As a fisherman, winter isn’t a season you should dread. If you have never gone ice fishing before, this winter might be the time to try it. Ice fishing is a great winter past-time, but knowing the right gear to have with you is a must.
This guide will cover everything you need to know to get the best out of your ice fishing experience. One of the most important aspects of ice fishing is choosing the right ice fishing line.
Your favorite fishing line may not perform terribly well in cold water. In short, good fishing line is not always good ice fishing line. Let’s discuss further.
Basic Equipment for Ice Fishing
It’s also a good idea to consider investing in an ice fishing pole instead of a regular rod. While you can try ice fishing with a regular rod, you might not have a good experience.
If you are using an ice fishing shelter, as you should, a regular fishing rod might be too long. An ice fishing pole is shorter and better for confined spaces.
One of the best kinds of ice fishing poles is a short ice pole like this. With a regular spinning reel, the line can easily get snagged due to the cold weather.
More than anything else, you need good ice fishing line. If your line is blatantly unsuitable for ice fishing, you will find the line a huge hassle to work with and may leave before you catch anything.
10 of the Best Ice Fishing Lines on the Market
Berkely thankfully makes a brand of ultra-thin ice fishing line. They compare it to hundreds of different lines that they test, ensuring that it is innovative and of good quality.
This stuff is tiny, which makes it great if you are tying tiny knots. If you want to tie a tiny micro fly but need a strong line that can take the cold, try Berkely Fireline.
- Particularly thin, good for people who need to tie small knots
- Quite strong, at least for monofilament line
- Very low visibility
- Good cold resistance
- No significant disadvantages
This very thin, cold-resistant line works as intended. If you need to tie tiny, intricate knots and have your line repel the water rather than absorb it and freeze solid, this is the line you need. It is also very hard for fish to see this thin, crystal-colored line.
Sufix Performance Ice Braid is super strong, one of the strongest ice fishing lines you can find. The line handles wonderfully. It has no memory, won’t coil up, and resists ice buildup.
However, braided line is not as cold-resistant as monofilament line, so it is not ideal if you want the most cold-resistant line you can find anywhere.
- Resists the cold well for braided line
- Excellent handling
- Easy to use
- Stronger than at least most ice fishing line
- Not as cold/water resistant as many other lines
If you really need the strength of braided line, or its lack of memory, there are reasonably cold-resistant brands. However, the best monofilament ice fishing line can take the cold better than the best braided ice fishing line.
Berkely makes great fishing line, and their fluorocarbon line is no exception. Fluorocarbon line is exceptionally hard for fish to see, and since it does not stretch much, you will notice a fish as soon as it takes your bait.
Like other Berkely lines, the Trilene Fluorobarbon 6 Ice Fishing Line has been tested by scientists and compared to hundreds of alternatives.
What makes the Trilene Flourocarbon line stand out is its exceptionally low visibility. It reflects light in the same way that water does, making it more or less invisible in the water.
It is also very thin, which makes it easy to control and further reduces its visibility.
- Abrasion-resistant, so your line won’t be cut by sharp rocks
- Sinks rather than floats
- Well-suited to the cold, which is uncommon for fluorocarbon line
- Exceptionally low visibility
- Very high sensitivity
- Reasonably cheap
- No significant disadvantages
This is exactly what you want if you are looking for fluorocarbon line that can take the cold. It does its job very well without being expensive. It is nearly invisible and abrasion-resistant, like fluorocarbon line should be.
Braided line is often worse than monofilament for ice fishing because it absorbs water too easily. However, braided line is also very strong. Are there any braided lines that are good for ice fishing?
Sufix 832 Ice Braid is such a product. While it does not repel water quite as well as it should, it does work well even if there is a small amount of ice on the braid. It works great for a shorter ice fishing trip; for a longer one, you may end up with too much ice on your reel.
- Braided, which is unusual for ice fishing line
- Strong despite its very small diameter
- Water-resistant enough for shorter trips
- Much stronger than normal monofilament line
- No memory
- Less water-resistant than good monofilament or fluorocarbon ice fishing line is
This is a great ice fishing line, reasonably cheap choice if you are looking for fishing line that won’t ice up in the cold. This monofilament line is very well designed for cold weather and won’t become difficult to use for a long time. The line is also very thin, so it is hard for fish to see.
Fishing line made by Berkley is some of the best on the market. Scientists have tested hundreds of different compositions and found the best ones, including for ice fishing. While the line is not all that strong, it is exceptionally strong for its diameter.
The line is designed to be stretchy, not low-stretch. This prevents the line from snapping when a larger fish tries to escape. Stretch is not one-sidedly bad – it can prevent your line from breaking. The line neither floats nor sinks, so you will need to add a bit of weight to help your hook sink.
- Designed by scientists
- Very strong for its diameter
- Tested in real conditions
- Won’t ice up easily
- Very thin, low visibility
- Reasonably cheap
- Designed to stretch rather than break
- Easy to tie knots with
- Fairly low overall strength (8lb. test) compared to thicker lines
- Can fray somewhat easily if cut
This is one of your first choices if you want a relatively cheap line that can take the cold. It is easy to use and forgiving, well-suited to ice fishing, and hard for fish to see. However, it might not be nearly strong enough for what you are catching.
This is the most cold-resistant line we have tried. If you want something that will work in particularly cold weather, this ultra-resistant monofilament line is a great product. The line contains special compounds that repel water, preventing it from becoming waterlogged and freezing.
- Sinks easily without weight
- Monofilament line
- Resistant to cold
- Contains special additives that prevent water absorption, preventing the line from freezing and stiffening
- Clear color for low visibility
- Has memory and will coil up
Even if it is 20 below out, this particularly cold-resistant line won’t freeze. You can use it in the coldest weather. It does have a fair bit of memory, so it is not a one-sidedly great product.
The P-Line Clear Fishing Line is a very dependable product that nearly everyone will agree is great for ice fishing. Sometimes, ice fishing line repels the water at first but then absorbs it and freezes solid later on. That is not the case here – you can use it for a long time without any risk of it freezing.
- Very low visibility
- Easy to spool
- Won’t freeze solid
- Won’t become brittle and break in the cold
- Great knot strength
- Slightly higher price
- Some memory
Nearly everyone who tries this fishing line will like it. It knots well, doesn’t weaken in the cold, and is easy to spool. There is a bit of memory, but not any more than what people expect for fluorocarbon line.
Seaguar IceX is another great choice if you want a very low-visibility line that can take the cold. While braided line is the best if you want as little memory as possible, some fluorocarbon line has surprisingly little. Seaguar IceX will not try to coil up again after you take it off the spool.
Seaguar IceX is also nearly invisible underwater. It is strong even though it is very thin and hard to see. Abrasion resistance is important in ice fishing because the edge of the hole can cut the line.
Toothy fish can also bite through fishing line in some cases. The Seaguar IceX is very resistant to cutting, and does not weaken in the cold.
- Very low memory
- Can take very cold water
- Low visibility
- Doesn’t lose tensile strength in the cold
- Knots are very strong even in cold water
- Tiny diameter
- Made from high-quality resins
- No significant disadvantages
Since fluorocarbon line usually has much more memory than this, it stands out and is an excellent choice. You won’t have to worry about the line getting cut, coiling up, freezing stiff, or being easy for fish to see.
While this line is not even specifically designed for ice fishing, it still performs reasonably well in cold water. It is strong and flexible monofilament line, so it takes a while for it to get wet and freeze.
The longer your ice fishing trip is, the more cold-resistant your line has to be. Very cold-resistant line is not always necessary.
The line is great because of how shock-resistant it is. If a big, powerful fish tugs at your line, it will stretch rather than snap. This is twice as important when fishing in cold weather because the cold can make fishing line brittle.
- Very high shock resistance
- Intended for big game fishing
- Abrasion resistant
- High strength
- Not real ice fishing line, so it won’t take the cold for long
This can be a great line to catch large fish in cold weather. However, it is not real ice fishing line. In the long run, the line will freeze and become hard to use.
This is another tried and true ice fishing line from one of the most trusted companies. It has low memory, won’t absorb water and freeze for a long time, and is blue-colored, which can make it hard to see in icy water.
- Very low visibility in cold water
- Good cold resistance
- Low memory
- Easy to handle
- No significant disadvantages
If you aren’t sure what brand to start with, this might be your first choice. It is excellent and easy to use. It can take the cold for a long time.
The Different Types of Ice Fishing Line
The three main types of fishing lines that angles use are monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braided. Different lines are also made out of different materials, such as nylon or spectra.
Relatively weak monofilament line is often the best for ice fishing because it stands up to the cold the best. It will not absorb water as easily as stronger braided line will.
Monofilament Fishing Line
Most anglers see monofilament fishing line as relatively cheap and good enough without being fancy. The cheap stuff is monofilament; the expensive stuff is fluorocarbon or braid.
Ordinary monofilament line is not considered bad. Instead, anglers see it as good enough for most purposes. Sometimes you need another material, but most of the time, monofilament works perfectly fine.
Normally, the advantage of monofilament line is its lower price. Monofilament has been around for many decades and is a tried-and-true, standard kind of fishing line. However, monofilament has benefits besides its lower price.
When you are ice fishing, it can actually be an advantage to go with monofilament line and not a fancier kind. Monofilament line can take the cold – it won’t ice up as easily as other kinds of fishing line will.
Monofilament line is also hard for fish to see. It is strong for its diameter. It has less memory than fluorocarbon line does, even if it has more memory than braid. Even when money is not an issue, there are reasons to go with it, especially when ice fishing.
Don’t think of monofilament as an inferior, cheap choice. Monofilament line also varies greatly in price. Monofilament line is a single strand (filmament) made of different kinds of nylon. If you buy a better brand, you get a stronger line.
People buy braided or fluorocarbon line for added strength, but you should not think of mono as weak, especially not if you buy a quality brand. Even if you are catching big fish, mono is sometimes an advantage. It stretches more than other types of fishing line, which provides shock absorption.
Manufacturers can control the properties of their monofilament line by using different materials. The strength, stretchiness, and visibility of the line varies a lot from one brand to another.
A disadvantage of monofilament fishing line is that it neither floats nor sinks easily. It is neutrally buoyant, which can make it hard to fish with in a lot of situations. It is not always the best, but it is a good choice and not a discount choice.
Fluorocarbon Fishing Line
A lot of fish can see your line and will get spooked. The less visible your line is, the better, including in ice fishing. Companies are telling the truth when they market fluorocarbon as the least visible kind of line you can get. If making your line hard to see is crucial, go with fluorocarbon.
Fluorocarbon line doesn’t stretch as much as monofilament line does, which gives it great feedback. If you are letting too many fish get away because you do not react immediately, you might switch to fluorocarbon.
If you are using a baitcaster reel, fluorocarbon is a decent choice when ice fishing. Even though the line will stiffen in the cold water, a baitcaster reel makes it manageable. You should buy relatively flexible fluorocarbon line, as well.
A lot of the time, the line freezes in the cold water and becomes too stiff to use. This does not mean you should never use fluorocarbon line, though. If you buy the right line and use the right reel, it may work well for ice fishing.
Another disadvantage of fluorocarbon is that it has more memory than other line types. Braided line has the least memory (none, in fact), monofilament is in the middle, and fluorocarbon has the most memory.
When fishing line has been coiled up on the reel for a long time, it can have problems with memory. The line “remembers” being coiled up and won’t easily stretch out when you cast the line. It will coil up in the water. Fluorocarbon line is also stiff, which makes it hard for a small bait to move around.
Fluorocarbon line has its advantages, and these are relevant when ice fishing. It is strong, hard for fish to see, and gives great feedback. However, you can run into problems if you aren’t picky about what reel you use and what kind of fluorocarbon line you use.
Braided line is stronger than either fluorocarbon or monofilament, so it works wonders when you need as much tensile strength as possible. Sometimes, you need braided line even when you are ice fishing. Monofilament performs well in the cold, but it is sometimes just not strong enough for what you are catching.
Braided line also has no memory at all, which makes it wonderful stuff as much as its strength does. It also doesn’t stretch, so you will notice a fish immediately. In normal temperatures, braided is in many ways the best kind of line you can get.
However, you may run into problems when using braided line for ice fishing. Braided line absorbs water, so it can freeze. Monofilament is much better here. There is braided line made for ice fishing that works better, but the best monofilmament brands are the most freeze-reistant.
Braided line can also float if there is not enough weight to pull the hook down. Fluorocarbon is much better than braid if you want something that fish won’t notice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should You Buy Line Speficifally for Ice Fishing?
A lot of monofilament line is specifically made for ice fishing. There is also braided line made for cold water. Ice fishing line repels water and will prevent your line, reel, and guides from freezing.
You do not always need line that is specifically for ice fishing. However, ice fishing line works significantly better. Don’t put yourself at an unnecessary disadvantage by using ordinary line.
Most ordinary line will freeze, snag, twist, absorb water, and be a hassle to use. Use ice fishing line. If you have a shelter, use an ice fishing pole. Use the right equipment – dress warmly and bring a lamp. If you are staying out after dark, possibly bring a heater for your shelter, and so on.
Is Monofilament Line the Best for Ice Fishing?
In a lot of ways, it is. In normal temperatures, braided line is often the best, though this is not always true. In freezing temperatures, the best type of line is probably monofilament. It resists the cold better than other kinds of line do.
Other than Nylon, what Materials are Used to Make Fishing Line?
A lot of fishing line is still made out of nylon, which is been around since the 1930s. Nylon is light, strong, and flexible, still good enough to compete with newer materials.
Other materials include dacron, spectra, and dyneema. Dacron is strong, light, and stretches less than nylon does.
Spectra and dyneema lines are much stronger than nylon lines for their diameter. However, nylon is much cheaper than spectra/dyneema and is strong enough for most fish.
What Should You Look for in Ice Fishing Line?
The first thing any fishing line needs is strength. If your line is not strong enough for the fish you are catching, it will break. An expert angler can sometimes reel in a fish that should have been able to break their line, but you can’t go very far above the maximum weight your line can handle.
How do I Choose a Line of the Right Weight?
Since heavier line can be harder and more tiring to use than lighter line, plus significantly more expensive, you should not use a very strong line unless you need it to catch large fish that can break your line.
If you know what fish you are likely to catch, use a line that is strong enough without being unnecessarily strong.
Have Fish Evolved to See Fishing Line?
Anyone can tell by first-hand experience that a fishing line can spook fish. Less visible line works better than more visible line in everyone’s experience. Probably, fish have evolved to avoid anglers to some extent, although we do not know how true this is.
Fish are suspicious of everything around them and will swim away if they see anything unusual or threatening. Whether they have evolved to see fishing lines and fishhooks or not, they do see fishing line and get spooked by it.
What are the Best Times to Go Ice Fishing?
Both sunrise and sunset are great times. Fish are often active and feeding a little after the sun comes up, and a little before and after the sun goes down.
When you are ice fishing at sunrise, be careful to show up an hour early. When you are cutting a hole in the ice, you will make a lot of noise and temporarily scare the fish away.
After you stop, the fish will return to that spot. You want the fish to return before the sun comes up so that you can enjoy the entire first hour after sunrise when many fish are very active.
Both a little before and a little after sunset are also great times to fish. Many species of fish are very active around sunset, including in the winter.
Not very many anglers stay out after the sun sets. You can do surprisingly well after dark. Use an ice fishing shelter and bring a lamp with you.
How can You be Safe when Ice Fishing?
Since falling into freezing cold water, especially if you are alone, can get you killed, you should stay on the safe side and not take chances. If you ever go fishing by yourself, don’t do it on ice. Always have some friends with you in case anything goes very wrong.
The thickness of the ice is crucial when ice fishing. Be on the safe side, and don’t fish when the ice is only slightly thinner than it is supposed to be. Look for cracks – cracked ice won’t hold your weight, not even if it is thick enough.
Less than two inches is blatantly thin ice, and you should stay off of it. More than four inches is much better. Four inches and no cracks is safe to walk on even if you are being on the cautious side. You don’t have to be very careful if the ice is four inches thick.
If the ice is five inches thick, it is safe for snowmobiles. If it is more than eight or twelve inches thick, you can drive on it with a car or a small pickup truck. Even larger trucks may be safe if the ice is thick enough.