Ice Fishing Line vs Regular Fishing Line – 3 Great Reasons to Try it

Now, where were we? Were we talking about fishing line? Sorry, it would appear I have a problem with memory… Or do I?

If you pick a good-quality ice fishing line, you’ll find that memory is one thing you don’t have to worry about! Ice fishing line is much more suited to cold conditions.

Today we are looking at ice fishing line vs regular line. I’ll talk you through the differences and answer some common questions.

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Is There a Difference Between Ice Fishing Line and Regular Line?

The quick answer?

Yes, there is.

Think about a summer fishing environment compared to winter ice fishing. Is there any fishing gear that you’d say is the same?

When it comes to line, there are a few differences. Here’s a quick guide to the main differences between ice fishing line and regular line:

man wearing ice fishing bibs and jacket fishing on frozen lake


When things get cold, they get stiffer and more brittle. (Like my knees and back).

The fishing line is no exception.

In the summer months, the relative warmth of the water means that your line should be flexible and supple. However, in the winter months, submerging your line in the barely above freezing water means that it will stiffen significantly.

If it is wound on a reel, it can permanently change shape. We call this permanent shape ‘memory’. It tends to look like a telephone cord or ‘pigs’ tail’. Line memory is bad for a few reasons:

  • It prevents you from being in contact with your hook.
  • Memory spoils bait presentation.
  • It makes your reel more prone to tangle.

You’ll find that any good ice fishing line will have anti-memory properties, removing all of the above problems.

Abrasion Resistance

While ice might be slippy, it can also have some seriously sharp edges.

Unlike bank fishing, where your line only ever comes into contact with the rod and the water, ice fishing line is subject to being pulled over the edges of your ice hole repeatedly. As a result, it needs to be durable enough to withstand this.

You’ll tend to find that ice fishing line is coated and slides over surfaces easily, preventing damage to the line.

close-up ice auger drill and fishing rod near the hole on the ice


In winter, everything slows down. The fish and what they eat are included. Gone are the summer days of high-speed chases. Instead, fish will swim slowly up to your bait or lure and inspect it.

Why does this matter?

Because your ice fishing lures or bait is still in the water, the fish have a better chance of spotting the line. The water tends to be clearer when ice fishing, too, so this magnifies the effect.

The answer is to pick a less visible fishing line.

Do I Need Special Line for Ice Fishing?

Alright, look.

It isn’t mandatory, and you might catch a fish with a normal line. But if you are going to go to all the trouble of getting fully kitted out for ice fishing, you might as well give yourself the best possible chance of catching a fish, right?

I’d advise going for a good quality ice fishing line straight off the bat. You’ll find that you’ll get more bites, suffer from fewer tangles, and the line won’t become damaged easily when it comes into contact with the edges of your ice hole.

fishermen ice fishing on frozen lake

Can You Use Regular Line for Ice Fishing?


You could use a regular line for ice fishing.

You could also drink champagne out of a beer mug, but you’ll look slightly odd doing it.

For the occasional foray into the world of ice fishing, you might get away with using the regular line. But based on all I have said above, you’ll catch less, face more tangles and ultimately damage your line.


You’ll end up having to buy a new line anyway, so why not save yourself the time and increase your catch rate by getting a line that is purpose-built for ice fishing?

ice fishing rod and reel on frozen lake


How often should you replace your ice fishing line?

As often as it needs it.

No, I’m not being obtuse.

After each session, check your line for signs of wear and damage while you are reeling in. If there are any nicks, scuffs, or curly sections, then it could be time to replace it. Generally, you shouldn’t need to replace it more than once a season.

Those who fish regularly should probably take a half-time break and replace it mid-way through the ice fishing season.

Do you need special lines for ice fishing tip ups or tip downs?

The qualities inherent in ice fishing line are just as important when using tip-ups and tip downs. Just like when ice fishing with a rod, you’ll be looking for excellent bait presentation, so I’d recommend using an ice fishing line for this as well.

You might want to consider using a stronger line for ice fishing tip-ups. They have less suspension and will need to hold the fish until you get to your tip up.

Also, tip downs and tip-ups for ice fishing can tend to tangle easily. For that reason, you want a line that is as memory-free as possible.

ice fishing tip up and ice auger on the winter lake

How do you keep ice fishing lines from freezing?

Lines can freeze, but this tends to be more of a problem when they freeze on your reel. There are a few ways to prevent line from freezing. Here are some great suggestions:

  • Use Mono – because monofilament fishing line is smoother, it tends to accumulate less ice.
  • Use an ice fishing shelter – a shelter allows you to create your own little warm spot on the lake. This will prevent ice from forming on the line or reel.
  • Use coated braid – there are brands of braid that come covered in a special anti-ice coating. Keep a good lookout for these as they are great for ice fishing.
  • Keep your hole clear – occasionally, the water in your ice hole will start to freeze again, and these ice crystals will adhere to your line. If you’ve seen my complete ice fishing gear list, you’ll see that I recommend a good quality ice scoop as part of my essential equipment.

How much line do you need for ice fishing?

The good news is that you don’t need a lot of line for ice fishing. If you look at any decent ice fishing reel, you’ll see that they have really small spools. This is because you don’t need to cast to catch the fish. You are right above them!

How much line would I use?

You probably need no more than 25- 30 yards on a standard ice fishing setup. It all depends on how deep the water is…

And how will you be able to find that out?

I can recommend some great fish finders for ice fishing!


When it comes to ice fishing line and regular line, there are a few differences. You’ll be able to catch on both, but ice fishing line holds the advantage.

While you are here, why not swing by my other guides on ice fishing equipment, there is loads of good advice. What line do you prefer to fish with? Let me know in the comments below!

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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