Ice Fishing Lures: Which Worms Work Best?

Have you been looking for ice fishing tips to help you choose the best natural baits? Don’t worry, when it comes to finding out which worms are most effective at attracting your freshwater stone quarry, you’ve come to the right place. While three of these ice fishing baits are technically considered insect larvae, unlike real worms (red wigglers are the exception), they each work well when different ice fishing techniques are used.


Butterworms, also called tebro worms, are one of the most popular baits to use when ice fishing for rainbow trout. One of the ice fishing tips that you need to remember is that butterworms work best when kept dry and alive. Keep them in sawdust to keep them alive. When you’re ready to fish, simply glue a few butterworms to the hook of a spoon, drop it into your ice fishing hole, and start jigging. Don’t forget to take a break occasionally so the fish can take your bait.

Wax worms

Wax worms are aptly named because they feed on beeswax. They are the larvae of the bee moth and are good natural baits to use when ice fishing for bluegill, crappie or sunfish. When storing waxworms, it is best to use a small container of sawdust and keep it in the refrigerator. You can freeze fish with wax worms with a # 6 bait holder hook under a float, or use small teardrop or pipe devices. The wax worms soften and fall off the hook after a few drops. So change your bait often.


Spikes are fly larvae or maggots. Due to the very small size of these natural ice fishing lures, they are particularly suitable for catching panfish with small mouths such as crappie or perch. Spikes can be a little difficult to attach to your hook due to their small size. However, since they’re not as soft as waxworms or butterworms, they stay a little better. If the fish don’t seem to be taking on larger natural baits, spikes are worth a try. Spikes are another natural ice fishing bait that should be kept in an airtight storage bag or container in the refrigerator.

Red wiggler

When fishing in cold weather, you’re only pinching about an inch of a red wiggler when threading it on your hook or jig head. The key is to actively wiggle your red wiggles by preventing them from freezing. Red wigglers work best when aiming for walleye or trout, but are usually too much for panfish when fishing through the ice in the winter months.

Since not everyone in the house is interested in keeping natural baits in the family fridge, you can always use a mini fridge and store the baits in the garage instead. Use these ice fishing tips for natural baits so you can catch more fish this winter. Before heading out for the hard water, make sure you have an up-to-date fishing license, read your state’s fishing regulations, and understand the safety guidelines for ice fishing.

Debbie Hanson

Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide in southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has been featured in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit or follow her on Instagram @ shefishes2.

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