Is Snow Bad for Ice Fishing ?

Ice fishing in the deep cold winters is exciting. People come from far and wide to do ice fishing in the dead winters. It is altogether a different experience to do ice fishing when it is the coldest. You not only get ice but snow as well which adds a unique dimension to the fishing experience. Many people wonder if snow during ice fishing is good or bad for it. Does snow increase your catch or does it reduce it?

As a general rule, snow is good for Ice Fishing because it forces fish to move to the upper parts of the frozen water bodies where more oxygen is available. This is especially true for the shallow parts of frozen lakes or rivers. This happens as the sun rays are unable to penetrate the depths of the lakes and therefore is lesser oxygen in the deeper parts. This forces the fish to move to the shallower parts where there is still some oxygen available.

It is important to know if you can do ice fishing when there is snow around. You don’t want to end up with no or meager catch during an ice fishing outing. If you are new to ice fishing while there is snow, this is the article for you. We bring to you a detailed discussion on the matter. By the end of the article, you will be able to make an informed decision on the subject. This discussion is good for both newbies and pros.

Ice fishing and snow


Ice and snow go hand in hand. In cold places, the water bodies freeze during the winters and form an ice layer on the top. If there is any precipitation that has to take place, it does so in the form of snow. In the dead winters, snow covers the frozen rivers and lakes to form a cover over the ice. People take this opportunity to do ice fishing and have a good catch.

When the ice and snow are new, the temperatures at the top levels of the lakes are around 4 °C. Water is the densest at this temperature. The fish avoid the upper parts of the lakes. At the same time, due to snow cover, the ray rays don’t reach the bottom of the lakes. This reduces the growth of aquatic plants. This in turn reduces the oxygen levels at the bottom of the lake.

The fish is thereby forced to remain in the middle part of the frozen water body. So snow in the early parts of the winter concentrates the fish in the middle of the lake. This is good for ice fishing – as by adjusting the length of your line, you can get access to a concentrated pool of fish. Panfish, walleyes, pikes; you name them and they are there.

In the late winters, the ice grows thicker. Along with snow cover, there is practically no light in the lower depths of the frozen water body. Due to less light, there are minimum aquatic plants and other sources of food for the fish. Also, the oxygen levels reduce at the dark depths of the lake. The fish has to come up to the shallow parts for better chances. In other words, in the mid-winter, with snow cover, you can expect the fish to be near the surface. Also, due to lesser food options, they easily bite the bait.


Snow adds weight to the ice – think before you go to the middle of the lake


Heavy snowing increases your chances of catching fish. On the flip side, it adds weight to the ice. This makes the ice dangerous for you. You may be tempted to go to the center of the frozen water body but be careful – you don’t want to collapse into the stressed ice. There have been instances when ice fishers have collapsed into the ice turning their fishing adventure into an emergency.

This is especially true for late winter ice and snow. Due to the rising temperatures and accumulated snow on the ice, the ice gives way to any weight on top of it. In such cases, check with the locals or the fishing clubs in the vicinity to find out which parts are safer. If you are unsure, avoid going out in the middle. Stay at the edges and cut holes in the ice with care. Also, remember not to cut too many ice holes close to each other.

In general, as a rule of thumb, the ice should be at least four inches thick for you to walk over it. The thicker the ice cover, the better. Though it is difficult to gauge ice cover from its looks, you can get an idea from its color.

If the ice color is dark black to light grey

It indicates melting ice. This is unsafe ice. Stray away from it.

If the ice color is opaque to white

It can be porous ice. Such ice may have ice pockets reducing its strength. Avoid this ice as well.

If the ice is blue in color or is clear ice

This is a promising color. At the same time tread on this ice with caution.

Slushy or mottled ice

This is a deceptive kind of ice cover. It may be solid from the top but may be melting at the bottom.

You can use an ice auger to drill and gauge the ice thickness. If you need to move around in a snowmobile or ATV, the ice thickness should be at least six inches thick. For small cars or pickup trucks, this estimate stands in the range of eight to twelve inches. Also, check the local temperature. If it is well below 0 °C, then it is fine to move over the ice cover. If the temperature is nearing the melting point, be cautious.

In Conclusion

Snow is good for ice fishing. In the early or mid winters, snow cover concentrates the fish in the middle and top regions of the lake respectively. In the later part of the season, snow may not be good for the safety of the ice fishers. So decide accordingly while you go out there. Happy fishing!

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