Is Ice Fishing Better When It’s Snowing?

Any time is a good time to get outside and go fishing, right? Well, some of my better days of ice fishing have been days with snow in them! There are several fishing spots I love to hit when while it’s snowing!

Snow falling lightly can give you an edge when it comes to landing fish through the ice, and here’s why that’s so.

Ice fishing, while it’s snowing with a light covering on snow on the ice, can be the best time to fish, especially in early winter. There is less sunlight penetrating the ice, the snow muffles your approach and movements from above, and you won’t cast a shadow through the clear ice to scare the fish.

Fishing in the snow is one of my favorite times to go. Some of the best bites you will find are when a storm front moves in, and the barometric pressure drops. When snowfall is predicted in your area, you are very likely going to see these conditions!

Now I’m not saying I want to fish in a howling blizzard, but one of my favorite times to fish the local lakes is when the snow falls for various reasons.

  • Fish are less likely to spook
  • Overcast skies
  • You make less noise on the ice
  • Easier to walk on the ice
  • Fewer people will be out there

There are more reasons why ice fishing when it’s snowing is a good time to go! And a few things you’re going to want to watch out for!

Ice Fishing While It’s Snowing

Here’s the thing about ice fishing while it’s snowing; for me, it’s a peaceful time as long as the wind isn’t blowing too hard and the snow isn’t flying by sideways!

Man Ice Fishing on Lake
Ice Fishing While Snowing

Strong winds are the killer for me and what will send me home the quickest! But a nice snow coming down on a quiet lake for myself is akin to relaxing by a campfire and staring into the flames.

The Fish Are Less Likely To Be Spooked When It’s Snowing

You’ll find the fish, especially panfish, to be less nervous and more willing to come into shallow waters to feed more often when there is snow around. This gives you more opportunity to hook into trophy fish.

And being in shallow waters, your target fish will have more structure, rocks, and vegetation to hold next to. These areas will also hold baitfish and crustaceans the fish prey upon.

Having snow cover on the ice during the day blankets the underwater to dawn or dusk-like environment when fish normally come out to feed.

Snowy Overcast Skies Are Better When Ice Fishing

There are a couple of things about fishing with an overcast sky which I like.

The first one is very little sun glare on the ice and reflecting off the snow, makings it easier for my eyes to remain on the ice for a full day. Even when wearing dark sunglasses on a bright day, your eyes can become fatigued.

Pro Tip: With less glare on the ice, you will also have less chance of sunburn. Always carry sunblock with you. I bring sunblock with at least an SPF 50 rating. I’ve used my friend’s sunblock when I’ve lost or forgot mine, and they’ve used mine!

Even with minimal snow cover on the ice, the overcast sky will allow you to move around on the ice in shallow water without your shadow or “dark blob” shape scaring the fish away.

Photo of a Smallmouth on Overcast Day
Ice Fishing Wyoming Smallmouth on an Overcast Day

Remember, fish instinctively watch for predators from around them (bigger fish) and from above (birds of prey).

You Make Less Noise on the Ice With a Snow Cover

The snow will muffle any sounds you may make, dropping gear on the ice, or even when pulling your ice sled full of gear.

One caveat of snow is, it does make pulling an ice shanty or sled more difficult. Sleds and shanties pull almost effortlessly on the bare ice!

It’s Easier To Walk on Snowcovered Ice

Usually, on bare ice, I walk with Kahtoola MICROspikes on my boots to keep from slipping and falling. These particular ice cleats make a loud crunching sound as your walk and heard from quite a distance!

With good snow falling or a little snow on the ice, I no longer need to wear a pair of ice cleats and can walk around almost silently in my Muck Artic Pro boots.

Fewer People Will Be out There Fishing

On nice sunny afternoons, many people will decide to get out and do some ice fishing. These are “Fairweather Fishermen” and rarely do they get out on any days where the weather is slightly marginal.

Photo of a fisherman on the Ice in Winter
Ice Fishing Alone on a Snowy Day

Even when the weatherman reports a small winter storm approaching, they’ll stay home! But you will find excellent fishing right before a front moves in, and most likely, you’ll find areas where the weather isn’t as bad!

Make Sure You Know Your Way Back to the Truck

If you plan on fishing after dark or during a strong snowstorm, it is best to have a handheld GPS to guide you back to your vehicle. About five years ago, I became disoriented on my home lake fishing after the sun went down!

I had walked roughly a quarter-mile in the snow to a submerged point I had fished many times before for walleye. It had begun snowing heavier, and when I started to head back in the dark, I realized my tracks had been snowed in!

After walking for longer than it should have taken to get back to my truck, I knew I was walking further into the lake.

Twenty-five feet was all I could see with my headlamp on, and the snow was falling heavier, and there were no tracks to follow back. Luckily I had my Garmin handheld GPS from a previous trip still in my pocket. I was able to use it to get back to the truck.

How Much Does Snow Insulate and Weaken the Ice

Once the ice has begun to form on the lakes, a snowfall can stop the ice from forming because it insulates the ice. This can cause thin ice in areas that you will not be able to see.

Snow on the ice will cause it to freeze slower than areas nearby it without snow cover. The snow’s weight will also cause water to be pushed up through the cracks in the ice.

Water pushed up beneath the snow will turn to slush and be challenging to walk through. It can also cause even the most powerful four-wheelers and snowmobiles to become stuck!

I have drilled holes through ice that was 6″ thick and 20′ away it was only a few inches thick. When snow lays atop the ice in some areas and not others, those areas will freeze differently.

The big problem you have when there has been an early snowfall, and later the snow is swept away by the wind, is it becomes difficult to tell where the good ice and the bad ice begin.

This is why fishing on early ice, especially when there is snow on the ice, it’s important to use an ice spud bar to check the ice as you move around.

So you certainly want to take advantage of early ice fishing when the bite is hot, and you also want to get out there when snow is coming! Just be careful, dress warm, and be prepared to find your way back to your vehicle if your tracks are snowed in!

Have fun and stay safe out there!

Mike Rodman

Mike is an avid ice fisherman and fishes the Rocky Mountain Region and across the US Ice Belt and Canada. During the off-winter months, he enjoys fly fishing the Wyoming mountains and fishing from his kayak for pike and smallmouth bass. When Mike can find a little spare time, he'll be at his rod bench building custom fishing rods.

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