A Step-By-Step Guide To Ice Fishing With Tip Ups & More

by Julie | Last Updated:   October 8th, 2022
A Step-By-Step Guide To Ice Fishing With Tip Ups & More

Ice Fishing with tip ups used to be regarded as a lazy fishing technique. However, several anglers are now realizing the benefits of tip ups. I find them highly effective when I need to comb large areas for trophy fish.

If you are interested in learning tip up ice fishing, you are in the right place. I will provide all the necessary details in this article. In the end, you should be able to use tip ups to capture all kinds of fish, from bluegills to Northern pike.

What Is Tip Up Ice Fishing?

It is easy for anyone, regardless of the level of skill, to learn the basics of using tip ups. However, tip up fishing isn’t a lazy form of fishing in any way. You will have to be attentive and fit to be able to move from one hole to the other.

Tip up fishing is a technique that will enable you to use several baited lines simultaneously. Whenever a fish strikes one of your baits, the trigger system will flip up the flag to notify you. Hence, you won’t have to be around each bait to detect strikes. You will have to pull out your catch by hand.

That’s the basics of tip up fishing. Continue reading to become an expert at fishing with tip ups.

The 5 Best Ice Fishing Tip Ups

A tip up is one of the simplest tools that you will need as an ice fisherman. However, the market is flooded with different types of products. This can make it quite difficult for you to make a choice.

If you are getting your first tip up, opt for a product that is simple yet of good quality. A good quality model should feature an adjustable trigger system, a stable base, and weather-resistant components.

Let’s take a look at the 5 best ice fishing ups on the market:

Beaver Dam Ice Fishing Tip Up: Several experienced ice fishermen regard this product to be more reliable than most tip ups on the market. It’s quite costly but will turn out to be a worthy investment in the long run.

HT Enterprise Husky Deluxe Tip Up: This is an excellent tip up that is made of wood. The components of this product are specifically designed to perform in sub-zero temperatures.

Frabill 1664 Classic Wood: If you can’t afford the Beaver Dam, this is one product that you should be looking at.

HT Polar Therm Extreme: This tip up comes insulated to combat sub-zero conditions.

Ifish Pro Ice Fishing Tip Up: This product is built for ice fishing rods and reels. You should choose this product if you want to enjoy the benefits of using a tip up and a rod.

How To Fish With A Tip Up: 10 Easy Steps

Here I am going to explain the right way to use a tip up. Follow these 10 steps to becoming a pro tip up angler:

1. Locate the Best Fishing Spots

This is the first step and it will go a long way in determining how successful your fishing session will be. Take your time to ensure that the spots you choose contain fish.

You can use a fishing device such as an ice fishing fish finder to monitor underwater structures and activities. Check for structures like drop-offs, submerged reefs, and reefs as fish are usually present around them.

Another way is to use your best fishing spots during the regular fishing season. This will be particularly effective during the first days of winter when the fish haven’t gone deeper into the water in search of oxygen.

After locating some favorable fishing spots, proceed to spread out as many tip ups as possible. This will further improve your chances of catching fish. However, you should avoid placing them too close to one another. You should consider leaving at least 30 yards between your tip ups.

2. Drill an Ice Hole

As you would when using an ice fishing rod, you have to drill a hole to use a tip up. It is at the edge of the hole drilled that you will place your tip up before dropping your line into it.

That said, the number of holes to be drilled will determine the right drill to use. If you will be needing just a few holes, a manual ice auger should suffice. For more tip ups, you should consider getting yourself an electric ice auger. This will save you time and energy while also ensuring that you have an enjoyable fishing session.

Additionally, 8-inch augers are the most popular choice amongst ice anglers using tip ups. You will be able to pull out all kinds of fish through an 8-inch hole, from a yellow perch to large northern pike.

3. Spool Your Line Onto the Tip Up

Just like other fishing techniques, tip up fishing requires a high-quality line. The best line that you can use for ice fishing is a Dacron line (braided nylon). Though some ice anglers are now opting for braided ice lines, I’ll recommend that you stick with the reliable Dacron.

I love using Dacron because it remains flexible on the spool and is resistant to twists. It is also available in a variety of strengths. You can opt for anything between 15 to 60-pound test depending on the type of fish that you are after. But if you don’t know what’s right for you, you should opt for a 30-pound test line. It is sensitive enough to help you detect small fish bites and strong enough to help you fight large, aggressive fish.

As for colors, you may opt for a black or green Dacron line. Both colors are suitable for most water conditions and clarity. Between 60 to 75 yards of the line should be enough for you but if you are going after deepwater trout, it would be a good idea to have more line.

Additionally, you should try tying 3 feet of fluorocarbon or more as a leader using a snap swivel. Since fluorocarbon is transparent, it will make your setup invisible to shy fish. A 6 to 10-pound fluorocarbon leader will be okay for walleye fishing while a 20 to 30-pound fluorocarbon leader will be necessary for lake trout and pike. However, you will need a leader made from wire material if you are after a trophy pike. Fluorocarbon stands no chance against the sharp teeth of this fish.

Watch this video to learn the easiest way to put a line on a tip up:

4. Examine the Depth

To get the best out of tip up fishing, you need to gather as much information as possible. Measure the depth of the water so that you will know the exact section of the water column to fish. One device that can help you do this quickly is an ice flasher.

If you have gone on an ice fishing trip without one, you can attach a one or two-ounce lead weight to your snap swivel and then release your line until it reaches the bottom. Now, pull up the line until it gets to the point that you want your bait to be suspended. Mark the spot with a bobber stop. Before attaching your bait, unspool the line to the marked spot and then set the trigger.

5. Choose Your Bait

You should choose your tip up bait based on the type of fish that you are looking to catch. If you are after walleye, you should opt for live minnows such as suckers or shiners. Meanwhile, dead minnows are an excellent choice for pike and lake trout. Small minnows will be highly effective in attracting crappie.

Additionally, live minnows are easy to rig. I always hook them below the dorsal fin because fishes simply can’t resist struggling minnows.

If you want to catch big pike, you will need a quick-strike rig and a dead bait. It consists of two treble hooks that are joined together by a short leader or wire. The first one should be properly hooked to the dorsal area and the second one close to the head. Your hook points should face the tail because fish usually eat the head of dead baits first.

You will need to attach a small split shot to your leader when using live minnows. Attach it between 12 to 14 inches above the hook. The weight should be increased when the water is deep but it shouldn’t prevent the minnow freely.

Furthermore, you won’t have to worry about weight use large dead minnows such as tullibee or ciscoes. You just have to ensure the minnow sinks by making a hole in the air bladder. This can be found between the spine and stomach. Once you puncture the bladder, place the minnow in the water and squeeze it. There should be bubbles in the water as your bait sinks to the bottom.

You can improve your catch ratio by selecting a different bait for each tip up. As time goes on, you will discover the most effective option and then switch the bait on other tip ups to it. This is a tried and tested way of fishing with ice fishing tip ups, especially in new locations.

6. Set the Trigger

Once you get your bait exactly where you want it, the next step will be to set the trigger system. The trigger is the component of the tip up that releases the flag and most triggers are adjustable.

When adjusting your trigger, you should choose the minimum tension required. Fishes notice the resistance when it’s too tight. If you don’t get enough tightness, the bait’s movement will set the flag off. Trust me, you don’t want to run down to a hole for no reason. You should always remember to check your trigger’s tension.

7. Watch the Flags

After setting up your tip ups, you can now relax in your ice shanty and wait for the fish. You may decide to get some warmth from your heater or have fun with other anglers to fill the time. But regardless of what you do, don’t take your eyes off the flags completely. This will be easier when you are part of a group as members will be able to take turns. By rotating the task, you will give everyone an equal opportunity to have fun and get some ice fishing action.

8. Be Swift

Using an ice fishing tip up requires speed. You should be ready to rush to the ice hole like an Olympian the moment the flag comes up. A fish may spit your bait out if it stays in its mouth for too long and it may also escape after emptying your spool.

However, you should remember to move carefully too. Several ice anglers sustain injuries while trying to get to their hole quickly. To ensure your safety on the ice, remove any item that can trip you from your path. It is also never a good idea to run on bare ice. If you must move quickly on slippery ice, use microspikes.

9. Ensure That the Fish Still Has the Bait

When you arrive at the ice hole, you shouldn’t grab the line immediately. First, confirm that the fish has your bait by checking for movements in your fishing line.

Many ice anglers miss out on potential catches because they grab the kind prematurely. For example, a fish may trigger tip up the flag just by striking the bait once. If you don’t give such a fish enough time to eat the bait before yanking the line, you will scare it away.

10. Set the Hook, Get Your Fish

You are now so close to getting your fish. However, you have to handle the line carefully until you feel a little pressure on it. Don’t let the excitement push you to set the hook forcefully in this crucial moment. You can easily get the hook in the mouth of the fish by lifting the tip up line in a fast and smooth manner.

Now, bring the fish in using the hand-over-hand method. Note how large and powerful the fish is and if it’s a big one, allow it to run when necessary. During fights with large fish like lake trout, a pair of gloves will help you prevent line cuts.

Though the heavy line will allow you to quickly get most fish out of the hole, you will need a significant amount of experience to handle the bigger ones.

Tips For Catching Walleye

Walleyes are the favorite gamefish of several anglers thanks to their fighting spirit and great taste. If you are looking to catch some walleyes this winter, ice fishing tip ups can be an effective fishing tool.

All you have to do is to follow these tips:

  • Walleyes tend to be more aggressive in the early days of winter. As a result, you will need to opt for a #1 wide gap hook and a living minnow that is between 4 to 5 inches. You can opt for smaller sizes in the latter days of winter.
  • You should consider using quick-strike rigs for larger walleyes as they offer better hookups
  • During the latter days of winter, you should set up your tip ups close to spawning areas. Such areas include breaks and flats that are close to gravel beds and stream inlets.
  • Walleyes usually strike live baits lightly during winter. So, your trigger should be as light as possible.

Tips For Catching Northern Pike

Pikes are another fish that is loved by tip up anglers. One of the reasons for this is that they tend to grow very large.

If you are looking to catch some trophy pike this winter, check out these tips:

  • It is always a good idea to fish for pike with dead minnows. The bigger the bait, the bigger the catch.
  • A 30-pound leader will be the ideal choice for a quick strike rig. Pikes have sharp teeth that can rip regular leader material apart.
  • The best places to catch large pikes are shallow areas near weed beds. Pikes are sometimes found in waters that are less than 5 feet deep.
  • Find the center of the water column’s depth and position your bait there. For instance, your bait should be placed 7 feet deep in the water if it is 14 feet deep.

Tips For Catching Lake Trout

A lake trout is one fish that every angler dreams to catch. If you are interested in catching a trophy lake trout, tip up fishing is the way to go.

Here are some helpful tips:

  • Lake trout usually maintain the same depth as they travel along contour lines. You can locate their routes by positioning your baits at different depths. Lake trout can be found anywhere between 20 to 80 feet below the ice.
  • Go below the ice with a jig and a minnow. Choose the size of your minnow based on the size of the fish that you are looking to catch.
  • Always carry a jigging rod. Having a bright jigging spoon in the next ice hole is an excellent way to attract fish and provide yourself with a better chance of getting a bite.
  • You will need a tip up system that is suitable for a rod such as the Ifish Pro Ice tip up. It will be easier for you to fight and tire this fish out with a rod and reel.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much line should be on a tip up?

The right amount of line to put on a tip up will be anywhere between 60 to 75 yards of line. However, you will need more line if you are looking to catch deepwater trout.

What kind of line should I use for tip ups?

The best type of line to use on a tip up is either a braided or dacron line. They both remain visible in the snow and resistant to twists but I prefer dacron lines due to their superior flexibility.

Can I make a tip up at home?

Tip ups are simple fishing tools that you can make at home. You can easily find the necessary materials in your home or at your local store. Some anglers also make new tip ups from old and broken tip ups.

How many ice fishing tip ups can I use?

Each state in the United States has its laws regarding the number of tip ups that can be used by each angler. So, you should check out your local fish and wildlife department website. Note that most states do not allow anglers to leave tip ups for extended periods.

How can I prevent my tip up from freezing?

Tip up ice fishing can be frustrating when the device gets frozen. Fortunately, several tip ups now come with antifreeze features. But if your device doesn’t have these features, you can prevent it from freezing by drying it properly after each use. You should also check the spool and trigger to ensure that they are operating properly. Finally, always have a spare tip up when fishing in freezing conditions.

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I was fishing before I could walk and it's been a family tradition for centuries. Fishing is my life, or at least as long as I can remember. In the Lake Champlain International Fathers Day Fishing Derby, not only have I won first place twice but also third place! Also, in addition to majoring in Wilderness Recreation Leadership, I also happen to be a licensed camping, hiking, and hunting guide for NY.