Ice Fishing Lures: Which Worms Work Best?

Debbie Hanson

Have you been looking for ice fishing tips to help you choose the best natural bait? 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 lures are technically considered to be 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 to keep in mind is that butterworms work best when kept dry and alive. Keep them in sawdust to keep them alive. When you’re ready to fish, just 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 that can be used when ice fishing for bluegill, crappie or sunfish. The best way to store waxworms is 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 tricky to attach due to their small size. However, since they’re not as soft as wax or butter worms, they stay a little better. If the fish don’t seem to be taking 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 keeping them from freezing. Red wigglers are best when targeting pikeperch or trout, but are usually too much for panfish when fishing through the ice in the winter months.

Since you find that 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 bait 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 ice fishing safety guidelines.

Debbie Hanson

Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, advocate of sport fishing for women, 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.