Rainbow trout will bite no matter how cold it gets, and that includes when you have to drill holes in the ice to get to them. Will there be any more ice in our region before the spring warmup hits? That's an open question. But if you walk out on a frozen lake here in the Mid-Atlantic or if you take a trip up north, there's a good chance that catching rainbows will be a possibility. And while hard water trout will bite a number of lures, a time-honored way to catch them is with jigging spoons. Here’s the one-two-three.

ice fishing with spoons for rainbow trout
Unlike many species, rainbow trout often cruise along just below the ice.
  1. Choose a minnow-imitating spoon of one- to two-inches long. There are plenty of options out there, but a classic you can’t go wrong with is the Swedish Pimple “standard” version in nickel finish. Rig it up with four- to six-pound test fluorocarbon leader.
  2. Lower the spoon just two to four feet down under the ice. Unlike most species, rainbow trout tend to cruise around high in the water column and will often be caught just a couple of feet beneath the surface. Raise your rod tip fast enough to put a slight bend in your rod, but not fast enough to bend it all the way, over the distance of about one foot. Lower it back down slowly enough that it reduces the sink rate, and as you lower the rod tip stop and give a mini-jig of just a fraction of an inch, three or four times. This should all happen very slowly — one up-and-down should take seven to 10 seconds.
  3. At the bottom of the jigging cycle, pause and just barely quiver the rod tip for three to five seconds. Often, this is when the hit will come. If not, initiate the next jigging cycle.

If you do get the opportunity to fish on hard water this winter, be sure to check out our Mid-Atlantic Ice Fishing Spectacular to get the lowdown on gear, tips, tricks, and tactics.