Ice Fishing with Tip Ups, a Complete guide

Ice Fishing with Tip Ups

This article will focus on ice fishing with tip ups. The main advantage of this ice fishing technique is that anglers do not need to actively monitor the hole. Therefore, several spots 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 effectively as well.

ice fishing for northern pike

Tip ups consist of a frame, spool, and line. They are set over a hole and baited with live or cut bait. A flag will pop up to indicate a strike. Tip ups are generally used when pursuing larger species such as northern pike. It is important to check local fishing regulations as 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.

ice fishing basics

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 flag pops up, it is a mad dash to see who can get to the line first!

Ice fishing hole placement

ice fishing auger

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 with tip ups

Obviously, anglers will need some type of auger to drill holes in the ice. There are several options in both power and manual versions. Hand powered and battery powered augers work fine when drilling through relatively thin ice. Serious anglers ice fishing with tip ups will go to gas powered augers that will quickly cut through thick ice.

ice fishing auger

Click the link to shop Amazon for ice fishing augers

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

Click to shop Amazon for an ice fishing fish finder

“Fishing Lido Key is a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. ”

Successful anglers ice fishing with tip ups 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.

ice fishing

Best baits for ice fishing with tip ups

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. It takes a fairly strong tug to release the line from the clip, therefore smaller panfish are not usually targeted by anglers ice fishing with tip ups. These larger fish prefer a substantial meal.

catfish bait

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 ups

ice fishing for walleye

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.

Click to shop Amazon for tip ups

The unit consists of a frame, usually wood or plastic, 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.

tip ups

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 for northern pike

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.

tip ups

Walleye rig

The best rig for fishing for walleye with tip downs 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

ice fishing for lake trout

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.

brook trout fishing

Tip ups are used used when ice fishing in shallow rivers. The reason for this is that anglers walking overhead in fairly shallow water will spook the trout. Anglers can set the line, often in water as shallow as 2 feet, and then leave the area. Once it settles down, the trout will move in and hopefully feed. This same approach works for brook trout in lakes as they often move quite shallow and the water is very clear.

Pike rig

northern pike fishing

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!


Jim Klopfer

Capt Jim Klopfer has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. He grew up in Maryland, fishing the Chesapeake Bay waters. Capt Jim has been creating an writing articles about fishing for decades, contributing to many regional and national publications. He also lives part time in the North Carolina mountains where he fishes for trout and other species. Capt Jim Klopfer is a wel rounded angler with 50 years fishing experience, and he loves to share what he has learned with other anglers!

Recent Posts