Live Bait Choices for Lake Simcoe

Live Bait Choices for Lake Simcoe

Emerald Shiner

The Emerald Shiner is an important native forage fish in Lake Simcoe and is deemed one of the most popular and widely available bait fish species. Typically,They're available in small (1.5") and in a medium (3" to 4") size and found at most livebait dealers surrounding Lake Simcoe. Shiners will cost you anywhere from $3.00 to $7.00 per scoop and if kept in a cool, well oxygenated environment, they can last for weeks.

When keeping shiners, a fresh supply of lake water should be added every few hours to ensure your shiners remain fresh and lively. If keeping your shiners at home for days or weeks, replace the water regularly using acclimatized well water or dechlorinated tap water (allowing the water to sit for 24 to 48 hours will dechlorinate the water). Small battery operated aerators are available for under $10 and help keep the water well oxygenated. In addition, the aerators will help reduce ice formation in your bucket which can suffocate and kill your minnows. Remove any dead shiners from your bucket immediately, this will help maintain healthy oxygen levels and keep the water clean.

Emerald Shiners will catch just about every gamefish species available through the ice and are great for yellow perch, whitefish and crappie, while medium shiners are great for lake trout, northern pike, whitefish and burbot.

Maggots (Spikes)

A popular choice amongst perch and crappie anglers. Maggots provide something different when the fish just won't touch minnows or artificials. In some cases, they can turn a slow day into a great day of fishing!

Maggots are bred for anglers on special farms using waste meat products and are sold by all good fishing tackle shops. They are usually sold in pints or half pints in maize meal or bran to keep them dry and kept in plastic bait boxes with air holes in the lid to allow them to breathe. Don’t overfill your bait boxes as without enough air the maggots will sweat and become useless. As a rough rule of thumb use a bait box of at least twice the capacity of the amount of maggots you want to buy so if you want to buy a pint take at least a two pint box. You can tell how fresh a maggot is by the size of the dark feed spot in its body, the larger it is the fresher the maggot.They must be kept cold to slow down their natural development into chrysalis’ and ultimately flies so if possible always keep them in a fridge where they will last up to three weeks. If not a cold garage floor will do but they won’t last more than a week or so in warm weather. Fresh maggots are very active and soft to the touch and are better for most types of fishing, the only exception being in icy cold water where they tend to stretch and lose their liveliness. In cold water tougher older maggots are often better as they seem to be more hardy.

Wax Worms (Waxies)

An often overlooked bait for icefishing, wax worms can be found at select tackle shops around lake simcoe. Waxworms are the larval form of a bee or moth and are longer and meatier than maggots.Tiny jigs tipped with maggots or waxworms is the most common rigging method, with Marmooskas by HT Enterprises and Genz Worms by Lindy Little Joe being two popular choices. Small Jigging Rapalas, jigging spoons and tube jigs tipped with a maggot or two are great search baits for active fish. Some days the fish seem to like the look and smell of hooks crammed full of maggots or wax worms, and other times they like just one lively creepy crawlie, so experiment a bit.

Wax worms can be kept in a small container with sawdust in the fridge or a cool area.

Mousie Grubs

Live Mousie Grubs are very popular for ice fishing south of the border. If you can find Mousie's around Lake SImcoe, give them a shot, many perch haven't seen one of these before and will be more than curious to have a bite.

Perch Eye

Yes, you read correctly. Using a perch eye from a freshly caught fish can help you catch more perch! The texture, transparency, smell and size are all great characteristics of a deadly bait. If you can stomach the process of removing an eye from a perch, give it a try. However, I wouldn't suggest this method around young children or your significant other.

Simplest thing to do is rig the perch eye on a bottom treble of a jigging rapala, a spoon or simply rig it on a small hook and split shot rig.

Salmon/Trout Roe

If you're feeling experimental and have some leftover salmon or trout roe in the freezer, try tying up a few very small roe bags and presenting them under a spoon, on a single hook or on your three way spreader. Under the right circumstances, don't be surprised if you hook into a few curious whitefish or perch.

Golden Shiner

With recent shortages of emerald shiner availability, golden shiners have been sold in local tackle shops, they provide much of the same flash and allure of emerald shiners but with a thicker, full body.

Creek Chub

A widely available fish species which can usually be found mixed in with shiners in your bait bucket. Chub are not as attractive or flashy as shiners but will produce fish.

White Sucker

As with chub, suckers can be found mixed with other baitfish species, live or dead suckers are excellent bait for Northern Pike and Burbot.


Sculpin are a bottom dwelling fish and are an important forage fish for many species in Lake Simcoe. They are not available at local tackle stores but artificial baits such as Bad Boys and Meegz are very successful in imitating sculpin and have been known to work well for bottom feeding gamefish such as whitefish. Anglers often mistake sculpin for the invasive Round Goby. Check our invasive species section for positive identification of Round Goby.

Rainbow Smelt

Rainbow smelt found their way into Lake Simcoe in the early 1960's and quickly became well established in the lake. They are an exotic species and today play a part in providing forage food for larger predatory fish. Currently, any smelt caught from Lake Simcoe cannot be used as bait in Lake Simcoe. However, you can use dead Lake Simcoe smelt on other Ontario lakes. Check the fishing regulations summary for updates.

Lake Herring (Cisco)

Lake herring (cisco) were once an abundant species in Lake Simcoe , sustaining a large recreational fishery and serving an important ecological role as the principal forage species for lake trout. Beginning in the 1980s, cisco started to show signs of recruitment failure and the population began to decline. Cisco have continued to decline and are now exceedingly rare in the lake. A catch limit of six cisco per day was implemented in 1995 and the recreational fishery was subsequently closed on January 1, 2001 to protect the remaining stock. In the last few years, anglers have reported catching larger numbers of herring, this may indicate the population is beginning to bounce back; however, as it stands, the Ministry of Natural Resources still has a no fishing regulation. So please release all herring caught and keep your eyes on possible future fishing regulation changes.

Round Goby

Unfortunately, Round Goby have found their way into Lake Simcoe. More frequent catches of Round Goby are being reported every year. Round Goby are an invasive species, meaning they out compete native fish (such as sculpin) for food and reproductive habitat. They multiply quickly and will soon be a normal part of the Simcoe ecosystem. In the meantime, the MNR is asking that if any Round Goby are caught and correctly identified, they should immediately be killed and not released back into the environment.