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Why ice-anglers should be using use lighter fishing line

Gord Pyzer

Spool on lighter line

Not getting bites through the ice? Then you may need to lighten up

A perennial debate in ice-fishing circles is whether you should use the heaviest or lightest line possible to catch more fish. Fans of heavy line contend you need to be able to control a fish to land it, while the light-line devotees say it’s more important to impart action on your lure. So, who’s right? Well, the best ice anglers I know are on the light-line side of the debate.

Here’s why. The next time you’re out ice fishing for black crappies, bluegills or yellow perch, attach your lure to two- or three-pound-test line, then drop it down the hole and watch how well you can manipulate it. Now, do the same thing with the lure tied to four- or six-pound-test line. Watch the difference in how your lure moves, swims, dances and glides—there will simply be no comparison. The lure on the light line will be alive, while the lure on the heavier line will be dead.

The author used light line to coax this trout into biting. Credit: Gord Pyzer.
The author used light line to coax this trout into biting. Credit: Gord Pyzer.

The same thing happens when you go ice fishing for walleye with six- or seven-pound test rather than eight or 10, or for lake trout with 10-pound test instead of 12 or 14. You’d never think a change of only a pound or two in test would make that much difference, but it does.

Here’s an example. One winter about 10 years ago, legendary angler Al Lindner joined me and five friends on a daylong adventure into the backcountry, ice fishing for lakers. We fished as a tight group, running-and-gunning, then sitting on our snow machines parked close enough to one another that we could chat over the course of the day. We were all fishing the same spots with identical white tube jigs, but of the 32 lakers our group put onto the ice, Lindner and I caught all but eight. The only thing we were doing differently from the other five guys, I guarantee, was that we were using lighter line.

Every Friday this winter we’ll be sharing Outdoor Canada’s top ice fishing tips for 2017. Check back regularly to learn about the latest tackle, tips and techniques for icing more walleye, perch, northern pike, lake trout, crappies and whitefish.

Gord Pyzer

Gord Pyzer

Fishing Editor Gord Pyzer is widely regarded as Canada's most scientific angler. Known in fishing circles as Doctor Pyzer, he worked for 30 years as a senior manager with Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources before devoting all his energies to fishing. A member of the Canadian Angler Hall of Fame, the award-winning writer is also an internationally sought out speaker, tournament angler and field editor with In-Fisherman Magazine and Television. As well, he co-hosts the Real Fishing Radio Show with Bob Izumi. Catch Gord on the Outdoor Journal Radio Show live every Saturday morning 8:05AM EST. If you're in southern Ontario, tune your radio to Sportsnet 590 The FAN AM or visit and listen live online.

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