Rattlin' Redhorse: A Strategy for the Determined Angler

For the sake of brevity, I'll spare the reader the fluff details regarding my experimentation with catching redhorse through the ice and as much as possible stick to just the 'juice'.


I've fished this particular river since I was 11 years old so I knew full well that there was a good head of both silver and shorthead redhorse present, as well as the occassional greater. Having only ice fished it for three seasons, and it being a relatively shallow warmwater system, the natural targets were walleye, crappie and the omnipresent yellow perch. I did, however, notice a peculiar thing. On virtually every outing large bars would rise up from the bottom and stare at my lure. Occassionally a halfhearted tap was felt as if the fish was nosing the lure to see what it was. Never have I been able to hook these large walleye and so I got to thinking that perhaps they were not walleye at all. I should also add that quite often after inspecting the lure, the fish would decend back to the bottom and numerous small bars would be seen rising from the bottom up through the water column. I assumed these were bubbles stirred up by bottom feeding activity; again not walleye-like behaviour.



One fine day I had the idea to drop a jig and worm on the next such large bar I marked.

Thi s produced my first ever hardwater redhorse. Unfortunately, it was an early spring year and the ice was gone shortly after. The winter following I discovered that without a doubt, a large profile, noisy lure would get a lot more rises than a slim and silent spoon or jiggin' rap. My current favorite is a 2 3/4" Lindy Darter, but I'm sure any lipless crankbait with a strong rattle will do the trick. Redhorse are curious and appear to be drawn to noise and vibration. Probably, the clearer the water the more one can get away with using smaller, less noisy lures.

I lower the lure to within several inches of the bottom and give it a few strong rips to create the maximum amount of noise. After ten or so raises, I pause and let it sit a foot up from bottom. This is typically when I will see a riser coming in for a look. I keep a second rod rigged with a plain 1/16oz leadhead and half a night crawler and after the fish goes back down, I quickly lower the offering to the bottom and jig it very slowly with frequent pauses. The take is subtle and is either a series of slow taps or a lift bite in which the line goes slack. A rod with a thin, sensitve tip and braided line is very helpful in detecting these bites. 






Typically, I will continue to jig for as long as my flasher is telling me the fish is sitting under the hole -- either bubbles are rising, or the bottom signal is twitching. Once the bottom goes flat, I resume working with the rattle lure. And so it goes....



With persistence, Rattlin' Redhorse has for me become a consistent technique on a river that runs too murky to enable sight fishing. Of course, one must keep in mind that both the rattle lure and the jig and crawler will produce bi-catch dinner guests while targetting our beloved redhorse, but such is fishing.





Species Covered:


Corey's picture

Excellent article. This is a new nugget as far as I can discern.

Mike B's picture

Sweet article Eli. I wonder if the rattlin' redhorse method would work on white suckers. I'd probably try a meal worm instead of the earthworm though in my locale.

mike b

andy's picture

Thanks for sharing your unique tactics for icing redhorse.  I hope to get my first through the ice this season, and will try your rattling technique.

Dr Flathead's picture

I guess I never really considered the fact that many lookers on the electronics might be redhorse.  I fish a very good redhorse river frequently during the winter and mark quite a few blips that fit the description.  Large slow moving always coming right off the bottom.  Never even crossed my mind to drop a crawler on 'em.  Great info man.  Gonna give this a try.

Gunnar's picture

Good thinking!

I wonder whether variations on this could work for other bottom huggers that aren't commonly caught through the ice. Blue suckers, anyone?

And I wonder if it could be adapted for non-ice fishing, when you know the redhorses are there but they aren't showing interest.


Redhorse ID cheatsheets, gars, suckers: moxostoma.com

2020: 10 days fishing 11 species 0 lifers. 2019: 34/45/13 2018: 39/40/5

Jason E.'s picture

Wow, helpful details here!  Thanks for sharing!

Corey's picture

Adding a comment to this

Eli's picture

OK, I'll be working hard this weekend to get this shit on videocheeky