You’re ready to hit the ice, and you’re planning to use live bait to improve your catches this winter. But before you get started, you want to make sure you’re using the proper techniques to get the most out of your bait.
The term “wigglers” can refer to a variety of live bait types. In this article, we’ll talk about the best ways to hook each type of wiggler for success when ice fishing.
How to Hook Wigglers for Ice Fishing?
As mentioned, there are different types of “wigglers;” this generic and fun term can refer to bloodworms, wax worms, nightcrawlers, mayfly nymphs, and many other types of live bait.
Regardless of type you use, these live bait wiggle around on the hook, which frequently catches the attention of a variety of fish.
Using wigglers for bait is an excellent choice when ice fishing, as live bait is generally the best when it comes to getting the attention of finicky or wary fish.
- Wigglers of choice
- Hook and line
- Bait box to hold extra wigglers
1. Hooking Mayfly Nymphs
Mayfly nymphs are a great bait choice because they live in the water, so they behave naturally on the end of the hook. They won’t die right away, even in cold water.
They are often targeted by fish, especially in bodies of water where mayfly nymphs live naturally and provide a regular food source.
The best way to hook mayfly nymphs is from back to front. Gently slip the hook under the thorax or mid-back area and slide it forward toward the bug’s head, poking the hook back through a little closer to the front, as shown in the above video.
Handle your nymphs carefully so you don’t squish or kill them while hooking; hold them lightly, and make sure the hook doesn’t poke too deeply under the flesh; you want it to go just under the surface, deep enough that it will hold securely but not so deep that it badly injures or kills the nymph.
Mayfly nymphs are a good all-around choice for catching a variety of fish in a variety of fishing conditions.
2. Hooking Small Worms for Panfish
This wiggler hooking technique works best for panfish like crappie, perch, etc. You’ll be using relatively small bait for catching relatively small fish, so it’s best to use a smaller hook such as a size 6 or 4.
You can use different kinds of wigglers for this technique such as bloodworms, leaf worms, etc. The important thing is that your bait of choice should be fairly small.
Holding the worm in your hand, carefully slide the head end onto the hook first. Feed the worm’s body up the hook about half an inch to an inch or so; poke the hook back through the body of the worm, allowing a portion of the worm’s tail to dangle.
This is a great hooking method because it allows the worm to wiggle around quite a bit, moving the tail and part of the head without being able to dislodge itself from the hook. This wiggling action will attract even the most skittish of fish.
3. Hooking Nightcrawlers for Gamefish
This method works best for larger game fish, such as walleye and bass. With this in mind, you should choose a larger hook size and a larger bait type, such as nightcrawlers.
You’ll start out using the same method as you used when hooking small worms for panfish: poke the hook through the head end, slide the worm up the hook about an inch or so, and poke the hook back through.
Since you’re using larger bait, you should have quite a bit of worm left dangling. Wrap a part of the tail around the curve of the hook, poke the hook through, and repeat the process a couple of times.
This creates a small bulky area at the bottom of the hook, but you still want to allow the end of the tail to dangle. This will allow for a great amount of wiggling action, the worm won’t be able to escape the hook, and its large size will attract the larger gamefish.
4. Double-Hooking Wigglers
This video shows a simple technique for hooking different kinds of bait. This technique works best for catching small fish but you may have some success with larger fish as well.
Start by passing the hook through your worm near the head. Simply pass the hook straight through, from side to side, rather than feeding it up lengthwise through the worm as described in the other methods.
Then, double the worm back over the hook, passing the hook through its body in a second spot, this time near the tail. This will give your bait a floppy horseshoe-like appearance and will ensure that it stays on the hook.
Though this method doesn’t allow for as much natural movement of your bait, it is easy to hook a wiggler in this way and it is a good technique for beginners.
5. Hooking Wax Worms
Many anglers prefer to use wax worms for ice fishing. These short, stubby wigglers are great for catching many different kinds of fish.
You can hook wax worms using a similar technique to the one described in Step 2 above; the main difference is that wax worms are shorter than bloodworms and leaf worms, so you won’t have much of the tail dangling.
Pass the hook through the worm’s head and feed the body half an inch to an inch onto the hook. Poke the hook back through near the tail.
The wax worm won’t be able to slip off when hooked this way, and though it also won’t be able to wiggle around much, it will still attract a variety of hungry fish looking for a tasty snack.