Knots for Ice Fishing: Your Best Options Explained with Step-by-Step Instructions

Anglers learn really quickly that a good knot is essential and that a bad - or poorly tied knot - is worthless. Nothing about that changes when the mercury plummets and the ice gets thick.

That said, most ice fishing calls for nylon monofilament, as braid just absorbs too much water, encouraging freezing. Fluorocarbon can have a place on the ice, too, but it’s largely unnecessary given mono’s equivalent strength, diameter, and abrasion resistance.

And since mono bites well against itself and ties easily, long-time readers of USAngler will recognize that this means you’ll have some really strong, easy-to-tie knots at your disposal.

If you want to know which knots are the most useful on the ice, keep reading.

We’ll run down your best choices, explain when and why to use them, and offer simple instructions to tie them well.


The Best Ice Fishing Knots

The Palomar Knot

Palomar Fishing Knot

When you need a secure connection to a barrel swivel, hook, or jig, the Palomar Knot is very hard to beat. 

Extremely strong (89% to 98% of your line’s rated test), the Palomar resists pulling free, making it an ideal choice for hooks, jigs, and swivels that will experience the strain of large, powerful fish like lake trout, steelhead, coho, pike, and muskie. That’s not to say that you can’t use it when fishing for perch, bluegill, or trout!

Another advantage of the Palomar is that it ties securely in any line type, especially if you add a second loop for braid.

It’s also fast, easy to execute, and quick to learn.

But there are potential problems with the Paloma, just as with any knot:

  • Never trim the tag end too short. Leave about ½ inch.
  • Never cross your lines. They need to lay parallel.
  • Never tie the Palomar Knot in frayed or damaged line.
  • Always wet your knot and cinch it down carefully.

Here are step-by-step instructions to tie the Palomar Knot:

  1. Double-over your line and pass it through the eye. Make sure to double 6-8 inches of line so that you have a loop long enough to pass over the lure, swivel, or hook.
  2. Bring your doubled tag end back to your doubled main.
  3. Tie a simple overhand by passing your doubled tag over and through the doubled main.
  4. Pass the doubled tag line over the entire lure or hook.
  5. To tie the Improved Palomar for braid, simply wrap the loop one more time with your doubled line (repeat step 3), proceeding normally after that.
  6. Wet your knot and gently cinch it down.

Be sure that your lines lie parallel to each other. They should not cross!

The Uni Knot

uni knot

Perhaps the king of all fishing knots due to its simplicity and sock strength, the Uni Knot is versatile. Whether you need to connect a crankbait, a jig, a bare hook, a swivel, or a sinker, the Uni gets it done well and fast.

Like the Palomar, it creates a close, tight connection that can be useful when you want to keep a jig in its ideal horizontal position.

Even a good knot can struggle when subjected to a sudden, hard pull. Not so with the Uni. By design, it can take constant pressure as well as shock without pulling free or breaking, making it an excellent all-around choice for larger species.

It’s very fast to tie, even with cold hands and aging eyes, and it’s quite simple to learn.

And in its Double Uni variant, it’s a great choice for connecting main line to leader.

But be aware of some potential problems with the Uni:

  • Be sure to wet and cinch down this knot carefully.
  • Never tie the Uni Knot in frayed or damaged line.
  • As a line connection knot, it’s larger than others. That shouldn’t be an issue for ice fishing, where casting isn’t necessary.

Here are step-by-step instructions to tie the Uni Knot:

  1. Pass your line through the eye of your lure or hook or around the object you wish to connect to (your reel, a hook, a lure, etc).
  2. Double over your line, giving yourself plenty of tag line.
  3. Make a loop and bring the tag end back along both the main and tag lines.
  4. Wrap the tag end around both the tag and main lines, at least five to seven times.
  5. Wet the knot and pull the tag end until it is finger tight.
  6. Pull on the main line until the knot meets your hook, lure, etc.

The double Uni is essentially two opposing knots that use both lines to increase integrity.

  1. Start with both lines side by side.
  2. Loop the tag end of one around both lines, repeating 5 to 6 times. You’re essentially duplicating a standard Uni, but rather than doubling the main line, you’re wrapping the two lines you wish to join. Don’t tighten it down!
  3. Loop the other tag end around both lines, repeating 5 to 6 times. Don’t tighten it down!
  4. Wet your knots and carefully cinch them down.

The Kreh or Non-Slip Loop Knot

Kreh Knot

Sometimes, you need a loose loop to allow a crankbait, jerkbait, or jigs move naturally, and no matter how good your Palomar, Uni, or Improved Clinch Knot, they just don’t allow the full action of your lure.

The Kreh Knot creates a non-slip loop that holds well and ties quickly and easily. When tied properly, it’s very strong (83% of your line’s test), and it won’t pull free even in fluorocarbon or ice braid, should you decide to make that choice.

As good as the Kreh Knot is, take care with the following:

  • Wet and cinch this knot down carefully.
  • Make absolutely sure that the lines don’t overlap. They need to lay parallel to each other throughout the knot.
  • Never tie the Kreh Knot in frayed or damaged line.

Here’s how you tie a Kreh Loop Knot, step-by-step:

    1. Start with six or seven inches from the end of your tag line and tie a simple overhand loop.
    2. Tighten it down just a bit, leaving plenty of gap.
    3. Run the tag end through the eye of your lure.
    4. Run the tag end back through the overhand loop on the same side that it left the overhand knot. This is critical!
    5. Take up most of the slack in the tag end, and pull the overhand knot tighter, but do not tighten it down!
    6. Holding the overhand knot and tag end between your finger and thumb, loop the tag end around the standing line 5 times.
    7. Bring the tag end back through the overhand loop in the same orientation as before! This is critical!
    8. Wet your knot.
    9. Cinch it down carefully by pulling the tag and standing ends simultaneously.

The Dropper Loop

how to tie the Dropper Loop

Perch Pounder Rigs and Double Fly Rigs both demand two leaders projecting from the main line. And while there are a number of ways to accomplish this, the Dropper Loop is among the best.

Very, very strong as it’s not a true “knot,” the Dropper Loop is also easy to tie with cold hands. Moreover, it’s easy to adjust and move up or down your line, allowing you to easily reposition your hooks.

But keep in mind that the Dropper Loop relies on stiff line (heavy mono or fluorocarbon) to avoid tangling, and in braid or light mono, it’s just not going to get the job done for you.

Here are some things to remember about the Dropper Loop:

  • Never tie this knot in frayed or damaged line.
  • You’ll need stiff line to keep this loop from tangling, especially if you use it as leader for live bait.

Step-by-step instructions for tying a Dropper Loop:

  1. Make a small loop in your line. The size of this loop will directly affect the size of the final loop.
  2. Tie a simple overhand knot, and continue passing the tag end through the loop 5 times.
  3. Make a small opening between the tag and standing lines, and continue with 5 more passes of the tag end.
  4. Hold that small opening open with your teeth and pass the opposite side of the overhand knot through the opening.
  5. Pull everything tight, carefully cinching down this loop.

The Improved Clinch Knot

Improved Clinch Knot

The Improved Clinch Knot is, and has been, a favorite among anglers for years. 

Ideal for light lines like the 2-, 3-, and 4-pound test common when fishing through the ice, it’s absolutely a great choice for securing hooks and jigs when you're targeting bluegill, crappie, perch, and trout.

It’s also easy to tie and hard to get wrong - and you can learn to tie it well with just a few minutes of practice. 

But be aware that this knot will not hold well in heavier lines, many fluorocarbon lines of any diameter, or in braid.

Some things to keep in mind about the Improved Clinch Knot:

  • Never tie this knot in frayed or damaged line.
  • Wet it and cinch it down carefully.
  • Lines with a diameter of 30-pound mono or greater will not hold in the Improved Clinch Knot, and I wouldn’t personally use this option in test greater than 12-pound mono or fluorocarbon.
  • The Improved Clinch Knot will not hold in braid of any kind.
  • You need to test the Improved Clinch Knot in your fluorocarbon before you fish with it.

Here’s how you tie the Improved Clinch knot, with step-by-step instructions:

  1. Pass the tag end of your line through the eye of your fly or lure.
  2. Working away from the eye, wrap the tag end around the main line 5 to 7 times.
  3. Bring the tag end back through the small loop formed behind the eye.
  4. Bring the tag end through the large loop formed in step 3. Be sure that the coils don’t overlap.
  5. Wet the knot and carefully cinch it down.

Final Thoughts

There are a number of excellent knots for ice fishing, and this list covers most of the best.

And whether you need to tie on a fly for trout, create a Perch Pounder Rig with a few Dropper Loops, or just secure a hook, swivel, or sinker, they should have you covered!

As always, we’d love to hear any comments, concerns, or questions you might have, so please leave a comment below.

About The Author
John Baltes
If it has fins, John has probably tried to catch it from a kayak. A native of Louisiana, he now lives in Sarajevo, where he's adjusting to life in the mountains. From the rivers of Bosnia to the coast of Croatia, you can find him fishing when he's not camping, hiking, or hunting.