The differences between ice fishing line and regular fishing line

Traditional fishing is a sport that many love and do regularly, but an exciting new sport to try is ice fishing. While there are clearly several comparisons between the two styles of fishing, there are some key differences that you want to keep in mind. The biggest difference is some of the equipment that you use for ice fishing is different than what you would use in traditional fishing. Let’s start with the line:

What is the difference between ice fishing line and regular fishing line? The biggest difference between ice fishing and regular fishing is the line that traditional line often does not perform properly for ice fishing. Though the line used in ice fishing is somewhat similar to the one used in traditional open-water fishing, the line behaves differently while in cold water. 

The line you already own for traditional fishing may not work properly for ice fishing and finding ice fishing specific line is key. There are lines sold regularly on the market today that are specifically made for ice fishing. However, if you cannot find these specifically, you can use line that has low memory and is strong but not too visible. 

What is Ice Fishing?

If you are reading this piece, you are probably already interested in ice fishing and what you need for the sport. However, if you have just stumbled upon this information, we will start by describing more about the sport and what it entails. The definition of ice fishing is a practice where fish are caught through an opening on a frozen body of water, using lines and hooks or spears.

One thing to keep in mind when it comes to the sport is that this style of fishing is more dangerous than traditional fishing, and having the right equipment is key. To begin this style of fishing, you need to cut a hole in the ice to reach the fish. While there are different methods, traditionally, fish will be caught with a rod, reel, and some form of fishing line. 

Main Difference Between Traditional and Ice Fishing Line

Clearly, the way you catch fish while ice fishing is through the ice, which makes the line you use critical. The problem here is that the hole you fish in may damage the line because ice can be sharp. If you use a lower quality line, it can even be cut through by the ice when you catch a decent-sized fish. 

Ice fishing line has less movement, which means the fish have more time to think before biting your bait. If you have a highly visible line, they will notice this and be less likely to take the bait. Commonly, ice fishers will use fluorocarbon lines because they are stronger and more resistant to abrasion than traditional monofilament lines. 

As mentioned, colder water can change the way the line performs, and these temperatures are something to keep in mind. Ice fishing manufacturers have taken these temperature differences into account when designing the line, ensuring it works for even the coldest of temperatures. Ice fishing lines are effortless to stretch, loosening when there is an increase in lake temperature. However, these lines are not great for warmer waters, or those not filled with ice.

Choose the Best Fishing Line

The key thing to keep in mind when it comes to finding your ideal fishing line is to compare them and decide which fits your needs best. You clearly want to find a fishing line that will withstand the harsher conditions, resisting fraying and breaking. Some common things to look for when choosing your line are:

VisibilityAs mentioned, you want to find a fishing line that is as invisible as possible. If your fish see the line, they will get spooked and will not bite the lure. If you can find a fluorocarbon line because they are practically invisible, if not find a line that has the lowest visibility possible.
BrittlenessCold conditions can make regular fishing line freeze and become brittle, leading to further breakage. You want to find a line with a water-repellent coating so that the water is not absorbed, and it is more resistant to breaking. Ideally, you will use a line that remains flexible in colder water conditions.
StrengthIce fishing is done vertically, which means you need a higher strength to lift the fish out of the water without breaking the line. Once again, the ice can also cut the line easily when lifting out any fish if you are not choosing the best line possible. You want to find a line that is built strong and uses a weaving technique, as these are often tougher and hold up well against abrasion.
SensitivityFish tend to be less active, and bites are harder to feel when you are fishing in colder water. It is important to have an incredibly sensitive line that has a lower memory and little stretch, ensuring movement is known. If you do not have a sensitive line, you will not know when you are getting a bite and when you should set the hook.
Friction StrengthIce fishing lines are subject to more friction with the ice, which can lead to fraying and eventually breakage. You want to search for a good ice line that has abrasion resistance. Essentially, you want to find a line that claims it will hold up against any sharp edges.
WeightFishing lines are given weight ratings that are either in pounds of kgs; these ratings will tell you which fish weights they are designed to handle. You want to find a line that has a pound test rating that will work with the ice fishing rod you are using, your specific weights, and the fish you are hoping to catch. If you catch a very large fish on a lowered weight line, your line will break, and it will get away.
Line MemoryThe ideal ice fishing lines will have zero to low memory, which means they do not retain the coiled shape that you would see from the spool. These lines stay straight to deliver the best lure presentation and offer you more sensitivity should a fish bite. Lines that have a high memory will hang in spiral coils, have more slack, and will often be less sensitive.
ColorBrightly colored lines that you often use for traditional fishing can also give you an edge when it comes to ice fishing. The biggest reason for this is because these lines are easier to see, and you will be able to notice a difference in line when a bite happens. You can always add a fluorocarbon line via a knot or swivel to avoid spooking any fish with the brighter shades.
Cold Water ResistanceOf course, you need a line that will withstand the freezing temperatures and perform as needed. Regular lines do not perform in cold water the way that ice specific fishing lines do, as these lines have an added anti-freezing and water repellent coating that protects them.

Types of Ice Fishing Lines Available

There are several types of ice fishing lines on the market, similar to how there are several traditional lines that you can choose from. The main lines used are monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braided lines that are built tougher to withstand these harsher fishing conditions. Here is a quick breakdown of the various types of lines available, along with the positives and negatives that come with each line:

  1. Monofilament lines – these are the most popular out of all ice fishing lines because they tend to be strong, durable, and easy to handle even in very cold conditions. They can have more coils and tangles when you unroll them because the memory is lower than some other options. You will have a good control of your lures and a solid hook set through the low stretch the line features. These are also inexpensive but may not hold up against abrasion. 
  2. Fluorocarbon line – fluorocarbon has been mentioned several times thus far and truly is a great option when it comes to quality fishing line. This line is practically invisible in the water and has a great abrasion resistance. The line also features a lower stretch, increasing sensitivity and bite detection. The biggest downside is that the memory is high, and the coils can be increased through colder water. 
  3. Braided fishing line – the braided fishing line options available are great because they are often a thinner diameter, have high strength, have low stretch, low memory, and are incredibly sensitive. The biggest negative is that fish can see the line more easily and the braids allow water to come in, leading to ice buildup. If you are hoping to fish in deep water or you have an ice fishing house, this line is top notch. 
  4. Copolymer – these perform well in freezing conditions though are not as popular of an option. They have low memory to keep them straight in the water, do not absorb an excess of water, and are resistant to abrasion. Their sensitivity is a good midrange and overall, the line can be a good option if available. 
  5. Tip up line – once again, this line is not as commonly found but can be a good option for ice fishing. The braid on this line is usually made smoother to resist kinks and can come off the spool more smoothly when you are getting a bite. 

Top Ice Fishing Lines

If you are on the search for quality ice fishing line, it is good to have a place to start and know which brands make quality options. While most of the ice fishing lines out there are also lines you will find from traditional line retailers. Some amazing options that are available on the market today are:

  • Berkley Trilene 100 Percent Fluorocarbon Ice – This is a great option from a familiar name, offering low memory and practically no stiffness. It has a low stretch, thin diameter, and it is fluorocarbon so that fish do not see the line. You can see it on Amazon here.
  • Northland Tackle Bionic Ice Fluorsilk – This fishing line is another fluorocarbon option but actually has a core of copolymer. This makes the line super resistant to freezing, yet invisible underwater. The line has excellent knot strength, abrasion resistance, and durability. You can see it here on Amazon.
  • Berkley Fireline Micro Ice Fused Original – Another Berkley option, the Fireline Micro Ice (click to see on Amazon), is a great choice for ice fishing as it has a small diameter and is highly sensitive. It is hard for fish to spot in the water due to this smaller size. 
  • PowerPro Ice Tec – This is a braided fishing line option that has been coated with PTFE, allowing it to repel water and eliminate the formation of ice. The fishing line features the PowerPro Enhanced Body Technology, which means the braid is stronger than many other options. You can check it out on Amazon here.

What About the Fishing Rod?

A big part of which line you use is which rod that you use for ice fishing. Just like the line used, it is important to use a quality ice fishing rod that is designed to work well in these differing conditions. Of course, you may be asking what makes an ice fishing rod different than a traditional one?

Ice Fishing Rods Are Shorter

Traditionally ice fishing rods range from around 18 inches to 48 inches in length. This is because when you ice fish, you are only fishing directly below you, and it is critical to be close to the hole. Also, most ice houses, tents, or other shelters are small, which makes having a larger pole a huge disadvantage. 

They Are Built With Increased Sensitivity

As mentioned, colder water equals more sluggish fish, which means their strikes are not as noticeable. Ice fishing rods have an extra sensitive tip that helps you detect the bites more easily. Some ice fishing specific rods have a brightly colored tip that alerts you when a fish has been biting. 

Fighting Fish Is Easier

Fighting a fish through these small holes is very different than in open water because you cannot let your line overly drag the edge of the ice hole. While fish are less active, they can put up a fight, and this can be extra challenging when they approach the hole. To avoid the line rubbing the edges of the hole, you can dip the tip of the rod into the water and help control the direction of the fish. 

Other Important Equipment

Of course, there are a few more things you will need to catch quality fish when you go out ice fishing. While the rod and the line are two of the most critical pieces, some other things to keep in mind are:

  • The Reel: There are reels made for ice fishing specifically, but these are not as important as the other ice fishing specific equipment pieces. Ideally, you should choose an ultralight reel and those designed for ice fishing tend to be less expensive than open water reels. Some prefer straight-line reels that are used in fly fishing for ice fishing, but the reel is truly up to your preference. 
  • Ice Augers: Perhaps the most important part of ice fishing is that you cut a hole through the ice to access the fish underneath, this is done using an ice auger. An ice auger is a spiral cutting tool, and hand augers are relatively low priced, but there are also gasoline and battery power augers available. The sizes of these pieces range, but it is important that the auger you choose can cut a hole big enough for the fish that you are after. 
  • Seat or Bucket: A cheap and easy piece of equipment that most ice fishermen can benefit from is a simple five-gallon bucket, which can be used to carry gear, keep fish, and rest a rod on. If you do not have an icehouse or shelter, you can also use the bucket as a simple seat while fishing. There are bucket caps available that can be added to increase comfortability to the seat. 
  • Rod Holders: These are useful tools with some even fitting on the rim of your five-gallon bucket. There are also standalone options that allow you to elevate the rod and reel off the ice for easy positioning. It is really your preference as to which design works best for your needs and budget. 
  • Pliers and Forceps: You will want to carry both needle-nose pliers and small forceps in your kit for ice fishing. These are best for removing hooks from your fish. Also, if you need to secure a split shot onto your line, they are good to have on hand. 

Sled: If you are truly interested in ice fishing, a sled is an investment you should make as they are ideal for carrying your equipment where it belongs. You will want to find a sled that is large enough to carry your essentials and a little extra space for anything else you may need or acquire. When you have a sled available, you can easily walk your load across the ice, and these devices are not as dangerous as some ATVs or snowmobiles can be.

Have fun out there and stay safe!

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