on top.

The great thing about layering is that you can easily adjust the warmth by easily adding or removing the layers and herein lies the reason for layering. If you start to feel too warm, simply remove a layer or two.

When it comes to outerwear, opt for something that is waterproof and windproof. A good quality waterproof coat and pants will help keep you dry in case of snow or rain.

I recommend wearing gloves, and some kind of warm headwear, as well as a scarf.

Your clothing should be breathable and dry quickly to keep you comfortable, so avoid wearing cotton as it can cause you to get too cold if it gets wet.

Choose materials such as fleece, wool, or synthetic fabrics that will help trap your body heat and keep you warm.

In addition, make sure you bring extra clothing and a change of shoes so that you can stay warm and dry.

You may also want to consider bringing along an extra blanket or sleeping bag in case the weather is particularly cold or wet.

Can You Go Ice Fishing With a Normal Rod?

Ice fishing is a popular winter activity that involves using specialized rods, lines, and equipment to catch fish through holes in a frozen lake or other body of water.

But can you use a normal rod for ice fishing? The short answer is yes – but there are some considerations to make first.

Using a normal rod for ice fishing can be tricky because the cold weather can cause the rod to freeze up.

Additionally, with most normal rods, you won’t be able to get as deep in the water as you would with a specialized ice fishing rod and line.

For these reasons, it’s usually not the best option for serious anglers who are trying to catch bigger and deeper-dwelling fish.

That said, using a normal rod for ice fishing can be a fun and accessible way to get into the sport.

Many anglers have had success using normal rods for catching shallow-dwelling fish, such as perch, bluegill, and crappie.

It’s also a great way to introduce children or beginners to the sport without investing in specialized equipment.

Ice Fishing Tips

Tip 1: Choose the Right Gear

Ice fishing requires specialized equipment, such as a tip-up or an ice auger to make holes in the ice, skimmers, and shacks to keep you warm and comfortable, and rods and reels with light lines for easy bites.

Make sure you choose quality gear that is built to last and won’t let you down when you are out on the ice.

Tip 2: Find the Right Spot

It’s also important to find an area that has clear ice so you can see through it and determine if there are any fish below before drilling holes in the ice.

Tip 3: Use the Right Bait

Live bait can work best and my preference is normally for worms or minnows for ice fishing.

If you are using artificial lures, choose ones that are designed specifically for ice fishing.

Tip 4: Drill Multiple Holes

You never know where fish will be biting, so drill several holes in different areas to maximize your chances of success.

Keep an eye on each hole and move to a new location if necessary.

Tip 5: Pay Attention to Safety Regulations

Every body of water has specific safety regulations, so make sure you are familiar with the rules before heading out on the ice.

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