Live Bait or Artificial Bait for Ice Fishing?

Are you looking for the perfect winter adventure for your family or a corporate team? Ice fishing is a fun, and adventurous activity people of all ages can enjoy. However, before you embark on your journey, you’ll want to make sure you have the right bait in order to reel in a big catch.

What Is Ice Fishing?

Ice fishing is a type of sport fishing done in the winter. As the name implies, fishermen cast their line into a small hole or opening in the ice, hoping to attract an array of species, depending on the area or body of water. Ice fishing can be done with a spear, but most people use a line and rod, especially if they’re doing it recreationally. Ice fishing is a fun and challenging way to fish, allowing anglers to catch species they might not find otherwise. It’s also a great way to pass the time during the frigid winter months.

One of the most important decisions an ice fisherman must make is what bait to use. There are two primary choices for your ice fishing bait: live bait or artificial bait. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, depending on your preferences or the species you hope to find.

Live Bait: Pros and Cons

Live bait is a natural alternative to fishing, making it an popular option for many fishermen. Various types of live bait are available, including minnows, crayfish, earthworms, and insects. Live bait attracts a wide variety of species for many reasons.


The smell is one of the reasons live ice fishing bait works so well. Fish have a highly developed sense of smell and can easily distinguish between live bait and artificial bait. Live bait also looks more natural. It moves in the water in a way that is closer to the way natural prey would move, making it more likely to trigger a fish’s predatory instincts.

Another advantage of using live fishing bait for ice fishing is that it works better in cold conditions. That is because live bait naturally reacts to cold water, which fish find appealing. Artificial bait, on the other hand, may move through the water too fast, scaring some species away.


One of the key disadvantages of using live bait is that it can be more expensive than artificial bait. That is because live bait often needs to be routinely purchased from a bait shop or tackle store, while artificial bait can be used again and again.

Aside from constant stops at your local bait store, you’ll also have to figure out a way to store and transport your bait appropriately to ensure it stays alive throughout your expedition. For this reason, live bait may also require heavier storage, making it more difficult to transport.

Live bait may not be your best option if you’re squeamish with strong smells or insects. There are also environmental factors to consider. While live bait is biodegradable, using live bait contributes to fish prey being over-harvested, which may contribute to or lead to environmental issues.

Artificial Bait: Pros and Cons

Artificial bait is manufactured or homemade that is reusable. It comes in a wide variety of colors, sizes, and styles, allowing you to choose the perfect bait for the fish you are trying to catch. There are several advantages and disadvantages to using artificial bait on your next fishing trip.


Artificial ice fishing bait has several advantages over live bait when it comes to ice fishing. One of the most important advantages is that artificial bait is less expensive than live bait. Artificial bait eliminates your need to purchase, catch, store, and transport live bait, simplifying your fishing experience. Another advantage of artificial bait is that you do not have to deal with the smell of live bait. Artificial bait does not die, so you don’t have to worry about disposing of it after your fishing trip, and there’s no risk of fish prey being over-harvested. It is also much easier to transport than live fishing bait.


One of the downsides of using artificial fishing bait is that it can be less effective in attracting fish. Fish are naturally attracted to live bait because it smells and tastes like real food. Fishing with live bait is generally more effective than artificial fishing bait or lures.

Another downside of using artificial bait is that it can be more challenging to use than live bait. Artificial lures often require special rigging and knots that can be difficult for novice anglers to learn. Additionally, once you’ve rigged your lure, you have to cast it properly in order to have any chance of catching a fish which can be difficult to do if you’re not used to casting with a lure. To avoid this issue, you can consider booking an experienced guide to help you navigate your first ice fishing endeavor.

Which One Should You Use?

There is no “correct” answer when deciding between live and artificial ice fishing bait. The type of fish, the conditions of the water, and the fisherman’s own preferences all play a role in figuring out which kind of bait is best to use.

Book Your Next Adventure With Set the Hook

Before setting out on your own ice fishing adventure, consider contacting Set the Hook for a professionally guided tour. We offer the best Guided Ice Fishing services on Lake Minnetonka, including ice house rentals. We do family tours as well as corporate team-building events for memories you’ll treasure for a lifetime. Gather your friends and prepare for a stunning adventure this winter.