Best Ice Fishing Line and Tips

Ice fishing offers unique tackle challenges with its cold temperatures, vertical fishing style and clear water visibility. Finding the best ice fishing line that meets these challenges is not always easy.  

You might be asking, what is the difference between ice fishing line and regular line?

Or, what is the best line for ice fishing?

Well angling friend, you’ve come to the right place as we’ll look at a number ice fishing questions, tips, setups and other important factors to consider when choosing an ice fishing line. And finally, we’ll review our recommended ice lines for your next Winter adventure.

Why do you need ice fishing line?

There are many fishing lines out there that will work in any season, but colder weather may cause your fishing line to do strange things. In order to produce a quality line amidst these cold temperature challenges manufacturers are upgrading their lines with a focus on these (“What” and “Why’s”) below.

WHATWHY
Anti-Freezing compounds and low moisture saturationTo reduce the line from freezing and releasing less water onto the rod guides.
Reduced Line Memory and Highest SensitivityReduces line coils to provide the best lure presentation and detect bites from the smallest or dormant Winter fish.
High Suppleness and FlexibilityReduces line kinks and makes it easier to manage and tie knots in the cold temperatures.
Low StretchFor better hook sets.
Low Visibility

Note: There are contrary strategies for having a high visibility line as well (we’ll discuss further below).
To hide your line in ultra clear water conditions / visibility so not to spook the fish.
Strong Line Strength and BrittlenessA line that can deal with the continual friction with the edges of the ice hole.

Sensitivity is Key when Ice Fishing

A key factor when ice fishing is having a highly sensitive setup! In order to get this you need to keep a straight line between the rod tip and the jig/lure. This straight fishing line (no coils or slack) provides the highest sensitivity between the rod tip and hook. This sensitivity acts as a crucial alert for you on when to set the hook. Colder water temperatures in the Winter slows down fishes metabolism and as a result the fish are not as aggressive, this means that the fish will have more subtle takes/bites that are harder to detect. Again, all these things reemphasize the importance of having an sensitive ice fishing setup.

Line Memory Impacts Sensitivity

All fishing line will have some coils to it as its manufactured and stored on round reels. Line memory determines how long the line hold these coils after it comes off your reel. A low memory line will have fewer/smaller coils, a higher memory line will have more and larger coils in the line. Simply put, the lower the line memory the better.

The ideal ice fishing line should have a low line memory to reduce line coils as often as possible. These coils between your rod tip and lure often cause the following issues:

  • Slack in the line
  • Lessen the line sensitivity
  • Improper bait/lure presentations (not sitting correctly)
  • Reduce the effectiveness of your hook sets

To reduce line coils you can put on heavier jigs to tighten up the line, or even use a lighter pound line. Both of these are reducing your chances at landing fish, the heavier jig (or hook) size may be too big for targeted fish, and the lighter line will break much easier. One option to look at is using heavier Tungsten jig heads to help reduce these line twists (further information below).

Friction Strength Against the Ice and Landing the Fish

The purpose of these ice fishing lines is not only to enhance sensitivity but to deal with the line continually rubbing on the sharp bottom of the drilled ice holes. A hooked fish can do some major damage to your line while grinding along these ice edges. Having the proper line strength and other preventatives like a ice stopper bobber will decrease your line breaks.

Additionally, when you’re about to land the fish through the ice hole there’s always this decision of whether to grab the fish with your hands or tow/lift it out with the line. Ideally it’s much more pleasant to keep your hands dry and lift the fish out (especially in extreme frigid conditions where hands don’t dry or warm up fast). Most ice anglers lose their fish at this point in the fight. So you’ll want to be aware of your line weight in respect to the size of the fish you have on when pulling it through the hole in the ice. To clarify, if you’re fishing a 3 lb mono line and you’ve got a big 6 lb Walleye or Largie on, you’re not likely going to tow that fish out of the water but will need to help the landing process with your hand.

Heavier Tungsten Jigs Enable a Heavier Line Weight

With the new craze in tungsten jigs (and rightly so!) anglers have a heavier and denser material  for their jig heads. What does this mean? It means that the tungsten jig will weigh more than the same sized lead jig. This enables you to use smaller jig heads for those smaller or finicky fish.

Another big benefit is how quickly these tungsten jigs get down into the deeper water columns. After re-baiting or lure change, getting back down to a moving school of fish can be so important. Especially on those slower fishing days on the hard water.

Lastly, as mentioned earlier these heavier tungsten jigs will help straightened out the line and reduce line coils/twists.

What are the Types of Ice Fishing Lines?

Ice fishing lines don’t claim their own type of fishing line, they all fall into one of the typical fishing line categories. However, each of these standard categories do have added improvements specific for ice fishing conditions.

How you fish these types of lines on the ice may be very different than open water fishing. In the chart below we walk through the different types of fishing lines and how you can use them in an ice fishing setting.

Pros and Cons of Ice Fishing Lines and How to Use Them

LinePros and ConsExample Usages & Descriptions
Fluorocarbon- Low visibility
- Low stretch
- High memory (increased coils)
- Sinks faster
- Higher cost
Excellent for fishing ultra-clear water or finicky fish.

Great leader line because of low visibility, attached via swivel to mainline.

With high memory the line will coil easier, so will need to be replaced more often.

Fluoro sinks 4 times faster, so if you need to get your lure down in a hurry this line is ideal.

Tough to work with as the line can get very “wiry” in extreme cold conditions.
Monofilament- Medium visibility
- High stretch
- Low memory (reduces line twists/coils)
- Sinks slower
- Lower cost
With low line memory you’ll have fewer line twists / coiling.

Easier to tie and manage in colder temperatures (won’t kink up like Fluoro).

Has a medium visibility for fishing clear water or around foliage.

Mono is an default old faithful ice line as it performs well in most areas. It’s best suited for beginners, or anglers who don’t have a lot of experience using fluoro or braid.
Copolymer- Low visibility
- Middle stretch
- Low to middle memory
- Small to middle diameter
- Higher cost
This line is a middle ground between fluoro and mono. The stretch is a good example of this middle ground.

Less coiling than fluoro and fishes similarly to mono but with a smaller diameter.

It has lower visibility but not as clear as fluoro.

Great abrasion resistance which is helpful when the ice is rubbing the ice holes.
Braid- High visibility
- No stretch
- Small diameter
- Higher cost
Great for the mainline usage, but not directly to hook (recommend having a leader connected via swivel or uni knot)

Difficult to use/tie/manage in cold weather conditions. If you’re in a heated hut on the ice you’ll have less problems.

Absorbs more moisture than other lines so will freeze up faster.

Colored line can be a benefit for visually detecting the bite

Bright fluorescent line may seem counter-intuitive to a clear water environment but it can be a very successful strategy. Unless the fish have been highly pressured or finicky, it’s not as much of a deterrent as you might think, especially when you’re putting on a clear line leader.

The visibility of your line can act as an indicator as you’ll notice it moving before you detect or feel any bites! When looking down the ice hole if you see the line moving to the side you’ll want to tight up the light slightly and/or set the hook. This visual indicator is a huge advantage especially for lighter biting fish where you may not ever “feel” the bite.

Again as a reminder, when using colored mainline we don’t recommend tying this directly to the jig/lure (see diagram setup #1) but instead having a 1 to 3 foot clear line leader (mono or fluoro) that’s connected via uni knot or swivel (see diagram setup #2).

Best Ice Fishing Lines – Tackle Recommendations

When it comes to braided line for the icy Winter temperatures Suffix is one of the best producers. This is their latest ice braided product that resists ice-build by shedding water (aka. less water retention). Much like their standard braided line it’s incredibly strong to deal with sharper ice edges. Typically braided line in frigid temperatures does not offer a pliable or flexible feel like mono can, however Suffix has done a great job in developing an ice braid with much better flexibility in cold conditions.

Pros

  • No stretch (better hook sets)
  • Very strong (large fish and dealing with sharper edges along ice)
  • Retains less water
  • Runs quiet through rod guides
  • Larger spool size at 75 yards

Cons

  • Doesn’t sink as fast as mono or fluoro

The line can boast an incredible low-visibility and thin diameter to run your smallest micro jigs/lures. This superline is stronger than standard mono which is always important when dealing line abrasion on the ice hole edges. This supple line is much easier to deal with than a braided line in extreme cold temperatures. This line fishes great in deep water column and the smaller line weight is perfect for those panfish or pressured fish.

Pros

  • Low visibility in water
  • Supple line in cold temperatures
  • High sensitivity
  • Small diameter line

Cons

  • Shorter spools at 50 yards

This is a black braided nylon line designed for Tip-ups and the most extreme Winter conditions. It’s a heavier rated line at 15 lb – 25 lb with incredible strength which is very helpful in dealing with the hole abrasion when the fish runs sideways. However, the greatest benefit of this line is that will not freeze. For its requirements as a Tip-up line you can have confidence in this Celsius line.

Pros

  • Does not freeze
  • Great line flexibility (no kinks and easy to work with)
  • No stretch
  • Very strong line (easy hand up the line)

Cons

  • None

With two Sufix lines in this article you can likely tell we’re a big fan of their ice lines. This is Sufix’s lowest diameter line that provides a minimal visibility yet still has the superior strength of a braided line. 832 ice braid offers incredible line sensitivity and no stretch. With hydrophobic protection it greatly reduces line freezing.

The 832 ice braid sinks faster than other comparable ice braided lines. This is huge benefit when fishing in deeper water columns. There a large variation in line weights (and diameters) from 4 lb to 50 lb.

Pros

  • Thinnest diameter braided line (less visibility and can get more line on a spool)
  • Highly sensitive line
  • Excellent dexterity and knot strength
  • High abrasion resistance

Cons

  • Shorter spools at 50 yards

Seaguar makes my favorite fluorocarbon leader line, they have the Fluorocarbon fishing lines dialed in with continual quality products. My favorite feature in Seaguar’s fishing lines is the line strength, it’s incredibly reliable for abrasion and handling larger fish (especially their lower weighted lines, e.g. 2 lb).

This ice line is 100% fluorocarbon and has the lowest visibility underwater when compared to any other line types (mono, braid, etc), so it’s certainly not for the guys who like high visibility lines. It’s also non-absorbent so reduces line freezing. 

This line would be further up my recommendation list but my only issue with Seaguar’s ice line is the cost as its on the higher end. That said, beside my hook, my line is the next most important piece of tackle, so I typically don’t mind putting a little more money up for this component.

Pros

  • Strongest fluorocarbon line.
  • Lowest visibility underwater, so perfect for finicky or pressured fish
  • Quick sinking line to get baits back down quickly.
  • Line strength is perfect for fishing around structure where line could be compromised when fishing is running around rocks, wood, etc.

Cons

  • Higher cost
  • Not as easy to work with (e.g. tie knots)

This is an interesting line as it’s a combination of copolymer with a fluorocarbon coating. This combo reduces freezing and offers a flexible feeling in the coldest temperatures. The line has  a low memory to reduce line coiling and ensuring the best presentation for your baits. P-Line focuses on smaller line sizes with options between 2 and 8 lbs. Lastly, with the addition of fluorocarbon has almost no visibility in water.

Pros

  • Extremely low visibility in water
  • Flexible line for knots and working with in cold air temperatures
  • Large 100 yard spool

Cons

  • Sometimes does have freezing challenges
  • Fewer options in line weight

Berkley has a number of ice fishing lines and we have two of them in this tackle guide. This monofilament ice line has a thin diameter and low stretch which is important for those hook sets. With the smaller diameter line it can’t boast the same strength as braid, but holds its own in shedding / reducing water to reduce line freezing. This is a well balanced and priced ice line. It’s a good starter mono line for beginners to ice fishing as it doesn’t have as many of the “work-ability” challenges that braid or super lines may have.

2, 3, 4, 6 & 8 lb lines available.

Pros

  • Retains less water than braid
  • Fishes great in shallower water columns
  • Great beginner mono
  • Large spool (110 yards)

Cons

  • Heaviest line weight is 8 lb
  • Line breaking strength has sometime been an issue

PowerPro makes my favorite regular braided line, if you’re a fan and like using braid on the hard water you’ll like ice line version. This ice braid has like all PowerPro’s braid incredible strength and abrasion proofing, so if your fishing around structure or dealing with hot fish around the hole this is a dependable line.

They’ve added a coating of Teflon to shed water and reduce freezing. Braided lines always have the challenge of holding water more than mono and fluoro but Ice-Tec’s coating is one of the better braids for reducing ice build up. Also the Teflon lines comes off the reel very well.

Lastly the icy-blue color line makes this a high visibility line (if that’s what you’re looking for).

Pros

  • Thin diameter and strong line
  • Sheds water good because of Teflon coating (when compared to other braids)
  • Easier to manage than typical ice braids
  • Low stretch and high sensitivity
  • High visibility line with icy-blue (bright blue) color

Cons

  • Higher cost point

Ice Line – Mono, Fluoro or Braid?

Here is a video outlining different line types for ice fishing. Additionally, includes some ice fishing tips.

Additional Ice Fishing Tackle

Conclusion

Find the best ice fishing line is driven by how you’re using it. Fishing depth, species, and so many other factors. It’s not always easy decision especially if you’re new to ice fishing. However, my favorite ice line is the Sufix Ice Braid as my mainline and a 1-3 foot fluorocarbon leader connected below.

If you have any questions in regards to the Ice Lines above, please don’t hesitate to contact us or leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Tight Lines! Jesse

About the Author

My name is Jesse, I’ve been obsessed about fishing since I was a toddler trying to catch fish with my minnow net in any type of water. Today I have a passion to promote fishing in an educational, fun and respectful format.

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