ice baitAs winter rolls onward, covering many regions with snow and freezing our beloved lakes, many anglers unable to satisfy the itch will head out to the ice. Many ice anglers use artificials, like spoons, through the ice, but it’s hard to beat live bait, which explains the boom in its availability this time of the year. Making sure to buy fresh, quality bait is important, but keeping it fresh is crucial, as well. Today, we’ll explore what you need to look for when you buy bait, along with some ways you can keep your live bait lively this ice season.

Two of the most common baits used during ice season are waxworms (waxies) and mousies. When you’re purchasing these baits, though, you need to know what to look for. For instance, with mousies, eurolarvae, waxies—any grub-like bait—remember that scent is the biggest factor in their appeal to fish. They won’t deliver good scent if they’re not healthy, so always make sure you inspect before buying. Furthermore, if they look brownish or just brown, look for a different container.

When you get your bait home, keep in a refrigerator at about 40 to 42 degrees. Waxies should be kept in a cool, dark place to make sure they stay fresh, such as an area of your basement where it’s cooler, but not too cold. Then, at least every other day, check for dead ones and remove them.

Finally, once you’re out on the ice, be sure to replace your grubs often, especially after catching a fish. You need the bait’s natural scent in the water to attract fish, and the longer one piece of bait spends in the water, the less it will appeal to fish.

Bait and gas prices rise steadily, which leaves none of us with much desire to make repeated trips to the bait shop. However, learning how to keep your live bait alive and kicking for use on the ice will save you time and money in the long run. Be sure to keep an eye out for fresh, quality bait when you’re at the shop and take measures to keep it fresh before you hit the ice!