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The Big Tip on Tip-Ups

By Andrew Persson

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Ice fishermen are now settled in to mid-season patterns and tactics, and sometimes that means that the fish may not be biting quite as well as they do on both early and late ice. When these lulls hit, a great way to keep the feeling of fast action fishing going is by setting tip-ups for northern pike.

The idea is just as basic as any other form of ice fishing; put some bait on a hook, put it down the hole and wait for a bite. Don’t let this simple tactic fool you though, here are some important tips for bringing that big one through the ice.

First thing’s first when it comes to tip-up rigs, what bait you are going to use and how are you going to present it? Every angler has their own idea of what works best, because there are a lot of ways to be successful. One way that seems to consistently produce fish is by using a four to five inch sucker minnow hooked on a treble hook. The size of the hook can really depend on the size of the fish you are chasing, but sticking with a number four treble is a pretty safe bet. Many anglers prefer a quick strike rig; this rig is two sets of hooks that are both placed into the minnow for a higher hook up percentage, which is something every fisherman is looking for.

The constant re-setting of lines down the hole is the only down side to this style of fishing. Frozen lines can make that task not easy sometimes.
The constant re-setting of lines down the hole is the only down side to this style of fishing. Frozen lines can make that task not easy sometimes.
(Photo by Andrew Persson)

The next step is locating where these fish will be. Pike can be tricky, and range anywhere from a couple feet of water to the deeper parts of the lake. Don’t let this discourage you, because this is actually an advantage. Staggering tip-ups in different depths of water makes it easier to pattern fish on any given day. Although pike can be so widely spread the most productive areas are generally between 10 and 15 feet of water. Concentrating efforts in that range of water with a majority of your tip-ups will often times produce the most fish.

When it comes to most types of fishing, electronics are almost always on the list of important things to have with. That’s the great thing about fishing this way, you don’t need expensive graphs or depth-finders to be successful. As long as you have a way to tell the depth, expensive electronics are unnecessary.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when using tip-ups is one phrase: fish feed up. The biggest mistake made on the ice is setting these rigs too close to the bottom. Don’t be afraid to keep the bait three, four, even five feet off the bottom in deeper areas. The fish will come up to get it, they just won’t come down for it, so keep the bait in the strike zone where it will get bit.

The final piece of advice that can be offered for using tip-ups is to bring a portable house and heater with to stay warm while waiting between bites. Sometimes getting to spend the day with friends and family is more important than how many fish you catch that day, and everybody is happy when it’s nice and warm in the ice house.