A Guide to Ice Fishing Trout at Night

Do Trout Bite at Night in Ice Fishing?

Generally, trout do not bite at night. However, sometimes you get lucky and catch a trout ice fishing at night.

For the most part, trout are sight hunters.

The best time to ice fish for trout is during the day.

Unlike walleye, which have very good night vision, trout have a difficult time seeing prey at night and when you cannot see prey you cannot see predators.

For that reason, trout tend to sink down into their holes and wait for the daylight hours before feeding.

If you are planning a nighttime ice fishing adventure, target Walleye, and crappie.

If you want to ice fish during the daytime, trout can be an excellent target.

What Is the Best Time of Day for Trout Ice Fishing?

Trout are the hungriest when the sky starts to lighten at dawn.

The ice fishing for trout should be active for about three hours starting at dawn.

It will pick up again about three hours before sunset.

One reason for this is that habit is strong.

In the summer, when the ice is gone, trout feed a lot on terrestrial insects.

Many species of flying insects are active as the day starts and again at dusk as the sun sets.

You will find mosquitoes, mayflies, and stoneflies to be active and laying eggs in the water in the early morning and again at sunset.

During the icy season, trout mostly feed on aquatic insects – nymphs, water boatmen, and aquatic beetles – and small fish.

You will find smaller fish and shads hunkering down in the weedy beds and trout will begin to patrol the weed patches looking for opportunities to snag minnows and shad.

If you are fishing in a lake that also has walleye, the walleye will feed at night and drift back to the deeper water as dawn approaches.

The trout will appear not long after and also begin to hunt the margins and weed patches.

Is Trout Ice Fishing Good at Night?

Not usually, no. You will have better luck fishing trout at night if there is a full moon and the light is bright.

Trout have poor night vision and mostly hunkers down at night.

If you want to target trout at night on the ice, you will have to fish structures and ones that are at least in the 20-foot depth.

The water is a bit warmer as the lake gets deeper.

The best time to ice fish trout is at sunset and again as morning begins.

There is a three-hour window around sunset and again at dawn where trout fishing becomes very active under the ice.

How Deep Do Trout Go in The Winter?

Every body of water you ice fish on will be different, but trout tend to like a narrow bandwidth of water temperature.

For the most part, you will find them in the five-foot to 35-foot range with the majority of the feeding happening in the shallower waters.

During the night, trout will head into the depths, and you will need to look for them in waters that are 15-35 feet.

If you are fishing in an ice-free river, you would aim for water depths that are 5-35 feet and more specifically, around structures that block the current.

Steelhead fishing is amazing in the winter on icy rivers that have not fully frozen.

Fish from the shore where you find open water and near deeper pools.

The pools do two things. At their depths, the water current is slower and trout and steelhead can rest.

It takes a lot of energy to battle winter river currents, which are generally stronger.

Also, the deeper water in pools is slightly warmer than the water at the surface.

What Lures to Use for Ice Fishing Trout at Night?

One of the best lures for night fishing trout under the ice is the Buckshot Rattle Spoon by Northland.

Rattle spoons and other lures are all a good choice as the little vibration from the rattle will attract trout.

The Jigging Shad Rap by Rapala is also a top lure for ice fishing trout at night.

A third option is the Kastmaster lures by Acme.

These options help to attract trout at night. Before you load up your cart over at Amazon, think about this:

The view that trout see under the ice is pretty different from what you will see on the ice and looking down.

First, the ice will backlight giving it a brightness that can illuminate the top layers of the water.

As the trout looks up, it will lose any of the finer details in the world around it.

The light will cause most colors to appear black, dark blue, or deep gray.

For that reason, the rattle spoons work well because they rely more on sound rather than vision to attract fish to them.

Put away your brightly colored lures and save those for day fishing for trout.

Instead, seek out lures that are black, dark blue, or medium or darker gray.

You also want to fish without any extra light around you.

It will spook the fish. That means you need a headlamp with a red bulb that will allow you to see but not startle the fish.

If lures are not working switch to bait.

You want to fish the top 1/3 level of the water with lures or with bait.

The best bait for targeting trout at night under the ice is mealworms.

Small minnows and shads are also an option. Live bait works well to trigger the predatory nature of trout.

You can pair bait with a rattle to give the scent of food and the sound of struggling. Both are attractants for trout.

If want to know if you can use a regular fishing rod for ice fishing.

Tips for Ice Fishing Trout at Night

  1. Set up your spot early and then leave it alone. The fish will be spooked by the ice drilling and all the walking around setting up gear and your hut. When you walk on ice it is like beating a drum underwater. Set up early, and then go chill.
  2. Make sure to drill several holes, so you have options to move around if one area is not working. Don’t go overboard with the hole drilling, or you could cause weakness in the ice. You shouldn’t need more than three holes in one location.
  3. Pack for comfort. Fishing on the ice is cold, and you may get wind and rain too. A good option is a portable fishing hut, which will take you out of the elements and help to block outside light. Some fishing huts can be heated too.
  4. Pack a variety of attractants for trout. Load up your tackle box with appropriate lures and bait options. When one type of attractant does not work, switch to another. If you have several holes and multiple rods rigged and fishing, then offer the trout a selection. They will help you dial in the right attractant for your night ice fishing adventure.
  5. Be Safe. Safety is always job one when you are ice fishing. Be sure that predators cannot sneak up on you, that the ice is thick enough to fish, and that you remain safe.
  6. Fish the Right Zone – For trout at night under ice, fish the top 1/3 depth of the lake. That is where you will find the fish for that is where the most light will be too. Trout do not see well at night, so they will migrate to where they see best.
  7. You can use rod minders if you choose to sleep at night while fishing. The rod minder will allow you to see which rod is active. If you fine one that you can pair with your cell phone, you can set it up to sound an alarm. Some tip ups may have this function also.