Happy Winter Solstice! I recently picked up a few new ice fishing lines to test this season. I have fished the Berkley Trilene Micro Ice line for the past four seasons with much success. Most of those situations, however, were in shallow water (less than 20 feet) targeting panfish and salmonids. I found myself in a few circumstance where I was fishing in deep water, depths of 50 to 100 feet plus, targeting tullibees (ciscos), crappies, carp and buffalo, requiring a low stretch line. Monofilament line is notorious for stretching; sometimes this can be an advantage, preventing a fish from easily spitting the hook or breaking you off. Attempting to set the hook on a fish in 70 feet of water is a different story, however, and stretch can be your own worst enemy.
Anyone who has fished a superbraid knows that the lines are a double edged sword. Tough, low memory, abrasion resistant line is great against the toothy critters, but can be heel on rod guides and even tougher to cut tag ends. Trying to break off on a snag can be a nightmare; you'll likely break the rod before breaking the line. I have fished the first generation of Berkley's Fire Line Micro Ice and wasn't too impressed. The line was so limp it was tough to feed through a half frozen hole. What was worse, the line would eventually freeze stiff and it was a bitch peeling ice crystals off the line in order for it to pass through the guides and back on to the reel. Now, there is a new version of the line on the market, a fused version where the braid is completely covered and smooth, Berkley Fire Line fused Micro Ice Crystal. Hopefully this thermally fused line will eliminate water absorption and freeze up, as well as reducing guide wear. These lines are ultra sensitive and are unreal for detecting strikes.
Other entries on the market are the Gamma ESP Ice and Suffix Ice Magic lines. The Suffix Ice Magic is a monofilament line with an extremely low diameter. This is an excellent low memory line and the Neon Orange color is a great hi-vis line. My friend and fellow Pro Staffer at HotSpotOutdoors had great success fishing with it last season and highly recommends it. The Gamma ESP Ice comes with highly anticipated. In case you didn't know, Gamma are also the producers of Frog Hair tippet. It is a Copolymer line, much like the Gamma copoly line I have used when tossing gear or meat. I loved the way this line performed; it was tough on the rocks, and really played fish well. I never had a knot failure fishing this line and developed some bad habits along the way. The line and knots were so tough that I would neglect checking them. That's the beauty of modern engineering. Hopefully, this ESP Ice line will perform to the same standards as the regular copoly line.
Looks like I'll be busy re-rigging my ice rods. Hopefully we'll get a bit more ice and and a little more snow so that I can take my snowmobile out on the ice to pull my portable fish house. It's ice fishing season.