Ice Fishing in Missouri

For most Northern Missouri anglers, frozen lakes and ponds symbolize the end of the fishing season. For some, however, the “hard water” season in Missouri is the beginning of one of the best fishing periods of the year.

Anglers who brave the colder temperatures quickly realize the great opportunity to extend their fishing season. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the number of ice anglers is on the rise in our state. Missouri has great fishing for panfish. The numerous small lakes and ponds in Missouri, many of them public, offer exceptional bluegill and crappie angling for both numbers and size, and ice fishing is one of the cheapest and simplest types of angling. There are no boats or expensive gear requirements, and great fishing is accessible for anyone who is willing to walk, sometimes even just a few strides from shore. Also, the fish are reasonably easy to catch and, taken from very cold water, fish fillets of any species taste as good as they ever will.

If you have ever thought about trying ice fishing, but didn’t know where to start, here are the basics.

Safety First

“Is the ice safe yet?” is the first question to ask, and the most important consideration. It is impossible to determine if ice will hold you just by the appearance from the bank. Ice strength is determined by such factors as ice thickness, daily temperature, snow cover, depth of water under the ice, size of the lake, wind, current, and wildlife activity.

Wait to walk onto the ice until local high temperatures have been well below freezing (32 degrees) for several days. With your fishing buddy (never ice fish alone), go out 3 or 4 feet from the bank and make a hole. If there is at least 4 inches of ice, continue another 10 or 15 feet and make another hole. If everything is still safe and you feel comfortable, keep going, opening holes every 50 feet to make sure ice thickness hasn’t changed.

Remember: ice rarely forms in uniform thickness. It can be 6 inches in one spot, and 2 inches just a few feet away. An example is areas that have been kept open by ducks and geese. Always be aware of the type of ice you are drilling through, and distinguish between ice and snow. Snow on top of ice does not help ice freeze faster, rather it