What Pound Test To Use For Ice Fishing (Info For All Species)

Backcountry Cariboo utilizes affiliate links, which means when you buy through links on our site, we will receive a small commission at no cost to you.

I’ve heard a lot of different opinions over the years on what pound test to use for ice fishing. Some people say to switch it up for every type of fish but I like to keep things simple and in this post, I’m going to be showing you what pound test line I use for ice fishing.

For most situations, I’m a big fan of using 20 lb braided line for ice fishing. It’s a versatile setup and can be used for a wide range of species. Braided line is thinner and stronger than normal line and the 20 lb test is the same diameter as a 6 lb mono or fluoro line. I’ve caught all species of different sizes using this exact setup which makes things really easy.

The big thing to keep in mind is that you want to use as small of a line as you can. The heavier the line the thicker it is and the easier it is to see. If you’re fishing for small trout and using a 30 lb line then it’ll probably spook them off. But you do want to make sure you have a strong enough line to make sure it doesn’t break.

I like using a white-colored braid because it blends in the best and it’s much thinner than fluoro or mono of the same test. It’s also much stronger and won’t break as easily when it rubs against the ice. I normally use Suffix Ice Braid and it’s always done the job for me. See it here and our other favorite ice fishing gear.


If you want the easy option then that’ll be for you but if you want to use a fluorocarbon or monofilament line then here is the complete list for each species on what pound test to use:

  • Crappie: 2-6 lb.
  • Perch: 2-6 lb.
  • Bluegill: 2-6 lb.
  • Walleye: 4-6 lb.
  • Kokanee: 4-6 lb.
  • Lake trout: 8-14 lb.
  • Pike: 14+ lb.
  • Musky: 14+ lb.
  • Largemouth bass: 14+ lb.

You want to use the smallest line you think you can use because it’ll be harder for the fish to see. It’s all going to depend on where you’re at as well because one of the lakes I normally go to only has kokanee and trout under about 4 lbs. Other lakes I go to have much bigger kokanee and trout.

Crappie, Perch & Bluegill

If you’re fishing for any of these species then you should use a 2-6 lb fishing line. That’s if you’re using normal fishing line but if you wanted to use a braided line then you could use a 15-20 lb because it’ll be the same diameter.

These fish do have pretty good eyesight so they’ll see a thicker line and you’ll have a tougher time landing them. I’m not saying you can’t because I have, but it’s something you’ll want to keep in mind.

Best Time Of Day To Ice Fish For Perch

There is a bunch of these fish around and they’re some of the more common fish you’ll catch on the ice. They don’t put up much of a fight and I’d personally rather go after the bigger fish.

That’s the exact reason I use a braided line. With a 20 lb braided line, I can bring in pretty much any fish. It’s thin enough where I can still catch the odd small fish but if the big guy does bite then I’ll be alright.

Walleye & Kokanee

If you’re fishing for either of these then you’ll probably want to use a slightly bigger line. I’d say it’ll be best if you use a 4-6 lb fishing line. You’ll be able to catch a walleye or kokanee on a smaller line but you can find these fish in certain areas where they’re much bigger.

These fish don’t tend to fight very hard and I’ve never really had a line break but things can always happen. I’ve had my line break because of it rubbing against (braided line won’t break as easily) the ice but never from a walleye or kokanee.

I have had my line break (but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a walleye or kokanee) and that’s another reason I switched to the 20 lb braided line. I can just set it and forget it and not have to worry about changing my line.

Lake Trout

If you’re fishing for normal-sized rainbow then you’ll be able to get away with a smaller line but if you’re looking for the big lakers then you’ll want to use an 8-14 lb fishing line. This is one of the fish you wouldn’t want to lose and that’s why you’re better off being ready.

I’ve had plenty of times trolling for these guys and ending up with my lure at the bottom of the lake. It’s not a good feeling. Some lakes do have fish bigger than this though so you could even go with heavier line.

Or (if I haven’t convinced you yet) go with a 20-30 lb braided line. It’ll be the same size as a 6-10 lb monofilament but you’ll be able to handle so much more. It seems like a no brainer to me.

Pike, Musky & Largemouth

If you’re fishing for these guys (or something similar) you’ll want to pull out all the stops and go with a 14+ lb fishing line. These fish can get quite large and you’ll definitely not want to let one get away.

When I’m ice fishing I’m mainly going after the big boys and that’s what my gear is set up for. I catch plenty of smaller fish throughout the year and if I’m going to sit out in freezing conditions then you better believe I’m going to go big.

The good news about these fish is that they don’t really have the best eyesight and aren’t going to be spooked by your line. You don’t need it to be too heavy but you’ll want to make sure it’s definitely heavy enough.

These fish will go after any sort of food and have sharp teeth (pike & musky) so you’ll want to make sure they can’t chew through the line easily.

There you have it. Those are my recommendations for what fishing line to use for ice fishing. It’s going to be up to you whether or not you want to keep things simple or not. I like making things as easy as possible and that’s why I use a braided line that can be used for pretty much everything. It’s just my opinion anyway.

Happy fishing. If you want to catch more fish, use more hooks.

Let me know your thoughts and any questions you have. Like this article? Feel free to give it a share!

Want to enter into our fishing gear giveaway? We’ll be doing giveaways on our YouTube channel and all you have to do to enter is click here to subscribe to our channel, like a video, and comment giveaway. More comments = more chances to win.

Jon Webber

I'm by no means an outdoors or fishing expert, but it's something I've been interested in for over 20 years. This site is where I test out different gear and techniques to see what actually works.

Recent Posts