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How to Set Up Ice Fishing Tip Ups

Learn how to set up ice fishing tip ups with Blain’s Farm & Fleet.

Ice fishing is a great way to get outside and enjoy everything winter has to offer. As with any outdoor sport, you’ll need the right equipment and need to know how to use that equipment. When it comes to ice fishing, a tip up is a great place to start. A tip up is a device that signals when a fish grabs onto your line. A flag springs up–tips up–when the fish hits. There are different kinds of tip ups to choose from: windlass, pro-thermal and hardwood are popular choices. Once you have the tip up of your choice, you’ll need to set it up. Let Blain’s Farm & Fleet teach you how.

How to Set Up Ice Fishing Tip Ups
Learn how to set up and rig your ice fishing tip up with the help of Blain’s Farm & Fleet.

Drilling your ice fishing hole

Before you set up your tip up, you’ll need to drill a fishing hole. To drill your ice fishing hole, the easiest tool to use is an auger. There are gas-powered augers and hand-crank augers. Whichever kind you choose, your hole should not be more than 12 inches across. Varying hole sizes can actually help you catch different fish. Smaller holes, about 4-5 inches, work well for bluegills, crappie and perch. Eight inch holes work great for trout, northern pike and walleye. It’s also the size commonly used for tip ups. Be sure to check with your state for ice fishing hole regulations.

Rigging the Tip Up

Spooling the Line – Once you have a hole drilled that will fit your tip up or tip up cover, it’s time to rig the tip up itself. For ice fishing, you’ll want a braided or Dacron ice fishing line. Spool the line onto the tip up. In order to get the tip up flag to work, tie an arbor knot with the fishing line around the tip up reel and hand wrap the line evenly in a clockwise direction. Make sure the line can handle the weight of the fish you’re catching. 20 – 30 lb. test line works fine for bass, but heavier test line will be needed for bigger fish like pike, lake trout and salmon.

Attaching the Barrel Swivel & Leader– Next, attach a barrel swivel to the fishing line with an improved clinch knot (learn about different fishing knots here). A barrel swivel is perfect because it rotates so the line won’t get twisted. If you’re fishing for fish with sharp teeth, such as northern pike and large pickerel, tie a braided steel leader to your line. This will stop those fish from biting through your line. For fish like walleye, bass, trout, perch and crappie, you’ll need about three feet of flurocarbon leader tied to your barrel swivel, using a Trilene knot. This makes it hard for the fish to see the line.

Tying Hooks Onto the Leader – The type of hook and knot you use depend on what species of fish you plan on targeting. Typical ice fishing species like crappie and bluegill can be caught with a longer Aberdeen hook, which makes it easy to unhook the fish once they’re caught. It’s best to look into the species of fish you’re seeking and which hooks work best. The same goes for choosing the right bait.

Attach Split Shot to the Leader – Finally, use split shot to keep your bait weighted down. Attach it to the leader keeping it far enough from the bait to sink it but not close enough to keep it from swimming.

From here, keep your tip up at a distance where the flag is still visible to you. Using a hi-vis colored flag is the best way to keep it visible against the winter weather. For more tips on ice fishing techniques and gear, visit our Fishing & Ice Fishing blog.


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