Sunfish are fun to catch no matter what your age. They’re usually easier to find and catch than most other species of fish. Sunfish make a great meal too.
If you want to catch more Sunfish the two most important keys are location and presentation. You could have the most appealing bait in the world but if there aren’t any fish around it’s going to be a long day. And, not catching a thing while everyone else around you is catching fish can be really frustrating. What you present to the fish is just as important as finding them.
The information found here is best used along with some investigative work done by you. Finding out what the Department of Natural Resources says about a lake and talking to local anglers, especially at the bait shop, can save you a ton of time finding the fish and knowing what they’re biting on.
Sunfish can be ice fished at any hour of the day but changing light conditions in the morning and evening usually triggers more activity and feeding.
Sunfish Ice Fishing Location
In early winter Sunfish can be found in the same places they were just prior to ice up. Look for them in shallow weeds and just off the weed line. Especially when the weeds are combined with shoreline breaks and points.
By mid-winter the Sunfish will have moved off the structure, usually to the nearest deep basin. Start by looking for them suspended in the basin near the structure and at the same depth of the structure. Sunfish follow food so as the zooplankton and minnows move, so do the Sunfish.
Late winter they’ll begin to move in closer to the bays and weed lines. Sunfish spawn in shallow, dark bottom bays after the ice is out. You’ll find them moving closer to these spawning areas as spring approaches.
Before we switch gears and talk about presentation, remember locating Sunfish is only half the battle. Don’t just drill one hole. Instead, drill several holes and find the fish.
Using modern electronics can also help you find fish faster. Depth, fish, and structure can all be seen using a flasher (Vexilar or Marcum).
Sunfish Ice Fishing Presentation
OK, you’ve found the Sunfish, now let’s look at some effective techniques to get them on the ice!
The most effective ice fishing presentation is jigging. Jigging is basically raising your rod tip about a foot, then dropping it back down to its starting position.
A very effective method is to raise and drop the tip, wait 5-10 seconds and repeat the raise/drop.
Another jigging technique made popular by the pro ice fisherman Dave Genz is pounding the jig. Pounding a jig is basically jiggling your rod tip up and down just an inch or two very quickly.
If you’re not using a flasher and have no idea what depth the fish are at, start by jigging near the bottom. If you don’t find fish, come up a foot or two. Continue the process until you either find fish or reach the ice with your lure.
Now that you’ve got the hang of jigging, let’s look at the lure/bait you’re using. There are several jigs that have proved effective over time. Be willing to experiment with any of the jigs pictured below.
Vertical Sunfish Jigs
Northland Tackle Doodle Bug
Horizontal Sunfish Jigs
HT Enterprises Marmooska
Custom Jigs & Spins Rat Finke
System Tackle Genz Worm
System Tackle Fat Boy
Using live bait is important to trigger a bite. Tipp your jig with either a lively Waxworm or Eurolarvae.
In most places, while ice fishing you’re allowed more than one rod. I usually set up a second rod with a float (bobber) and a lively grub on a small hook or jig while ice fishing for Sunfish.
Hopefully, you’ve found something new to try in these tips for Sunfish that will help you ice more fish.
What most people consider luck is usually a combination of preparation and practice so get out there and enjoy the practice!