So what exactly is a “Tip Up?”

A tip up is an ice fishing device with two main components: a spool of line, and a flag to act as a strike indicator. Designs vary from two wooden pieces forming an “X,” to a plastic one-piece unit, long enough to cover the expanse of a hole in the ice while the spool of line hangs submerged in the cold water, above the bait presentation.  

My ice fishing tip ups are plastic and have a trigger mechanism with two sensitivity settings, for windy days and active live bait, and a built in measuring board. Tip ups allow you to be several places at the same time. Check your state regulations because the number of tip ups allowed varies. For example, Pennsylvania permits five tip ups, while Michigan restricts to three. Space the tip ups apart so you can learn where the fish are biting, such as in a line of increasingly deep water. Once you think you are in a good area, set your tip ups at varying depths to determine where active fish may be suspended. (Sometimes ice fishing with tip ups seems like playing the board game, “Battleship.”)

When a fish pulls the line it releases the trigger and the flag springs up to alert the angler. Walk quickly but quietly and cautiously across the ice to the tip up.  Lift the device out of the water, grab the line, and give it a little tug to set the hook. Then the fish is slowly played in, without a rod, all by cold hands.

With minimal investment, ice fishing tip ups can be helpful for covering water, and yet letting you keep your hands warm in your pockets until there is some action. Ice fishing tip ups are especially popular with pike anglers that may want to use large live minnows and check different depths and locations.  With these tip up tips, you’re ready to tackle ice fishing! Just make sure your fishing license is up to date and you stay safe on the ice.

Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb is a columnist, outdoor humorist, and stressed-out Dad. He says there are “people who fish”… and there are “fishermen”.  One of the few things he knows is that he is a “fisherman”...  To the point it could be classified as borderline illness.  Sharing this obsession is rewarding, therapeutic. He likes to encourage people to “stop and smell the crappie."  Enjoys catching fish, but gets a greater thrill out of helping someone else hook up.
Born in Florida, but raised on the banks of Oklahoma farm ponds. Now relocated to western Pennsylvania. He has fished, worked, lived all around the US.  He has a B.S. in Zoology from Oklahoma State as well...
And he met his wife while electrofishing. He has been contributing weekly to since 2011.