Pictured above: Resistant to abrasions at the hole is just one reason Mr. Bluegill (aka: Troy Peterson) prefers fluorocarbon line when ice fishing. (Photo courtesy of Troy Peterson)
My thoughts often turn wistful when I step onto a frozen lake these days. It’s not that I’m sentimental from four-plus decades of ice fishing the waters near my home in Michigan’s Northwest Lower Peninsula, but it’s more a recollection of the fish I caught as a kid and my absolute astonishment of how I was even able to fool a fish into biting with the makeshift equipment I used back then.
My rods were literally wooden dowels — nails pounded in at one end to wrap line on and an eyelet screw twisted in as a guide on the other. To call them anything but a stick would be elaboration. My jigs were more like crudely-painted blobs of lead sporting dull, rusty hooks. And the line connecting the two? It was whatever heavy, stiff monofilament a kid could afford. Detecting a strike with that snarled line, let alone just attempting to get my offering down through the hole chopped with my grandfather’s handmade spud, was by far the most frustrating part of the day.
But a lot’s changed from those days of me dragging archaic gear onto the ice within a sled made from an old wooden crate secured to a pair of short downhill skis; nowadays I’m toting a Frabill flip-over shanty full of graphite rods and ice-fishing-specific reels, sonar with GPS and mapping, Aqua-Vu underwater camera and a super-sharp auger to slice the ice and quickly bore holes.
But even all that technology I have in tow is not going to help me catch more fish if I don’t have one simple, yet critically important piece of the fish-catching puzzle: high-quality line made for the brutal conditions of ice fishing. Thank goodness, the choices are getting better by the year. And fluorocarbon line is getting noticed more and more as the go-to for catching more fish through the ice.
To know then what we know now
Seaguar introduced the initial spindles of fluorocarbon into the United States just a few years before my first-ever ice fishing trip – in 1971, to be exact.
During this timeframe, there were only two types of line ice angers would even consider: braided Dacron and monofilament. The former was used mostly on tip-ups or for jigging in extremely deep water, and the latter everything else. Overall, it’s probably a good thing angler’s didn’t understand the advantages of fluorocarbon for ice fishing as catch and release was rarely practiced during this era and fish populations could easily have suffered.
The line’s benefits?
Fluorocarbon is very dense in its makeup. It’s more compressed because of the fluorocarbon resin, which has more fluorine atoms and less hydrogen, packs more mass into the same space. This means it’s as close to neutral buoyancy as line can be, and, a great choice for vertical personations. It also has less stretch due to its denseness, which is crucial when it comes to getting good hook sets; especially when using the light-pound-tests lines needed for proper presentations during the winter months. And less elasticity makes it much more sensitive, to boot, not only allowing anglers improved feel, but the actual fish strike is telegraphed through a spring bobber or super-sensitive rod tip better.
Using line with such a thin diameter as fluorocarbon is key when using tiny jigs for panfish and the like. Not only is thin line less visible — which fluorocarbon is much more translucent than monofilament to begin with — it also your gives your offering a more natural presentation. Consider the minuscule aquatic insects fish forage on most this time of year. Not only do they waggle wildly on their own, they also waft about in even the most minute water currents. Thick, rigid line doesn’t allow lightweight lures to drift naturally and wary fish will turn tail without as much as taking a second look.
“The evolution of fluorocarbon line has been amazing,” says Troy Peterson of Mr. Bluegill Guide Service. “There was a time when I only used it as a leader because line on a reel would come off coiled like a Slinky, and worse, stay that way. But fluoro is so much softer now, and when spooled onto an in-line reel there is absolutely no looping or line twist.”
The Wisconsin ice-fishing guide’s preferred line is Seaguar’s AbrazX Ice, which is offered in 50-yard spools of 2-, 3-, 4- and 6-pound test. The same manufacturer’s Blue Label is another great choice, and is offered in higher-pound tests.
“And it’s not just AbrazX’s softness and thin diameter, but its abrasion resistance [2X’s more than any other] that really sets it apart,” Peterson adds. “The bottom of a hole is rough and will shred inferior line as a fish swirls below the ice. But since I started spooling with Seaguar, my clients have lost less fish at the hole from being cut off.”
Last but not least, is how fluorocarbon comes off a reel in extreme air temperatures. Superline tends to hold water, which will freeze up quickly. Monofilament may expand once you’re in a heated shanty and fill the gaps in the wraps and come off with a jerky motion rather than nice and smooth. Fluorocarbon’s compressed nature keeps it water free and with less condensing and expansion.
No more wondering
While fluorocarbon’s been around for a while, anglers are just starting to take note of its superiority when ice fishing. Soft, less stretch and a thin diameter… That’s the modern-day fluoro.
More than likely, the next time I step foot on the ice I’ll once again be in wonderment of how, as a kid, I was even able to fool a fish into biting with the crude equipment I had. I guess I’ll just chalk it up to dumb luck. In the meantime, I’m planning on upping my catch rate by spooling fluorocarbon.