Posted on 12 March 2015.
The spool that holds the line on a tip-up is submerged below the ice to keep it from freezing.
Tip-ups have traditionally been associated with northern pike fishing.
From the Michigan DNR
Tom Goniea credits tip-ups with converting him into an ice fisherman. Goniea, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist, said he’d never been ice fishing, when a buddy invited him to set tip-ups. He took an immediate liking to it.
“I felt like an 8-year-old on the ice,” Goniea said. “I was happy to just get flags, and I was perfectly content to catch undersized pike. Tip-ups are relatively easy to set up, relatively easy to use, and pike are relatively easy to catch. But I went on to research where there were lakes with populations that had larger pike in them and started chasing them.”
Goniea eventually became a full-fledged ice fisherman—walleyes, pan fish, even smelt—but says it was his early success with tip-ups that opened his eyes to the joy of ice fishing.
Tip-ups are devices designed to fish set lines through the ice. Tip-ups are equipped with spring-loaded flags that “tip up” when the bait is taken by a fish. Traditionally, tip-ups were constructed of wood with three basic components: a pair of cross-members, which forms an X, and a third piece attached perpendicular to the cross-members. The cross-members straddle the hole in the ice, keeping the tip-up from falling into the water. A simple spool is attached to the vertical member that is submerged (which keeps it from freezing) and a spring-loaded flag is attached to the portion of the vertical member above the ice. When a fish takes the bait and swims off, the revolving spool triggers the flag to release, alerting the angler to the strike. The angler checks the line, sets the hook, and hauls the line in by hand until he pulls the fish through the hole.
Once primarily the output of home workshops, tip-ups are now made by dozens of manufacturers from a variety of materials—wood, plastic or metal—and the basic design has changed, too. Tip-ups now range from a single base member that straddles the hole to round models that cover the hole and are designed to help slow ice formation.
Tip-ups range in price from just a few dollars to many, many times that. One high-tech model even boasts a feature that’ll signal your cell phone when the spool starts spinning.
Traditionally, tip-ups were spooled with Dacron line, though the newer braided lines are becoming more popular. The thicker, heavier Dacron or braid is more visible and easier to handle than monofilament or fluorocarbon line. Anglers typically attach a length of less-visible mono or fluorocarbon to the main line, generally with a swivel, to serve as a leader. The hook is tied to the leader.
“I generally use a couple of feet of leader, though with pike I’m not sure that’s necessary,” Goniea said. “I’m more likely to use a wire leader.”
Tip-ups are more closely associated with pike fishing than any other species here in Michigan, but they can be used to pursue most any species.
Fishermen may use up to three tip-ups at one time. The devices must be marked with the name and address of the owner and must be under the immediate control of the angler; you can’t set them, leave, and come back to check them later. If you did, you’d be missing most of the fun, Goniea says.
“The biggest thrill of tip-up fishing is when you get a flag, you never know what’s on the end of your line,” he said. “You don’t know if it’s going to be 10 inches or 40 inches. If you pick your lakes strategically—choose lakes that are known to have populations of large fish–you never know what you’re going to get.”
Learn more about fishing tips, opportunities and resources on the DNR website www.michigan.gov/fishing.