When Ice Fishing, Does the Time of Day Matter?


The time of day that you ice fish can have huge effects on how well you do and how many fish you catch. It is crucial to learn the patterns of the fish. I have some tips and knowledge that answers the question, “does the time of day matter?”

The time of day does matter. Generally, ice fishing is most productive in the early morning before sunrise and then again as the sun is going down. Of course, you can ice fish during the day but the prime hours are early in the morning and at night. That is when the fish feed. Watch for a “calm before the storm” period. This is a prime time for ice fishing.

Ice fishing involves a lot of understanding the world around you and the wildlife. It is a great sport that teaches to understand the cycle of the day and the life of a fish. Studying the fish and their habits will give you the advantage. Let’s dive into some more thoughts I have.

Fish During Sunrise and Sunset

Fish are most active during the sunrise or the sunset of the day. There is a small window of a couple of hours when the prime time to catch is active. You can fish all day but it may be a little more difficult. Many people have said that there is a “magical hour” of fishing which is an hour before sunset and an hour after. These are the hours for feeding.

You can use that to your advantage. You can target the prime feeding areas based on the style of the fish. I would recommend studying a specific fish’s feeding habits, how they hunt, etc.

Early morning is prime feeding time because that is what fuels the fish throughout the day. It is kind of like us as humans. The morning feeding does not last as long as a late-day feeding. In order to fully optimize this morning trip, you want to be there before the feeding frenzy happens.

Fortunately, the early morning is not as early in the winter. Think about it. The sun comes up much later in the winter than it does in the summer. Fish and other wildlife follow the cycle of nature and so they wake up later in the winter. Keep that in mind so you are not waking up at like 2 in the morning to go on a fishing trip. Have a plan of where to fish set in motion before you get out on the ice.

Where should you ice fish during these times? Search for structures in the water. Some fish hunt other, smaller fish. A trout is a fine example of this. They use structures and the layout of the water to hunt. They look for structures to trap smaller fish so they can’t get away.

Open water is not ideal for a predator. You can use this knowledge to your advantage. Create a hole and put your line down on a drop-off or around an underwater plateau. Trout tend to use these for hunting often.

If there is a bay-like structure, put your line at the entry into the larger body of water. The fish have to bottleneck to get through that area which creates more chances for the fish to encounter your lure. Look for ways to outsmart the fish and you will become a great angler on the ice in no time.

Does Weather Effect the Time Frame?

The weather has a huge effect on wildlife. They seem to inherently understand the future weather. They know what is to come and they prepare for it. There is a lesson to be learned from animals I think. Knowing this and understanding the weather will be a great asset to you.

The best time to fish is the calm before a storm. Let’s say that a snowstorm has just ripped through the area and now it is calm and the weather is moderate. The wildlife understands this and they go on a feeding frenzy and stock up. The fish are similar. If you want to have a great catch, fish during these days. I suggest still getting up early in the morning and staying until sunset. Just know that you will catch more.

Right before the storm, the weather is moderate but the low pressure will build up and then a storm will hit. This low pressure happens days before the storm happens. You have to act and so do the fish. The wildlife can sense the low-pressure system coming and they prepare for it. Watching how wildlife acts will help you find those prime times.

This sudden haste will make the whole day open for great ice fishing. They will be feeding throughout most of the day. The weather is so important to your success. Watch the patterns and then fishing is more effective than all-day fishing.

Another small tip: Watch the birds. The birds are a telltale sign. Birds will feed heavily during the calm before the storm. If the birds are feeding more vigorously, then there is a good chance that the fish are as well.

If you learn to watch the weather and the birds, you can get a good ice fishing session in right before a storm hits. Understanding nature pays off in this circumstance.

Does the Early or Late Season Effect How I Should Fish During the Day?

The early season tends to be warmer and the later season tends to be colder. This can affect your fishing habits but does it make a difference when it comes to the time of day? Let’s talk about it.

In the early season, the ice tends to be thinner and that means the fish can see you easier. If you go early in the morning before tons of light is out, you may be able to conceal yourself somewhat. The fish will hide less and sense you less. They would still hear you for the most part but at least you will be hidden a little more.

Early ice is easier to fish on because it is more shallow. In the early season, the temperature suits them closer to the top. This is helpful for you because when you go early in the morning, you can set up faster. The early season is a time to relatively catch fish with ease. You do not have as much space that you have to cover to find fish.

Because of the relative ease, you can go at most times of the day. You do have to be careful not to scare away the fish. The weather during this time is more brutal than later in the season. If you do not have the proper clothing, you will suffer. The mornings and nights are really cold. They are still the prime times but only fishing during these times if you have the proper clothing to keep you warm.

Late in the season presents itself as an interesting time to fish. The ice is thicker and the bottom of the water column is where the fish like to hide. Well, at least for the most part. Since they are closer to the bottom, that means you will be spending more time trying to find the fish. You may have to get up early for that. In theory, you could say that the sun comes up early in the late winter but with daylight savings, not much changes.

In fact, it will be a little later in the day because we go up an hour. Instead of around 6, the sun will come out around 7. That means you can get a little more sleep than before. This happens during March, which is the end of the season. You may not be doing as much ice fishing at this point anyways.

The days will most likely get longer which means that the night feeding will be later in the day. Prepare for long days on the ice if you are going to do that. The fish will follow the cycle of the day and that is how you know when they will feed.

William Skye

Hello! I am a student at BYU-Idaho. I love to be outside and I am always trying to find new things to do in the great outdoors! I have grown up camping and I was a part of scouts when I was younger, so being outside is in my blood.

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