Catfish are well-known for being summer targets, but they don’t just limit their activities to the warm weather months. They feed all winter long under the ice.
When hooked on a light jigging rod, catfish put up a much better fight than trout or walleye. There are a few tricks to keep in mind, though, if you’re targeting these tasty fish through the ice this winter, and we’ve got 4 of them for you right here.
Rolling in the Deep
Like many fish species, catfish metabolism slows down considerably in winter. As a result, they seek out the warmest water, which is often found in the deepest hole in the lake. Odds are if you find one catfish, you’ll find a dozen or more, all holding close to the bottom. They’ll likely be tucked tight against humps, rock piles or wood structure, all of which retain a little more heat.
Shine a Light
Similar to fishing for cats in the summer, wintertime catfish tend to be very active at night. Dawn and dusk are good, as well, but if you can stick it out until well past sundown, you’re likely to be rewarded for your diligence. To entice catfish beneath the ice, I’d go with glow-in-the-dark baits and jigs; the later it gets, the more effective these become. Eagle Claw’s Tear Drop Ice Glow Jigs, or Ice N’ Jigs panfish kit from JB lures are solid options.
Stir the Pot
Smaller baits are super effective, even when you’re targeting big catfish. Stick with minnows, juvenile chubs (another small baitfish) or three or four waxworms threaded onto a tiny jig. Simply drop your baited jig down to the bottom and work it aggressively to stir the water and bottom sediment and create a feeding frenzy.
Carry a Big Stick
To muscle tough catfish from the bottom and through the hole in the ice, go with a longer ice rod. While catfish hooked on an ultralight combo are fun to fight, between the energy of the fish and the work needed to pull it through the ice, anglers using light tackle often lose the battle. There are stouter, stronger ice rods out there for such an occasion, such as Shakespeare’s Ugly Stik GX2 in the medium heavy model.
Watch this ice angler muscle a good-sized catfish through the ice: