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What is My Winter Line?

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What is My Winter Line?

Always spool your tip ups with a high performance 40 - 60 pound test braided line that is easy to hold, has no memory, is highly abrasion resistant and won't tangle when you throw it in a heap onto the ice • Credit: Gord Pyzer

The author offers ice fishing advice for types of line and using tip ups

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I received a fascinating email question recently from a reader who is planning an ice fishing adventure over the Christmas holidays to Northern Ontario. Brian, who sent me the message, wondered what type of line I would recommend he use to spool his various ice fishing reels and tip ups?

It is a great question and I am sure a lot of other anglers are wondering the very same thing. So let's take a look at the parameters you need to take into account to make your Northern Ontario ice fishing adventure a huge success this winter.

The first, interestingly enough, is whether you're going to be ice fishing outside exposed to the elements, or inside a warm heated shelter, as so many tourist operators are offering these days on world famous ice fisheries like Lake Simcoe, Lake Nipissing, Georgian Bay and Lake Temagami.

When you ice fish inside a warm heated shelter, you can use your favourite monofilament, fluorocarbon, braided or fused gel line without any hesitation. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

To be honest, I almost hesitated calling them heated shelters because some of them are so plush and luxurious, they're almost like castles out on the ice. But I stuck with the term in the end because it also embraces the portable pop up and hub-style shelters that so many visiting ice anglers like to pull behind their snowmachines and quads. Once you set them up and turn on the heater you can fish in your shirt sleeves like you do in the summer.

And just like in the summer all three line options of monofilament, fluorocarbon and braided lines are useful. This is because inside a toasty shelter you don't need to worry about your line shedding water and freezing up inside your rod tip and guides.

When you're fishing outside, in cold temperatures, frozen guides and tips can be a real pain, especially when you use micro dyneema fused gel and braided lines that don't absorb the water but rather shed it when you reel in a fish or your lure.

Having said that, however, it may surprise you to learn that even when I fish outside in -30° C weather, I still favour using a fused gel line like my favourite Sufix Ice Fuse. The reason is that I love the super sensitivity and total no-stretch that fused gels offer.

It is especially true when I am ice fishing for lake trout on Lake Temagami, along the north shore of Lake Superior between Sault Ste Marie and Thunder Bay -- especially around Caribou Island in Thunder Bay itself -- and on the many lake trout lakes in Northwestern Ontario's Sunset Country.

I should mention, too, that when I am fishing for lake trout in these world class waters, I always use back-to-back uni-knots to attach a two to three foot leader comprised of 10 to 12 pound test Maxima fluorocarbon to the end of my 10 to 15 pound test main line.

You may be surprised to know, too, that I like the ultra-thin diameter that 2, 3 and 4 pound test fused gel line gives me when I am ice fishing outside for jumbo yellow perch, plate-shaped black crappies, husky brook trout and rambunctious rainbows. For walleyes, I go a little stronger and spool on 6 and 8 pound test.

I find fused gel lines have no memory and thus, don't loop and coil in the cold weather like monofilament and fluorocarbon lines do. And because it lacks memory, your lure doesn't spin when you put it down the hole, and nothing turns off fish more than a bait or lure spinning in circles.

While Gord Pyzer prefers the thin diameter of a non-stretch fused gel line in the winter to catch huge crappies like these trophies, his buddy In-Fisherman television host, Doug Stange opts for fluorocarbon line
While Gord Pyzer prefers the thin diameter of a non-stretch fused gel line in the winter to catch huge crappies like these trophies, his buddy In-Fisherman Television host, Doug Stange opts for fluorocarbon line. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

But, the price I pay is cleaning ice from out of my guides and rod tip when the weather is especially cold.

And to give equal time to the other side of the debate, good friend and In-Fisherman television host, Doug Stange always pays me a visit or two every winter to film some Northern Ontario ice fishing adventures. And Doug is a huge devotee of using light fluorocarbon line for crappies and perch, so you be the judge.

The one area where there is little line debate is when it comes time to spooling your tip-ups for northern pike and lake trout. Because you are typically throwing the line by hand onto the ice and not fighting the fish from a reel, you require something that is very easy to hold, streams through your fingers, has zero memory and will not tangle when you toss it in a heap on the ice.

There are several things to consider this winter when you spool line onto your ice fishing reels and tip ups that will make your Northern Ontario ice fishing adventure a huge success. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

The nod goes to a specialized tip up line like Sufix Performance Metered Tip-Up Ice Braid that is coloured coded in five foot segments. Because we catch giant northern pike every winter that tip the scales around the 30 pound mark, the colour coding lets me know when a big fish is nearing the hole and it is time to land.

And let me tell you, when an enormous Northern Ontario pike or lake trout the size of your leg sees the light streaming down your hole and decides to make one last ditched dash, you want to be sure you're using a braided line with exceptional abrasion resistance so it doesn't break when it rubs and scrapes against the edge of the ice.

So, what line should you spool on your reels and tip ups for your next Northern Ontario ice fishing adventure?

As you can see, it all depends.

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