Cashing In On Late-Winter Panfish

With the ice fishing season beginning to wind down, anglers need to get out and take advantage of some of the best panfish action of the year.

Late winter fishing for sunfish, crappies and yellow perch can provide non-stop action through the ice. Here some tips to help you take advantage of this opportunity.


All panfish species are not going to be in the same locations during the late winter. Perch and crappies are more likely to be found near the bottom, in deeper water, up to 30 feet deep. Crappies can be near the bottom or suspended. Look for crappies near structure such as brush piles or rock piles. Yellow perch are often hugging the bottom.

Sunfish will be found in shallower water, often near structure such as weeds or brush. If you are looking for weeds, the best bet is green weeds, if you can find them.

One of the benefits of fishing for panfish through the ice is that if you find one fish, there are likely to be plenty more in the area.


During late winter, increasing amounts of daylight seem to trigger higher levels of feeding activity for panfish. This is what makes this point in the season a productive time to be out on the ice.

For late-winter sunfish, try small flies, which represent the bugs they are feeding on this time of year. Also try a small jig tipped with a wax worm or meal worm. Keep your jigs in the size 10-14 range. Smaller is better in late winter.

For crappies, live minnows or jigs tipped with a live minnow are the best choices this time of year. Again, keep those jigs small. Sizes 10-14 are ideal.

An effective bait for late-winter perch is a spoon jigged slowly. Let the spoon drop to the bottom and bounce it off the bottom.  Slowly lift it up and repeat. Live minnows and jigs with a small spoon can also work well for perch.

With all late-season panfish baits, color can vary, depending on the conditions, such as light, depth and water clarity. Bring a variety of colors and experiment until you find one that works.


Keep it light during the late winter. Two-pound test is good choice. Use line that has low visibility. A small spinning reel works well for panfish on a light-weight ice rod. Going light will help you detect more bites and result in more fish being brought through the ice.

You can use floats for late-season panfish, but it is best to keep your bait moving to attract the fish. Jiggling and jigging your bait is a much more effective technique than leaving your bait stationary beneath a float.

Late season panfish offer an exceptional opportunity for anglers. As long as the ice is safe, it is great time to get out there and take advantage of some of the hottest action of the winter.

© Gerald Marella | – Ice Fishing