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Summer months are made for fishing adventures with family and friends. But, why shouldn’t winter be a prime time to fish, too?
There’s no more exciting feeling than getting a strike on your jig and pulling your first panfish of the season through the ice.
Winter is definitely the most fun season to fish for panfish.
You know that fish behave differently in the winter than they do in open fishing months. But, how do you choose the right lure?
Keep reading to learn how to select the best ice fishing lures for panfish.
What to know when ice fishing for panfish
General ice safety
A great fishing trip is a safe fishing trip. When you are on the ice, you need to take a few special precautions to ensure that you make it safely back home.
Thankfully, the DNR gives you some easy-to-follow guidelines regarding ice thickness and safety.
New, clear ice is twice as strong as white, snowy ice, and you should take this into consideration when ice fishing.
As the DNR says, stay off any new, clear ice that is less than 4 inches thick. Double that amount, as well as the table below, for white ice.
- 4 inches: Ice fishing or other activities on foot are permissible
- 5 inches: Can hold snowmobile or ATV
- 8–12 inches: Car or small pickup is safe
- 12–15 inches: Medium truck will stand
You should check the ice thickness every 150 feet. Also, recognize that ice is never completely safe; risks are always involved with ice fishing and you should always follow proper safety precautions.
Consult an industry professional to learn more about proper safety on the ice.
Anytime you go ice fishing, safety equipment is a must.
Consult a professional if you are unsure of the proper safety precautions for your next trip.
Here is a list of some commonly used ice fishing safety equipment for your reference.
- Ice chisel or spud bar: test the ice, chisel a hole, and steady yourself on slippery patches
- Ice cleats aka creepers: protect your feet and gain traction on the ice. You can choose complete shoe units or tracks that slip over your shoes.
- PFD: If something were to happen and you fell through the ice, you are going to want to be wearing a personal floatation device.
- Throw rope: Always follow the buddy system, and make sure that both of you are prepared with a throw rope. It could save your friend or family member’s life while you remain a safe distance away.
- Nebulus: Inflate a life raft on the go to prevent you or your snow equipment from sinking.
- Sunglasses: Protect your eyes, increase visibility, and be safer on the ice.
Learn more about ice fishing safety in the video below.
Know where to fish.
You need to fish with consideration for the constantly changing conditions under the ice. As the season progresses, the location of the panfish will change.
So, you have to fish according to panfish varying behavior.
In general, aim for weed beds. Weed beds are an oxygen rich haven for fish throughout the season. Since the weeds produce oxygen, microorganisms and smaller fish are drawn to these areas, and the panfish follow the food chain.
Notice the color of the water after you drill a hole. If you are staring down into brown, murky water, it’s likely that you will be fishing in a muddy area.
However, if the water is clear, there is a good chance that you have located an area near weeds. Start drilling in shallow bay areas if you are not sure where to look.
You can drill in a grid pattern and use a flasher to sketch a map of the weed areas in your mind.
During the early season, you will most likely find panfish near the weed beds.
However, as you approach midseason, panfish move to deeper waters in search of bloodworm larvae.
Then, towards the end of the ice fishing season, fish reenter the shallow waters as the oxygen levels of the lower levels diminishes.
How to entice and pinpoint panfish
Ice fishing is a balancing act between reading the conditions of the ice and water below the surface and playing to the field that the panfish are giving you on any given day.
In general, try to fish in the early morning and evening hours for a bigger catch.
Keep your shadow away from the ice hole, and avoid vibrations on the ice. Disrupting the fish’s environment will make them less likely to strike.
Flashers can give you excellent insight as to what is happening below the ice. They are great for locating contours, underwater structures, weed beds, and schools of fish. Since you cannot see below the surface, flashers are an invaluable tool.
The video below provides a great tutorial on ice fishing for panfish.
What to look for in an ice fishing lure for panfish
Panfish are generally small, and your lure needs to match their size. Do not put extremely large lures in the water; the panfish will not be interested in them.
Stick with a small to medium sized lure, at the largest.
You need a lure that is lightweight and will have good mobility in the water.
Fish are more sluggish during the winter, so they need a little extra coaxing before they will strike.
For murky water, spinners and bright colors are best. If you are fishing in a clear lake, you have slightly more leeway with the color profile that you choose.
Some studies show that fish are more particular about the profile than the color or design of a lure.
During the winter, panfish are looking for small worms and organisms in the water.
If you can make your jig mimic a struggling worm in the water, prepare to haul in a massive load of fish.
Best ice fishing lure for panfish
There are a number of lures that could potentially work well when panfish ice fishing. The following products may prove beneficial for use on your next ice fishing adventure.
QualyQualy 0.75-1.24g Ice Fishing Jigs Saltwater Freshwater Teardrop Jigs Fishing Lures Metal Hard Baits Ice Fishing Jigs for Panfish Walleye Bass Trout 70 pcs/Pack
Qualy Qualy ice fishing jigs are an ice fisher’s go to for a variety of reasons. First, the jigs are very attractive. These lures will stand out from the rest of your tackle box collection.
Each jig head is decorated with high quality solid colors and detailed with a finish that copies the natural colorization process of lakes.
This in-depth process makes the lures attractive to panfish and other targets both in saltwater and freshwater.
The hook will stay bright and shiny through dip after dip in the lake.
Qualy Qualy puts significant effort into designing a body that will mimic small aquatic creatures such as shrimp, leeches, worms, and minnows.
With incredibly realistic and life-like movement, this lure is sure to draw in hordes of panfish.
Once you’ve attracted a fish and secured a bite, it is devastating if the hook slips from your catch’s mouth before you can haul it to the surface.
Qualy Qualy jigs feature a mechanically sharpened barb that improves penetration and gives you a better chance of reeling in your catch.
And, each set includes 4-5 different colors and styles! You can have a lure for every water type and panfish preference.
Qualy Qualy has a 24 hour customer service department with email support that can assist you if there are any issues.
View at Amazon to learn more about how this lure may work for use with ice fishing panfish.
- Realistic colors
- Very detailed paint and design features
- Attractive to saltwater and freshwater fish
- Life-like motion in the water that mimics panfish’s prey
- 4-5 colors and styles
- Mechanically sharpened barbed hook for better penetration and retention
- 24 hour customer support
- You may receive a similar, but not identical, product as compared to the pictured lures. The manufacturing process produces a variety of assortment options, so you may get a slightly different package.
Angler’s World of Jigs Premium Ice Fishing Lure Kit Ice Fishing Lure, Lures, Tackle, Bait, Rod, Pole, Reel, Combo, Case, Line, Gear, Pack, Hole, Sled, Shelter, Shanty, Tool
If you are looking for even more variety, this premium ice fishing lure kit is a fine option.
They are high quality lures with top-notch performance.
Each lot is comprised of a unique variety. Jigs include willow leaf, tear drop, slims, pouch bugs, and dots, all of which come in multiple sizes.
Each lure is painted by hand with fine detail work that will give you many options to try with panfish.
You would be hard pressed to find an outfitter who invests as much effort in their ice fishing lures- the primer, base coat, and final clear coat are all hand-painted.
With so much time put into designing each lure, you will have a very unique set.
These lures are also very durable, and their high gloss sheen and chip resistant clear are cured in a controlled environment to ensure proper adhesion for a durable, weather-resistant product that will last for years to come.
Each lure is made in the United States.
Depending on your specific needs, you can opt to purchase quantities of 12, 24, 36, or 48 lures.
Below is a table detailing all of the lure and size options.
- Large willow leaf – 1 inch X 5/16 inch with a size 6 hook
- Medium willow leaf – 3/4 inch X 7/32 inch with a size 6 hook
- Large tear drop – 1/2 inch X 7/32 inch with a size 6 hook
- Small tear drop – 15/32 inch X 1/4 inch with a size 8 hook
- L3 slim – 9/16 inch X 5/32 inch with a size 8 hook
- Pouch bug – 3/4 inch X 1/4 inch with a size 8 hook
- Dots – 1/4 inch with a size 8 hook
- High quality and hand painted for excellence and durability
- Multiple body designs in each set
- Made in the United States
- Some inconsistency between each order
Featured image credit: DepositPhotos.com