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Every year, several anglers wait a long time for the ice to get thick enough to go ice fishing for walleye. However, not all anglers get lucky. This is why it’s important to use the best live bait for walleye ice fishing as their feeding pattern changes.
- Our Top Walleye Ice Fishing Live Bait Recommendations
- Best Overall Live Bait for Walleye Ice Fishing: Emerald Shiners Minnows
- Most Versatile Live Bait for Walleye Ice Fishing: HomeGrownWorms 100 Live Red Wigglers
- Most Colorful Live Bait for Walleye Ice Fishing: Generic 250 Live Waxworms
- Most Pungent Live Bait for Walleye Ice Fishing: DBDPet Live Mealworms
- Most Realistic Live Bait for Walleye Ice Fishing: Generic Trapdoor Snails
- Features to Consider in Best Live Bait for Walleye Ice Fishing
- Frequently Asked Questions
Our Top Walleye Ice Fishing Live Bait Recommendations
Walleye are one of many species that are popular amongst ice anglers. It is a freshwater fish belonging to the perch family that typically inhabits ponds, rivers, and lakes. More often than usual, they are found in rocky water layers 20 to 60 feet below topwater. They tend to feed on both live and dead lures during dawn and dusk in low-light situations.
However, using live bait for walleye ice fishing tends to be more productive, so, which live bait is the best of the lot? Let’s find out!
Best Overall Live Bait for Walleye Ice Fishing: Emerald Shiners Minnows
Minnows are hands down the top choice when it comes to living bait for ice fishing walleye, with the Emerald Shiners Minnow being a pretty good one on the market. Even though it is not technically ‘live’ bait, these fresh dead minnows are as close to alive as you would get.
Walleye are carnivorous sea creatures; they eat animals and other aquatic animals such as insects, mudpuppies, and snails. They are also opportunistic feeders; they often eat whatever they can feed on, however, minnows magnet them faster than any live bait. Compared to other baits on our list, these minnows can be used effectively all year long under any weather condition and they perform even better during the winter months (December – March).
Furthermore, in contrast to the Generic 250 live waxworms and snails, the Emerald Shiners Minnows are laced with anise scent which is a sweet and incredibly powerful smell that Walleye find irresistible. With this scent on your minnow, you can easily lure out the predatory gamefish. Also, by using the deadstick technique and suspending the minnow, this bait can smack its bottom continuously, creating ample sound to attract walleye.
- Has an anise scent that attracts walleye
- Functional all through the year providing versatility
- Can generate smacking noises that quickly attract walleye
- Not acceptable in all areas, implying you might need alternative bait
- Minnows tend to die quickly after being hooked, reducing effectiveness
- Available in three sizes
- Natural emerald shiner color with anise scent
- Great for trout, panfish, bass, walleye and many other predatory gamefish
Most Versatile Live Bait for Walleye Ice Fishing: HomeGrownWorms 100 Live Red Wigglers
Nightcrawlers are a few of the versatile and universal live baits that charm walleyes and the HomeGrownWorms 100 Live Red Wigglers can catch walleyes all day long. This product is filled with well over a hundred nightcrawlers grown in sustainable conditions.
Similar to the Emerald Shiners Minnow, nightcrawlers are ideal for walleye because of their seasonal adaptability. They can be used during the spring, summer, and fall seasons. However, unlike minnows, they lack an all-around usability characteristic because while they can still be used, they become less effective during the winter months.
Typically, when the water warms up above 60 degrees, nightcrawlers tend to be one of the best bait to catch walleye. This is mainly because, during the late spring months, the defrosting snow elevates river and lakes groundwater levels which advertently flushes out nightcrawlers from the soil and into the water.
This way, they become a natural food source and an excellent live bait for ice fishing walleye. With a simple jighead, that stretches the bait, or a drop shot rig and an active nightcrawler, you’ll be catching a lot of walleyes.
When compared to the Emerald Shiners Minnow, a significant distinction in the HomeGrownWorms 100 Live Red Wigglers is its red juicy look, which tends to attract a walleye’s interest noticeably faster. This is because red, alongside yellow, orange, and green, is most visible to walleye. The major downside here remains the fact that they are more effective in other seasons relative to winter.
- Ample seasonal adaptability trait allowing for varied use
- Suitable color and appearance that interest walleye
- Natural food source making them an instant attraction for walleye
- Less favorable in winter months leading to reduced effectiveness
- Fixing on a hook can be difficult as they tend to be slimy
- FREE Care & Maintenance Instructional Sheet Included! No more Fear of raising Worms!
- Live, healthy red wiggler earthworms
- Grown in Sustainable Conditions
Most Colorful Live Bait for Walleye Ice Fishing: Generic 250 Live Waxworms
The Generic 250 Live Waxworms are an ideal bait for ice fishing walleye because of their delicate, flaky, and moist texture. Waxworms are among popular baits for fishing Walleye and other members of the Percidae family including ruffee, sauger, and all three perch species.
Waxies are the larvae form of the bee moth and typically have dry outer skin, however, they have a creamy texture on the inside that attracts walleye. Furthermore, when punctured with a hook, they emit a distinct odor that immediately attracts a walleye. However, the anise scent of Emerald Shiners Minnows is stronger than that of this product.
Waxworms are one inch long or smaller, constructed like caterpillars, and are off-white or yellowish in appearance. Based on walleye color perception, its yellowish tint frequently attracts the fish. Waxies, like Emerald Shiners Minnows, perform exceptionally well in the cold and over the winter months, with their efficacy generating significant returns from winter to late spring.
Despite not being a natural food source, these feeder insects are habitually devoured by walleye. However, one downside is that they lack seasonal versatility and becomes totally ineffective in the summer months.
The Generic 250 Live Waxworms are also durable baits; they adapt impressively well to multiple temperatures, including extremely cold temperatures. Most fishing enthusiasts refrigerate them in plastic boxes or cans between 55 degrees Fahrenheit to 63 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately a month or two. They develop into the pupa stage after twenty days, however, if preserved correctly at colder temperatures, this time can be prolonged to five months.
- Emits strong odor that attracts walleye
- Can be refrigerated and preserved for long, ensuring extended use
- Generates significant returns during winter and spring months implying effectiveness
- Colorful appearance interests walleye
- Lacks all-round seasonal usability, reducing versatility
- Not a natural food source
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- Care instructions: Keep in a Dry Cool Place
Most Pungent Live Bait for Walleye Ice Fishing: DBDPet Live Mealworms
Mealworms are universal and prime baits for ice fishing that are excellent for attracting walleye and this makes them the most reliable live bait on our list. The homegrown DBDPet Live Mealworms are quite juicy and robust and for walleye, they are tasty and a protein-rich dish. Walleye are attracted to this bait for two reasons: smell and action.
As a natural food source, walleye consistently search for mealies and they smell them from a distance. Comparatively, this product’s scent is much more powerful than the Generic 250 Live Waxworms and the Emerald Shiners Minnow anise scent.
Furthermore, as predatory fish, walleye are often drawn out by a mealworm’s wriggling movement, especially in cold conditions; they are relatively slow and happy to jump on a free meal. However, they don’t produce near the motion a nightcrawler does.
The flexibility of mealworms to lure both tiny and large walleye is a distinguishing feature of this live bait that other lures on this list lack. They are also versatile enough to be used during cold temperatures in winter and warmer temperatures in summer.
Like waxworms, you can store mealworms in cans and plastic boxes to prevent them from freezing. They can also be refrigerated for two weeks and be prevented from turning into beetles.
For this bait, anglers typically use a size 10 or 12 when hooking a mealworm for bait and if the mealie is bigger than usual, use a size 6 to hook it sideways. This furthers its scent dispersion and hooks it better.
- Adequate odor for scent dispersion increasing bait effectiveness
- All round seasonal versatility
- Wriggling motion captures walleye attention
- Natural food source, so, it is easy to access
- They can’t be preserved for long
- They may turn into beetles sooner than expected
- 1,000 Guaranteed Live Mealworms
- DBDPet Mealworm Care Sheet Available Upon Request
Most Realistic Live Bait for Walleye Ice Fishing: Generic Trapdoor Snails
Walleye are carnivores and in their natural environment, they eat any inferior sea animals including invertebrates like snails. The Generic Trapdoor Snails feature adult snails that effectively lure out walleye when ice fishing. They contain healthy content such as protein, calcium, and healthy fat that is essential to the growth of a walleye.
Since they have such a high nutritional value, walleye are instinctively drawn to them. Their distinct body appearance and color also appeal to walleye. Since snails are slow creatures, walleye use their speed to their advantage and quickly snap them up. This pattern can equally be repeated to bait the opportunistic feeders by hooking up the mouth with a size 10 hook and shaking the bait in an up-and-down motion.
You could also decide to crack its shell, however, this puts it at the risk of dying faster. On the other hand, compared to DBDPet Live Mealworms, this lure does not produce a lot of action when ice fishing for walleye.
Snails are also relatively simple to store; they may be kept in a container in warm weather and also kept in outbuildings or a shed during the winter months. In terms of seasonal adaptability, the Generic Trapdoor Snails, like the Emerald Shiners Minnow, can be employed in any weather conditions and performs well throughout the winter months. Oftentimes, they end up reproducing which is an added advantage as it serves as more bait for ice fishing.
- Natural food source for walleye, implying that they would be greatly attracted to them
- Suitable for all seasons, implying versatility
- Can be preserved for a long time
- They tend to die quickly after being hooked
- No scent dispersion impacting effectiveness in water and lowering the possibility of walleye picking up on the scent
- Limited action in water reducing the chances of walleye picking up on bait’s presence
Features to Consider in Best Live Bait for Walleye Ice Fishing
Now that you know the top live baits that are most likely to attract a walleye during ice fishing, it’s equally important to discuss indispensable and must-have aspects of live bait. This sort of information such as color, scent, or presence of sound would serve as a guide to help you choose the most appropriate bait.
|Emerald Shiners Minnows||HomeGrownWorms 100 Live Red Wigglers||The Generic 250 Live Waxworms||DBDPet Live Mealworms||Generic Trapdoor Snails|
|Color||Olive green||Red||Yellowish||Golden brown||Brown|
|Scent||Anise Scent||No scent||Natural scent||Natural scent||No scent|
|Vibration/Sound||Makes smacking sound||No sound||No sound||No sound||No sound|
|Seasonal Adaptability||Works all seasons||Spring, Summer, and Fall||Winter, Spring, and Fall||Works all seasons||Works all seasons|
Walleyes rely heavily on their eyesight when they are actively hunting for prey. The pupil in their large eye allows them to gather as much light as possible which in turn makes their daytime vision outstanding and their night vision equally stellar. This explains why nighttime ice fishing for walleyes is as productive as daytime walleye ice fishing.
They also have excellent color vision and for this reason, they react faster to red, yellow, orange, and green. Therefore, it’s advisable your bait has either of these colors so you can easily bait a walleye. For example, the Generic 250 Live Waxworms and DBDPet Live Mealworms are great live baits with colors that instantly attract walleye.
If you would be fishing in murky water, it is advisable to use very sharp colors that would cut through the blur and appear distinct to walleye. Extra bright colors like red and green can do the trick here.
Principal to a successful walleye ice fishing experience is a live bait with a scent that effectively disperses to a reaching distance. This is because walleye have an acute sense of smell that aids them in tracking their prey.
Therefore, you should exploit its reliance on scent by using live bait that adequately disperses scent. The Emerald Shiners Minnows, Generic 250 Live Waxworms, and DBDPet Live Mealworms all have amazing scents that disperse rapidly and interest walleye.
However, if your bait does not have any scent or you’re unsatisfied with its scent level, you can try rubbing garlic, eel scent, or a bait wax on your live bait. You also rub them on your jigs, hooks, or metal blades.
Walleye detect immediate vibration in water through their lateral line sensitivity and swim bladder. Although they lack visible external and middle ears, they have an inner ear structure and consequently they hear well in water. These three components function well together, allowing gamefish to sense even little changes in water as far as their body lengths.
By this theory, you should opt for an energetic bait that will create flapping or smacking sounds enough to trigger an aggressive sound. You should also bear in mind that the more aggressive the walleye, the more it relies on sounds and vibrations.
A good example of live bait on our list with this feature is the Emerald Shiner Minnows; by using the deadstick technique, a minnow can create slapping noises that attract walleye. However, it’s important to note that some noises and vibrations magnets walleye while some tend to spook them.
When going ice fishing for walleye, you need a bait that is cold tolerant and can resist the cold of the winter months. You wouldn’t want to fish with a bait that dies off easily after a few dips in ice. So ensure you do enough research and find out the temperatures your live bait can survive in.
Into the topic, certain baits attract walleye exceptionally well during some weather conditions compared to others. For example, minnows have an all-around usability feature – they can be used all through the year – and perform better during winter months. Similarly, nightcrawlers can function in all seasons, especially during late spring.
On the whole, ensure your bait can work perfectly and yield massive returns during the winter months. Frequently, a live bait that works in winter can be used up to late spring, however, it seldom yields the same result in summer. Ensure your bait is versatile enough for all seasons to be on the safe side.
Frequently Asked Questions
When Is the Best Time for Ice Fishing Walleye?
The best time would be a few hours after sunrise and a couple of hours before sunset. The golden hours typically produce trophy walleye while sunset produces walleye, amongst other fish species. Night fishing walleye can also be rewarding. According to several ice anglers, anytime is a good time for ice fishing walleye.
Are Walleyes Aggressive?
Yes, walleye are naturally aggressive, however, they are less aggressive in the winter months. They tend to be sluggish due to the cold, compared to when they are in warmer temperatures. You can take advantage of their sluggishness and bait them with their go-to mealies.
How Big Can Walleye Get?
A walleye’s average size is about 15 to 20 inches and 1 to 4 pounds. However, it can grow up to a length of 31 to 35 inches and weigh as huge as 20 to 25lb. Generally, female walleye are bigger than males and the species’ maximum size is dependent on certain conditions such as oxygen levels, water temperatures, food availability, and river size.
Multiple baits will lure out a walleye when ice fishing, artificial baits also work quite well. However, live bait provides more action and naturalness that instantly captures a walleye’s attention. Also, ensure your live bait has the necessary features and make sure that live baits are legally permitted in your state.