Ice fishing is a sport that requires cold weather, but winter temperatures can range significantly. As a result, you might be wondering what the best weather for ice fishing is.
The best temperatures for ice fishing is between 20 and 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Ice fishing holes will freeze over quickly below 20 degrees, and too much warmer than 32 degrees poses additional risks of the ice melting. However, an ice shelter makes fishing in lower temperatures more feasible.
The best temperatures for ice fishing can be subjective on the comfortable range for the individual anglers, and many other environmental factors impact the best times to go fishing.
Examining the temperature and other environmental factors that act as cues for fish to feed is an excellent place to start finding the best time to go ice fishing.
Weather can play a more prominent role when fish are in a feeding frenzy than any other factor, including bait selection and presentation.
Temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit pose challenges that can make ice fishing much more difficult for an unprepared angler.
Health risks, including hyperthermia and frostbite, are a problem in this range, and ice fishing holes can freeze over in minutes when the temperature is this cold.
Using an ice fishing tent, especially one with insulation and/or a heater, will make cold-weather ice fishing a more enjoyable experience and prolong the time it is safe to be fishing.
On the other hand, warm weather can cause ice to melt quickly and go from safe to unsafe over a day.
Ice can be unpredictable and range in thickness across a lake, so exercise caution and fish with a buddy for the safest time.
Cloudy days are good for ice fishing, just as they are during open-water fishing. There are several reasons that fish prefer cloudy days and are more active.
The first reason that fish prefer cloud cover is the limited light makes them feel safer and more camouflage, encouraging them to go out and explore.
During winter, fish are at their most vulnerable, so any extra feeling of security is crucial for them to be active.
The wind has a negative impact on fish and will make them much less likely to bite.
While during open water, wind impacts the water directly and can push fish towards the shore, wind while ice fishing pushes the ice into the water and increases the overall pressure the fish feel, causing them to stay put.
While the time of day might not be directly related to the weather, different times of day are better for fishing than others. Precisely an hour or so on either side of dawn and dusk are prime fishing time.
This isn’t to say that fish won’t bite all day or that fishing at night can’t be productive, but for the most part, dawn and dusk are the best times to go ice fishing.
Other weather factors can impact fishing more than the time of day so watch out for incoming storms, cloudy weather, and the other elements on this list, as you can use them to your advantage.
All else equal, fishing is the best at the beginning and end of the day.
Atmospheric pressure, also known as barometric pressure, can change for many reasons, and timing when it is rising or falling can impact your ice fishing experience.
Stable pressure causes fish to be more comfortable, and consistent high or low pressure can be fished in.
Falling barometric pressure is the best time to go fishing and will send the fish beneath the surface into a feeding frenzy.
During these times, you can fish with pretty much any bait, and you’re likely to catch something.
However, when the pressure moves to rise again, you can find it more challenging to catch fish until the high pressure has stabilized.
Fish species will be more affected by barometric pressure based on their air bladder size.
Sunny and warm days are typically not great for ice fishing, but warmer weather can raise the temperature of the water slightly and boost the fish’s metabolism and increase their feeding response.
Warm weather comes with several risks, including melting ice.
Still, if the weather has been well below freezing for a while and then experiences several days of near-freezing temperatures, this can heat the water below and give the fish a bit of a boost.
Of all the weather factors on this list, warm weather has a minor impact since the ice insulates the water so well but still provides marginal improvements in your ice fishing.
As mentioned above, cloudy days are better for ice fishing than sunny days. Snow, however, can act as a pseudo cloud and provide enough barrier between the sun and water to keep the light out.
The more snow there is, the darker the water will be below the ice and the safer and more active the fish. Even with non-cloudy days, you can experience the same benefits as clouds with thick snow.
Keep in mind that if you are fishing outside of a shelter, your ice fishing hole will let light down and can scare fish away from where you are.
Some cover between the hole and the sun, such as a tent, can significantly improve your odds while fishing.
Before a storm, barometric pressure will drop, and fish will go into a feeding frenzy in preparation, giving you some of the best opportunities for fishing.
This principle applies to fishing year-round, too, if you want to improve your summer fishing.
However, be sure to be prepared for the incoming storm since winter storms can be dangerous with limited shelter.
Being stuck out on the lake during a snowstorm can be incredibly dangerous to an unprepared angler.
Following bad weather and storms, fish will also emerge from their dormant behaviors, and feeding will pick up again.
Going fishing soon after storms and bad weather can be an excellent chance to catch that early bite as the weather returns to normal.
Other months of ice fishing can impact how the fish are feeding and acting, and anglers can use this to their advantage.
For example, if you have a three-month fishing season, the first month will be much better for fishing than the third month.
Early in the ice fishing season, fish will be feeding and bringing their weight up to survive winter, and the water will be warmer than it will get later in the season.
You can also read our article on fishes’ winter survival skills.
As the ice fishing season goes on, fish will become more lethargic and spend most of their time doing nothing rather than feeding.
Ice fishing is impacted by weather just as much as summer fishing is, so many weather-related factors go into the best times to go ice fishing.
Temperature plays a role in the activity of the fish and can impact the enjoyment of the trip for the fisherman.
When the weather is just below freezing, fishing is always a suitable temperature where it’s not too warm to start melting the ice and is not too cold to be uncomfortable or challenging.
The weather might not always offer many good weather days, so dress accordingly and watch other environmental factors.