Few things frustrate ice anglers like rod guides clogged with ice and line that is frozen stiff. When extreme cold sets in everyone is looking for the next miracle cure to this icy problem.
So what can you do this ice fishing season to alleviate ice build up on your line and guides? Luckily there are several tricks that provide some relief. Here are 11 of our favorite ways to keep fishing line and guides from freezing.
Keep in mind that no method is perfect, but one of these tricks is sure to work for you this winter.
1. Ice fish in a shelter
Escape the bitter cold and prevent line freeze by using an ice shelter. A shelter not only keeps the cold at bay, it blocks the wind which is the biggest nemesis for wet lines and rod guides.
Even without a heater, freeze up is drastically reduced in a shelter so you can spend more time fishing and less time struggling to remove ice from your gear. When you’re hole hopping and staying mobile, an ice shelter is not always an option. For ice anglers on the go, the next item on the list is for you.
2. Fish with a Buddy heater
I never go on the ice without a propane Buddy heater. They are small, portable and extremely efficient at warming me to the core. It is also super handy to have along when your line starts to freeze and your guides begin to form mini icicles. Kick on the heater for a few minutes and the intense radiant heat melts the ice and dries out your line in no time.
When portability is a priority, I opt for the Little Buddy heater. At 3800 BTU, its enough heat to thaw your line quick and warm your hands. It last 4 hours on one pound propane cylinder too. When things get real cold bring along the larger Buddy heater that pumps out up to 9000 BTU.
3. Use Reel Magic
No, Im not talking about magic tricks, but it is the next best thing. Not to mention plenty of avid ice anglers swear by its ability to prevent ice buildup.
It only takes a few quick squirts to form a protective barrier that conditions your line and keeps things lubricated. It is odorless and does not leave any greasy residue. It seems particularly effective at reducing icing on braided lines. Any ice that does form falls off simply by flicking the line. Absolutely awesome stuff. Spray it on before you start the day and only as often as needed while fishing.
Reel Magic is easy to find at most large sporting goods stores. For the best price, get it on Amazon here.
4. Try lip balm
You’ll probably have some lip balm with you on the ice so why not put it to use for more than just chapped lips. While this is not the best defense against freezing ice fishing line, it is amazingly effective for reducing ice build up on rod guides.
Carmex or Burts Bees are the best but any type will work. Just rub a small amount right on to the guide rings. Any water that contacts the guide is repelled. No more ice and I have not noticed any negative effects on my catch rate. Fish don’t seem to mind and you can always use unscented lip balm as well.
Constant line movement does rub off the lip balm after a while so reapply regularly if you notice more ice forming.
5. Spool up with ice fishing line
Not all fishing line is created equal. Most of the popular fishing line manufacturers sell some sort of ice specific line that is designed to handle the cold and prevent freezing. Whether they work or not is often debated, but in my experience they do seem to offer better functionality than regular open water line in extreme cold.
Most ice braids come with additional coatings which restrict water absorption and therefore don’t freeze solid. Though some freezing with braid does still occur, it’s just not as bad as standard braid. I prefer PowerPro Ice Tec for its moisture resistance and flexibility on even the coldest days.
6. Use monofilament of fluorocarbon
Monofilament and fluorocarbon ice lines retain most of their flexibility and suppleness even in the most extreme conditions. They are also incredibly smooth so ice does not cling to it like it does to braid. When you’re not fishing from a shelter mono or fluoro may be the way to go.
Most anglers love the sensitivity that braid offers through the ice but can’t stand the icing problems in sub-zero temps. If you want to stay versatile, spool up with braid but fish an extra long fluoro or mono leader of 10 to 20 yards. That way you can snip off the leader and quickly switch back to braid when the conditions allow without constantly re-spooling.
7. Bring a spare reel spool
This is certainly not your cheapest method of keeping ice line or guides frost free, but it is the fastest fix. Many reel manufacturers allow you to buy spare reel spools for less money than a new reel. If you get a second spool, put some line on it and bring it out on the ice.
When line freeze starts to get unbearable, swap out the spools and keep fishing. Tightly wrap the frozen spool in a paper towel or dry rag and put it in the warmest pocket you have.
In less than ten minutes the line on the spool is thawed and the towel absorbs all the excess water from the line. Cycle back and forth between spools and enjoy ice free ice fishing line all day.
8. Spray down with PAM cooking spray
When you want a quick solution to frozen rod guides look no further than your own kitchen. If you have a can of PAM cooking spray, ice plugged guides won’t be a problem anymore.
It only takes a quick shot of PAM on each guide to eliminate the ice. Be aware that it does leave an oily residue behind that is a pain to clean off. Use it sparingly and only apply when necessary. It generally keeps ice at bay for a couple hours. The only thing left to decide is if you want butter or olive oil flavor.
9. Keep ice out of your ice fishing hole
Even the smallest ice crystals act as seeds to quickly bind things up in an ice hole and it ends up spreading to your line or guides. Most of the problem with freezing starts in the hole where the ice crystals form.
Keep the hole free of ice with your skimmer and your line will grab on to fewer ice crystals that gum up the guides.
10. Have a towel on hand
A simple dry towel can go a long ways in combating freezing line and iced up guides. Anytime you retrieve line or dip the rod tip in the ice hole while reeling in a fish, it leaves pulls up water that is waiting to freeze.
When al else fails jut dry everything off when it gets wet. If you reel up to rebait, dry the rod guides and dab the line on the spool with a towel. Removing the moisture right away is a sure fire way to keep things free of ice.
11. Use tip-ups
When nothing works to keep your rod, reel or line free of ice. Switch to tip-ups. The spool on tip-ups sits under the water and will remain free of ice. Most brands guarantee that their tip-up triggers or spools won’t freeze in any conditions.
Use insulated tip-ups with hole covers. These provide the best defense against freezing. It may be hard to put the jigging rod down but switching to a tip-up is better than going home.
At some point the temperatures get cold enough that nothing can stop the ice from forming on your line or guides. But I am willing to bet that one of these tips on the list will help alleviate some of the frustration you have with ice build up.
Give a few of them a try and let us know what you think by commenting below. We have had the best luck with Lip balm and Buddy heaters. Give it a try!