Can I Ice Fish At Night? A Complete Guide with Places & Tips

As winter approaches and the day becomes shorter, many anglers can’t help but wonder whether they can spend more time doing what they love when the sun goes down.

Night fishing in general is a great experience that has its benefits, but what about ice fishing at night?

Can I ice fish at night? Yes, you can ice fish at night. Night ice fishing allows you to catch different species that are most active at night like crappies and walleye. Other species can be caught at night too if you used certain tactics.

Keep reading to find your way to the simplest guide on how you ice fish at night, where you can fish, and tips on how to make the best out of the experience.

Can I Ice fish at night? 

an image of man ice fishing at dawn to illustrate how can I fish at night

It’s good to know that not all fish prefer to stay put during the night. This fact encourages many anglers to try ice fishing at night and explore which fish can bite in the dark.

As a matter of fact, fishing at night can be more effective in some cases; some fish feeding habits make them more active during the night chasing their prey, other fish get easily spooked during the day when there’s a lot of traffic and noise on the surface and nighttime is their best choice to roam freely in the open waters.

You have good chances to catch trophy walleye and crappie when you’re ice fishing at night. Besides successful catches, fishing at night is a thrilling experience that combines the quietness of the night with the victory of catching your target fish.

Is it legal to ice fish at night? 

So, is it legal to ice fish at night? Yes, it’s legal to ice fish at night as long as you follow the safety precautions. You need to check the ice thickness before stepping on it and make sure it’s in suitable thickness to carry any vehicles if you’re using one. It’s also important not to drive at high speeds on ice. 

Ice fishing at night is legal in general, but you have to follow the precautions of the specific lake you’re going to. Sometimes it’s prohibited to step on ice because it’s not thick enough, other times you can step on it but without any vehicles or heavy equipment.

Note: I’m not authorized to give legal advice, if you think it may be illegal to ice fish in the area you’re heading to, it’s better to check with the authorities not to face charges.

Is it hard to catch fish at night? 

No fish is hard to catch at night if you used the right equipment and lures for it paired with the right technique that gets the fish to bite. Many fish species are known to be more active at night, hence, easier to catch.

Your success in catching your target fish while ice fishing at night also depends on the spot you’re fishing in. Whether you choose to use GPS devices that help to detect fish markings or you prefer to do it by yourself, you must know the prime spots that your target fish stay in during nighttime. You can check out the best Ice Fishing Fish Finders here.

It may help to do your research on your target fish habits before you hit a frozen lake to catch it, to see if they’re active at night. Species like trout, bass, bluegill, pike, and perch can be caught at night but they can be harder to catch in certain conditions. While the most popular fish to catch by ice fishing at night are crappie and walleye.

How to Ice Fish for Crappie at Night?

Crappies are fun to catch whether you’re a professional or beginner angler. They’re easier to catch at night due to their feeding habits; they feed more heavily on zooplankton and other bigger creatures when it gets dark.  

To successfully catch crappie at night you need to use small-to-medium size highly visible lures to match their prey. Try Bassdash Glowing Paint Jigs for Winter Ice Jigging on Amazon to maximize your chances.

In early winter, find the cover of weed lines and thick weed beds in 5-to-15 feet (1.5-to-4.5 meters) of water, that’s where crappies usually stay. In mid-winter, they’re usually found in 10-to-20 feet (3-to-6 meters) of water. During late winter when the water temperature starts to rise again, you’ll find them in shallow waters.

Drill 15-to-20 holes in these areas to ensure a successful catch of crappies at night.

Pro Tip
Using underwater green light in shallow water will attract planktons and other small fish that crappies feed on, so you’ll be attracting crappies as well.

How to Ice Fish for Walleye at Night?

Walleye are also popular in night ice fishing, they’re very active at night and their strong night vision allows them to feed heavily in the dark. Using highly visible lures will make your task much easier. Try Jason Mitchell Rattling Blade Spoon for better results.

To entice walleye to catch your lure at night, stick to shorter jigging moves with your wrist. That creates vibration in the water that walleye can sense from a distance. Cast your lures 4-to-5 feet (1.2-to-1.5 meters) in the water to catch big walleyes, if you have no luck there try going for shallower casts about 1-to-2 feet (about 0.3-to-0.6 meters) into the water. 

For the best chances of bringing your fish home, whether you’re fishing at day or night, I suggest your check out my recommended Ice Fishing Lines here. These are my personal favorites after years of testing, and I think you will love them just as much as I do once you put them to the test.

Is it safe to ice fish at night? 

So, is it safe to ice fish at night? Yes, it is safe to ice fish at night but like any other experience, it has its own risks. You can avoid these risks by planning your trip accurately and being prepared with the things you’ll need. Following specific precautions will help you enjoy ice fishing at night safely.

A few things can go wrong in ice fishing at night, given the fact that it’s risky to stay outside during extreme conditions. If you can’t thoroughly plan your trip, the spots you’ll target, the feeding habits of the fish you’ll target, and the right gear then don’t go as going unplanned will result in unwanted consequences

You need to be prepared for expected scenarios as well. People often make use of the quietness of the lake at night and drive their snowmobiles at higher speeds, they can pump into you if you’re not using lights around you or you’re not wearing reflective clothes.

Keeping in touch with someone is essential to avoid possible risks if you’re fishing alone. Generally, it’s advisable to go ice fishing at night with a partner, but if you can’t do that make sure you have a good connection with someone at home who knows where you’re going and when you’ll be back.

It’s also essential to check with your locals before heading to the frozen lake. You need to check the ice thickness, water movement, and weather conditions. If you’re used to checking the ice thickness yourself, follow this guide:

  • 2 inches (5 cm) thick or less: don’t step on it.
  • 4 inches (about 10 cm) thick: safe to step on.
  • 5 inches (about 12.5 cm) thick: safe for a snowmobile or ATV.
  • 8-to-12 inches (about 20-to-30.5 cm) thick: safe for a car or small pickup.

Here is a list of things to include in your backpack when you’re going ice fishing at night to ensure that you’ll enjoy it while being safe:

  • An extra layer of clothes
  • Extra batteries and portable power bank battery charger for your cell phone.
  • A throw rope
  • A pair of rescue claws
  • A floatation suit
  • A bottle of water to stay hydrated

What is the best time to ice fish at night? 

So, what’s the best time to ice fish at night? The best time to ice fish at night is within the first two hours after sunrise and two hours before and after sunset. The best time depends on what fish you’re going for as many fish have different prime times to feed. It also depends on the lake you’re fishing in and the water condition.

Both dusk and dawn are great choices when it comes to ice fishing during the night. But if you can’t stay the whole night to try both, which one is more effective and works best for you?


Fishing two hours after sunrise can guarantee to catch bigger fish. They’re active during this time of the day and many anglers like to make use of this fact. One of the best ways to make the best out of this time of the day is to wake and get prepared one hour before sunrise. 

Arriving at the lake and drilling your holes 30 minutes before the sun starts to appear is essential to ensure that you’re done drilling before the fish are active not to spook them.

Vary your retrieve during this time of the day, the most popular technique is to be fast with hot lure action to entice the fish to catch it.


The two hours before and after sunset are prime times for catching different species of fish. Crappie and walleye are most popular during this time of the day and your chances of catching one in shallow water are high.

You need to get prepared an hour earlier to drill your holes before these two hours strike. Your lure will be effective up to midnight and you’ll get more catches than you think.

Pros and Cons of ice fishing at night

Ice fishing at night can be a breath-taking experience, but like any other experience, it has its pros and cons. To make an informed decision whether night fishing is for or not you need to check the following list.

Pros of Ice Fishing at Night

  1. Longer time

Since winter day is very short, most people don’t get to enjoy fishing before it gets dark, especially those who work from nine to five. Ice fishing at night gives you the opportunity to enjoy fishing for extra time to keep trying to catch fish.

  1. Quieter circumstances

Frozen lakes become a lot quieter at night, which encourages fish that are easily spooked to roam freely in the open water. You’ll have more free space that allows you to pick prime spots as you like.

  1. Some fish are more active after dark

These fish include muskie, walleye, and crappie. Other fish can be caught during the night too but these are the most popular; they love colder and darker waters so when it gets dark they immigrate back to the top and become easier to spot.

  1. Less wind

In many places, the wind tends to blow less at night than it does at day so it’s much easier to tolerate it and stay longer on the ice.

Cons of Ice Fishing at Night

  1. Limited odds

It’s true that some fish are more active during the night, but the number stays limited. If you like to go after various species, ice fishing at night is not for you. The popular species you’ll have good chances to catch are limited to walleye, crappie, pike, trout, and catfish.

  1. More risky

Ice fishing at night is exciting but you can’t overlook its dangers. Staying outside on freezing nights is risky especially in extreme weather conditions. Also, people tend to ride their snowmobiles at higher speeds at night thinking there’s no one there, so you need to look out for that.

  1. More exhausting

You may get tired after several hours of moving back and forth between drilled holes which can be exhausting especially after a day at work. In addition, the quietness of the night can make you sleepy, and falling asleep on the ice during the night is not a good idea.

11 Tips For Great Catches With Night Ice Fishing

  1. Stay safe

The first and most important tip when you go ice fishing at night is to pay attention to your safety. Night fishing can be fun but also dangerous. 

  • Check the weather forecast for the specific place you’re going to and make sure the weather conditions are not risky.
  • Let someone know where you are and when you’ll be back if you’re fishing alone. 
  • Make sure the ice thickness is safe to walk on.
  • Always have a headlamp to look where you’re going.
  1. Be well-prepared

Ice fishing at night is a fun experience that you don’t want to ruin by coming unprepared with light clothes or uncomfortable surroundings. The key to a successful night fishing is concentration so don’t miss that.

  • Wear an extra layer of clothes and bring portable shelter if possible. You don’t want to spend the time worrying about how freezing it is.
  • Pick a comfortable chair.
  • Bring energy drinks to help you stay alert.
  • Bring snacks you enjoy in case you feel hungry.
  • Move around if you feel sleepy.
  1. Pick your spots in the daylight

Yes, ice night fishing will require you to start your fishing trip a little early. Detecting prime spots can be hard during the day let alone in the darkness of the night. So make sure to scout out the spots before it gets dark. Keep in mind that the quietest spots in daylight are the most active at night.

  1. Wear reflective clothes

This is important at night where some people are riding around on snowmobiles at high speeds and they may not see you. If you’re bringing a tint for your equipment, stick some reflective tape on it or put a huge source of light next to it to make it visible.

  1. Drill multiple holes

The ideal number is about 10-to-15 holes with different thicknesses. You need to keep moving between them till a fish decides to strike. Moving every 30 minutes between different holes when the bite slows down will allow you to cover more water and find another productive spot.

  1. Bring a variety of lures

You may want to stick with glowing or highly visible lures when you’re ice fishing at night, but bringing other options to try won’t cost you much and it’ll maximize your chances to catch fish.

  1. Use devices

You don’t absolutely need them to succeed, but they’ll make your night fishing easier and more efficient. Fish can be a little unpredictable during the night and having a smart device that helps you to detect fish markings to determine which hole you’ll be targeting.

  1. Produce vibrations in the water

Most fish active at night have strong night vision that allows them to see your lures, but vibrations can make them detect it faster. They rely on their lateral lines that run along their body to detect vibrations from prey.

  1. Use two rods

How to double your chances? Double your rods! If you’re fishing somewhere where using multiple rods is legal, you’re in luck. Two rods will help you focus on two holes instead of one to maximize your chances.

  1. Go for live bait

Glowing lures are a great choice when fishing at night, but you don’t want to miss the benefits of live bait as well. The glowy lure may catch the fish’s eye but it can still be reluctant to attack, but the scent of the live bait will be hard to resist. Worms, waxies, and minnow heads are all great choices to hook with your lure.

  1. Keep trying

Everyone is talking about how effective night fishing is and how easy it is to catch fish, but don’t feel frustrated if you have no luck the first time. All the tips and advice are based on real personal experiences of anglers, yours can be different and the only way to know is to try.

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Related Questions 

Can you ice fish at night in Ontario? 

Yes, you can ice fish at night in Ontario. However, you’re not allowed to stay the whole night at your ice shacks overnight there due to COVID-19 recent regulations by the government. You can come early and set your spot, spend some time fishing and then travel back in less than 24 hours. 

Can You ice fish at night in Saskatchewan? 

Yes, you can ice fish at night in Saskatchewan. It doesn’t have special regulations, except that Ice fishing shacks must have the owner’s full name, address, and phone number in legible letters at least 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) high on the outside of the shack.

Can You ice fish at night in Michigan? 

Yes, you can fish at night in Michigan. You should follow the DNR tips of not fishing alone, steering clear of dark spots or places where the snow looks discolored, keeping the hole at 8-to-10 inches (about 20-to-25.5 cm) in diameter to accommodate the size of most fish species.

Can You ice fish at night in Wisconsin? 

Yes, you can ice fish at night in Wisconsin. You should note that Wisconsin DNR does not monitor ice conditions or the thickness of the ice so be sure to check ice conditions before heading out. If it’s less than 4 inches (about 10 cm) thick don’t step on it.

Can You ice fish at night in Maine? 

Yes, you can ice fish at night in Maine. all waters open to ice fishing are open to ice fishing 24 hours a day. Note that all lines must be under the immediate supervision of the person who set them. 

Can You ice fish at night in Alberta? 

Yes, you can ice fish at night in Alberta. However, you need to check the specific lake restrictions not to face any possible charges. Generally, you need to follow safety precautions and check the water condition, ice thickness, and weather condition before you head out.

Helpful Resources 

Ice Fishing – Michigan Gov

Thirteen ice fishing safety tips you need to know

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