Well, if you read the two previous articles I wrote on
ice fishing rods and
ice fishing reels then
you know I'm all about saving you money.
However, this article is all about the ice fishing line and why this is the time to splurge a bit.
Twenty years ago, when I first started getting into
ice fishing, I really had no idea what to use for
fishing line on the ice. I just figured, "water is
water!", so I used leftover monofilament line I had from
summer. Yes, it worked "ok", but I didn't know anything
else. I'm pretty sure this was before the new
Firelines, the braided lines, Teflon lines, etc.
Even FIVE years ago, I was buying (or simply using)
the braided lines I was using during the summer. My
leftover summer lines always seemed to end up on my ice
THIS year, however, I stumbled on something
remarkable and I was just floored. I chose some
expensive "ICE fishing line". I had just purchased some
inexpensive ice fishing combos, and they don't come with
any line, so I figured...why not splurge on some line? I
did, and I'm grateful.
This line (I've forgotten the brand, but I don't
think it really matters) had this slick almost 'wax-like
coating' on the line. It was, for the lack of a better
I was a bit puzzled because I had never seen this
before. It was just so cool. It was 'limp', and didn't
have a memory like the old monofilament line has. It
wasn't stiff, it just plain worked. It would just slide
through the guides on it's way down to the bottom. It
didn't pop off my reel like a twisted slinky and get all
tangled...it just WORKED.
I simply don't know how long this line will last.
maybe several years? I'm certain the big brands will
recommend changing your line every season, maybe weekly,
or even daily...perhaps hourly. (You know what I mean!)
It doesn't matter to me how long it will last, I just
adore this line. It is just the best type of line I've
ever used when I've been ice fishing.
How much ice fishing line should I buy?
So, let's say you can only afford about 2 spools of
this stuff? Well, let's do some math:
The typical ice fisherman is going to be fishing in
anywhere from 3 to 36 feet of water. Lets call it 1-12
YARDS of water for the sake of the math.
On a typical trip, how many times are you going to
'break off' and have to retie any specific line? Once?
Maybe twice? That's about 2 yards per trip, you 'lose'
to unforeseen conditions, or to those toothy northern
Ice fishing line is often sold in 50 to 110 yard
spools. This means a 50 yard spool can be used on two
reels. That's 25 yards each. Just start spooling with
your leftover braided line you used in the summer, then
finish it off (with a GOOD knot!) with 25 yards of some
decent ice fishing line. Three spools of 110 yards will
allow you to spool up 6 ice fishing rods. How is THAT
for saving money and still using premium line?
What type of strength of line should I buy?
Well, this question is a question for the ages, isn't
it? I mean, why not buy 100 lb. test line, and then you
know you will never lose that shark you caught below the
But that rarely happens, if ever.
If you pushed me into a corner, grabbed my collar,
and said, "Give me an answer! Tell me what strength line
I should buy!", I'd say, "FOUR POUNDS!"
Why 'four pounds'? I don't know. You were looking for
an answer, and you had my collar, and my beer was
But I DO like the 4 lb. test line. It seems to go
down into the hole a bit faster than 6 or 8 lb. test
line. It is smaller, so the fish won't see it as much.
And personally? I've never lost a fish, while ice
fishing, to a line that was too weak. I have lost big
fish to stupidity on my part, but not to the line
breaking under the weight of the fish.
Another reason I like 4 lb. strength is that
sometimes, and it is rare, my line gets tangled on the
bottom on some sort of twig or something. When that
happens, you know you are going to lose the terminal
tackle, but I don't like adding insult to injury. If you
have 8 lb. line, then you are going to keep pulling and
pulling till it breaks. All the while, the existing line
on your reel is getting buried in the other parts of the
line. So you reel up your broken line, quickly tie on
another piece of tackle, while you are mad, and then you
let the line down...or at least TRY to...
Now you are ticked off at your reel...and isn't the
reel's fault! It is because your line is getting snagged
on the existing line in your reel because you pulled so
hard on your line to get it to break. This has happened
to me and this is why I like the lower test strength.
What about tip-ups?
After all I spoke about using a smaller diameter line
when ice fishing with a rod, tip-ups are a different
A tip-up is usually used around the
perimeter of your area to catch the predator fish that
scare off the game fish you are targeting. In the
Midwest, where you usually target
Northern Pike, you
will likely suspend the bait about 4 feet under the ice.
I suggest a really nice steel leader, and some REALLY
strong line. They actually sell 'tip-up' line, and it is
strong. You don't need to worry about getting the line
buried into the existing line on the reel because you
pull up the line with your hands, in gloves. Oh yes, you
don't want the pike taking a run under the ice with that
line in your bare hands, that is emergency room
Use heavy, strong line for tip-ups. The fish don't
care, and you shouldn't either.
Next up: Ice Fishing Bait