Ice Fishing with Tip Ups and Tip Downs

Ice Fishing with Tip Ups and Tip Downs

This article will focus on ice fishing with tip ups and tip downs. The main advantage of these techniques is that anglers do not need to actively monitor the hole. Therefore, several holes can be fished at one time, increasing the odds of success. The rig is set and the fish do the rest. Live bait is normally used, since the hole is not being actively fished. Cut bait can be used as well.

ice fishing with tip ups and tip downs

Tip ups and tip downs are similar, but there are differences as well. Tip downs are a device that uses a regular ice fishing rod and reel. They are mostly used by anglers chasing panfish through the ice. Tip ups use heavier line and have a spool as part of the unit. They are generally used when pursuing larger species. It is important to check local fishing regulations! They will vary greatly regarding hooks, baits, and number of lines allowed.

Anglers who would like to read more about ice fishing can purchase Capt Jim’s E-book, “A Complete Guide to Ice Fishing” by clicking on the title link.

While this can be an easy method of ice fishing, successful anglers usually put in more effort. Constantly checking baits and adjusting depths will usually result in more fish. Also, this is a great way to get youngsters involved in ice fishing. They can play while waiting for a bite as opposed to intently watching a rod tip. When a rod goes off or a flag pops up, it is a mad dash to see who can get to the line first!

ice fishing basics

Ice fishing hole placement

As mentioned previously, the primary advantage to ice fishing with tip ups and tip downs is that several different spots can be fished at one time. Therefore, hole location is critical to optimizing the pattern of rigs. The best approach is to drill holes that fish several depths and if possible, types of cover. Anglers use GPS and sonar to pin point proven spots. Organized holes in a grid pattern will efficiently cover an area.

ice fishing tip down

While covering water is the goal, anglers do not want the rigs spread too far apart. Baits will need to be monitored and changed at least every hour or so. Also, when a flag pops or a rod goes off, anglers need to be able to reach them in a reasonable amount of time. Keeping the holes to a one hundred yard radius is a good rule of thumb.

ice fish finder

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Successful anglers ice fishing with tip ups and tip downs do their homework before arriving on the ice. Studying charts and reviewing data from open water fishing will help anglers identify the top spots. Local bait shops can be great sources of information regarding best baits, depths, and bodies of water that are producing fish. Finally, online forms and groups can be a wealth of local information as well.

Best baits for ice fishing with tip ups and tip downs

Anglers ice fishing with tip ups and tip downs almost always use live or cut bait. The reason is simple; since the hole is not being actively fished, the bait must attract the fish on it’s own. Anglers using tip ups almost always opt for a live minnow. Most of time, tip ups are used on larger fish such as walleye, pike, and larger trout. These fish prefer a substantial meal.

ice fishing with tip down

Anglers using tip downs are usually after panfish and smaller species. Live minnows are still a top bait, especially for those chasing crappie and yellow perch. Tiny jigs tipped with waxworms, dead minnows, meal worms, and nightcrawlers will fool plenty of perch and panfish.

While live bait is most often preferred, successful ice fishing anglers should not overlook using dead or cut bait. In fact, there are some locations where live minnows are not allowed to be used as bait. Fresh minnows that die can be effective baits an angler should not simply toss them away. Larger pieces of cut bait from freshly caught fish can produce some large pike and trout.

Ice fishing with tip downs

Tip downs are great because they allow anglers to fish multiple holes while still catching them on a regular ice fishing rod and reel. This is kind of the best of both worlds! Anglers ice fishing with tip downs are normally pursuing pan fish, crappie, and other smaller game fish species. These fish are better suited for tip downs as they generally don’t strike hard enough to pop the clip on a tip up.

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Tip downs are excellent for anglers learning a new body of water. They allow multiple baits to be presented at different depths and locations. This will help anglers learn much more quickly the types of structure and depth that which fish are feeding. Tip downs are also very conducive to family fishing. Children can be distracted and play a bit in between bites.

Tip down options

Tip downs are lightweight devices that are usually made of wood. They are very portable and set up quite quickly. As mentioned above, they use a conventional ice fishing rod and reel. Once set, the rod is either horizontal or a bit above. Many sit at 45 degrees. When a fish strikes, the unit pivots and the rod tip dips down towards the hole. Thus the name “tip down”!

There are a wide variety of tip down units available to ice fishing anglers. Most opt for the type where any rod and reel can be used. This way, anglers can use the outfits that they already own. Sullivan is an industry leader and makes some excellent tip downs that use any rod and reel combination. Some tip downs come with flags as well. However, it is very easy to tell when a fish takes a bait.

Setting up an ice fishing tip down

Once the hole is drilled, the tip down is set at that location. Anglers can use a live minnow or nightcrawler on a small hook with a split shot to get it down in the water column. This works well for crappie and yellow perch as well as a variety of other game fish species. Micro jigs with a meal worm or wax worm are best for anglers chasing bluegill and panfish.

ice fishing for bluegill and panfish

While the bait should be placed close to the bottom, anglers should vary the depth that they are fishing with the various set ups. This way, anglers can quickly identify the depth that which fish are holding and feeding. It is important to keep an eye on your tip downs! It is not unusual for a fish to take the bait off of the hook unnoticed by the angler. Fishing a hook with no bait defeats the purpose of covering a lot of water!

There are several other nuances which will help anglers ice fishing with tip downs be more successful. It is very important to keep the hole clear of ice. Most often, very light line is used in this application. Sharp pieces of ice will quickly cut this very thin line.

Also, wind can be an issue when fishing with tip downs. The best approach is usually two point the tip of the rod right into the wind. This results in the best line management when dealing with a stiff breeze. Also, it is often a good idea to pack some snow around the base of the tip down when the wind is blowing.

Ice fishing with tip ups

Tips ups have been around a long time. Many anglers use them exclusively when ice fishing. Most often, they are used to catch larger fish such as pike, walleye, lake trout and more. Panfish bite very lightly, so tip ups do not work as well for them. The tip up allows anglers to present a live or cut bait at a desired depth, without having to sit at the hole and actively fish it.

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The unit consists of a frame, usually wood, a spool of line, and a flag that signals when a fish strikes. The spool is usually filled with stout braided line, 50 lb is a good strength. A leader is then attached to the end of the braid using a snap swivel. This allows for an easy change of leaders, depending on the conditions. Some anglers add a pinch on weight just above the snap swivel. This helps it hang straight down. In strong current or very deep water, a sliding egg sinker can be used.

ice fishing for lake trout

Some anglers prefer round, plastic tip ups. These are very convenient as they fit right inside the hole. This eliminates the need to constantly keep the whole free a floating ice. These units are a bit more expensive, but many anglers consider them worth the cost.

Setting and using the ice fishing tip up

Once the hole is drilled, the tip up rig is set up. The hook is baited and lowered down to the preferred depth. Anglers should vary depths at each hole to determine where the fish are feeding that day. The line is then set in the clip and the angler moves on to set up the next hole.

ice fishing basics

When a flag pops up, the angler dashes over to the hole. The spool will usually be spinning as a fish runs with the bait. The tip up is removed out of the way. Once the run slows, the anglers takes up the slack and then sharply sets the hook by hand. After the fish is hooked, it is patiently brought back in using a hand over hand motion. The head of the fish is raised up through the ice, then the rest of it is pulled through.

Tip up ice fishing rigs

Anglers fishing with tip ups have several options when it comes to rigs for their live or cut bait. Once again, anglers need to check local fishing regulations to make sure they are fishing in compliance with game laws and restrictions.

ice fishing for northern pike

Walleye rig

The best rig for fishing for walleye with a tip down is to use a jig and live minnow. A 4 foot long fluorocarbon leader is preferred. Most anglers use 8 pound test to 10 pound test line. The jig provides both weight and a hook. Anglers can fish a similar rig using a #4 live bait hook and a small split shot or two. With either rig, the minnow should be hooked in the back between the dorsal fin in the tail. This will keep it swimming down and away which signals distress to walleye in the area.

Trout rig

Lake trout and larger rainbow and brown trout are highly prized species that anglers pursue through the ice. Once again, a 4 foot long fluorocarbon leader testing 8 to 10 pounds works well. Live minnows are most often used. Where legal, a small treble results in a good hookup ratio. Anglers who like to practice catch and release fishing and in areas were treble hooks are not allowed will do fine with a light wire live bait hook.

Pike rig

Northern pike have very sharp teeth. Many anglers who ice fish for them use steel leaders. However, fluorocarbon leaders will often draw more strikes. Anglers will just have to determine if the risk is worth. Many anglers use a quick strike rig when pursuing northern pike through the ice. This rig consists of two hooks and a swivel. The bait is then hooked through the head and through the tail, increasing the odds of a hook up.

In conclusion, this article on ice fishing with tip ups and tip downs will help anglers catch more fish through the hard water!


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