Ice fishing may be divisive – some anglers can’t get enough of the meditative, wintery experience, and some would rather throw themselves into the ice hole and end their misery – but no matter what your personal opinion of this type of fishing, it occupies a niche all of its own.
And naturally, like any niche, specialized products are needed to ice-fish. Special lures, plenty of bottom-water rigging material, ice borers, and even specialized line. Some anglers don’t use a dedicated ice fishing line, but due to the peculiar and unique conditions experienced ice-fishing, we think it’s a good idea to set yourself up for success with the correct gear, all the way down to your fishing line.
So we’ll take a quick look at what you need from an ice-fishing line, and give you some basics on what to look for. After that, we’ll recommend some top-notch products that you can look into if you think that ice-fishing sounds appealing – or if you just need to restock your ice tackle box before the next winter.
Read on, and learn with us.
Table of Contents
Visibility is an extremely important factor when you’re ice fishing. In a standard fishing situation, say, a crankbait lure stuck on a midwater rig that’s being pulled through the water at top speed, a fish may only investigate your lure for a half-second before deciding to strike. Not so when ice-fishing. The lethargic fish, bottom-water methods and long time-between-strikes means that your quarry are going to have ample time to check out your lure, rig, and line, so having a darn-near invisible line is a very good idea when ice-fishing – braided superlines and ultra-thick colored lines need not apply (unless you’re using a really long leader).
This is another consideration that rookie ice-fishers often don’t take into account. When you’re ice fishing, it’s really, really cold. Not only will standard lines act wonky, as mentioned above – you’ll probably have a bit of reduced dexterity in your hands, which can come together to make tying simple knots and rigs a challenge compared to warm-weather fishing. So you’ll need a line that stays flexible and easy-to-tie, even when your fingers are chilled to the bone. (You might also want to bring some of those chemical hand warmers that hunters use – just another tip.)
The cold has a tendency to do strange things to warm-weather line – stiffen it, warp it, snap it entirely – lines that are built for everyday, multipurpose use just don’t perform as well in the water as purpose-built ice fishing lines. So make sure you’re picking up a line that’s built specifically for extremely cold conditions, and remember that it’s probably not going to work for every situation – just for ice fishing.
Ice fishing requires a lot of patience, and there aren’t many things that are more frustrating than losing a bite or hookset because you didn’t recognize the strike. Because of this, stiff and sensitive lines are popular for ice fishing, as they transmit information down the line more effectively than stretchier lines, and allow for faster, more aggressive hooksets.
One thing that you’ve got to remember about ice – it’s sharp. And unless you’re taking the time to sand down the edges of your ice-hole with 02005 sandpaper, you’re probably going to have some rough edges and ice spikes around your fishing hole. So your line needs to be built to hold up to these conditions, with a durable design, a bit of flex and stretch, and plenty of staying power so that you don’t suffer any line snaps, abrasions, or weakening of your line.
Not all lines sink equally– Fluorocarbon, for example, generally sinks much more easily than comparable monofilaments – though some mono line can be rigged to drop easily. Braided superlines are especially notorious for being floaters, and their high visibility means that they’re quite bad for use while ice-fishing. Now, flotation isn’t necessarily a bad thing, overall when fishing. It has its place, but it’s not what you want when ice-fishing because you’ll usually be keeping your lures close to the bottom of the water column. So when you’re buying a purpose-built ice fishing line, you’ll almost always want to look for one that sinks, or at least maintains neutral buoyancy.
If you’re looking for, simply, the most invisible ice fishing line on the market, you’ll find it with this product from Berkley. It’s been specifically designed to pack maximum strength and hold into a totally miniscule line that remains pliable, durable, and easy to work with.
Crafted from a durable monofilament that’s stiffer than most, it allows for a neutral water profile that is easily weighed down for ice jigging, and for a great linefeel and sensitivity to those smaller bites that some more flexible lines might miss.
It’s also available both in a bright red colorway, and a clear-grey that disappears in the water, so whether you’re looking to keep a little bit more of an eye on your line, or just trust your instincts and the linefeel, you’ll find the right line for you.
This line is also very useful for use as a lead line if you prefer a thicker line or are going after larger prey, given its very small diameter that’s unlikely to spook fish. It’s also easy to handle, despite its small size, knotting well in the cold and maintaining a low line memory.
If you’re looking for durability, invisibility, and sinking power, this line by Berkley is an excellent choice. Formulated specifically for ice fishing, this line is great if you need a strong and thin fluoro line with max sinking power, low memory, and a great line feel.
Like most fluoro line, this product from Berkley features the same refractive index of water, which makes it mostly invisible when submerged, and won’t spook fish. This invisibility plus fluoro’s sinking properties make this great if you’re looking to do ice jigging and don’t want to bother weighing down a more floaty line.
This line also features much less line memory and tangling than other comparable lines, which is great in cold situations where even slight inconveniences can become ordeals, due to cold hands and icy conditions.
With a combination of strength, reliability, and invisibility that is absolutely perfect for ice fishing, Ice Line by Berkley is a great choice if you love fluoro lines, and need one of the best fluoro ice fishing lines on the market.
This product by Sufix is suited for all-weather fishing but does best in icy conditions. It’s a monofilament line, but unlike some comparable products, it maintains a water-absorbency free line even in below-freezing temperatures – no linefreeze or breakage can be expected, even during extended usage in freezing temperatures.
This line is also extremely durable – you won’t have to worry about your line snapping due to rough ice. In addition, it’s flexible and easy to work with, so you’ll be able to tie knots easily even when your fingertips are near-frostbitten
In addition, the monofilament used in this line has been crafted for minimal line memory. Like most high-quality mono lines, you can expect this line to last you over a year before you’ll have any twisting, snagging, or snarling of your line.
This line by P-Line combines a high-quality monofilament with a top-quality fluorocarbon coating to create a line with a great, slowly sinking water profile, high durability, and very low refraction while in the water, as well as a small diameter.
The fluoro coating prevents any water from soddening the line and freezing up, avoiding the pitfalls that you’ll encounter with a standard, warm-water monofilament line.
Durable and with a small-diameter profile, this line is also renowned for staying limp even in the most freezing conditions, due to the dual monofilament/fluorocarbon design. It’ll be easy to manipulate and knot even if you’re the most hardcore ice fisher out there, heading out in sub-zero temperatures.
Seaguar, being one of the only companies in America to manufacture its own fluorocarbon in-house, is known for selling high quality, reliable products, and this ice line is no exception.
Crafted from a carefully chosen fluorocarbon blend, it’s built to last, with great ice-fishing characteristics like great abrasion resistance for jagged fishing holes, a soft and supple line profile that makes it easy to knot in the cold, and great tensile/impact strength to ensure you’ll never lose a bite to a snapped line.
This line is also quite sensitive, allowing lighter bites and strikes to be felt easily, and like all fluoro line, it’s nearly invisible in the water, making it great for easily spooked fish, or for areas where fish are sparse, and you can’t just play a numbers game.
While you can use standard line for ice fishing if you really want, you’ll probably have a bad time. Linesnaps, frozen lines, and stiff, unyielding knots will frustrate you and ruin your experience. So, if you’re looking to get intoicefishing, these purpose-built lines will soon become your best friends, offering a fishing experience that’s nearly as painless as fishing in above-freezing temperatures. So with the right gear, the right attitude, and plenty of warm clothing (and maybe a flask or two), you’ll certainly start to take a liking to the cold, cold world of ice fishing.