Skip to main content

How To Use a Tip Up

Those brave enough to withstand the cold can learn how to use a tip up and increase their catch with a little ingenuity.

Tip up fishing is like winter’s trotline. When you can drop a line in a body of water and walk away, knowing full well you’ll be alerted to a catch, there’s few things better for an angler.

But not every fisherman knows exactly how to use a tip up, or at least use them strategically to improve their chances at pulling a keeper through the holes they’ve drilled.

If that’s the case, take these suggestions to the frozen lake next time you trek out, and orchestrate a thought out and effective plan.

Choosing a Tip Up

Durability, especially with such a brutal winter pounding down on us, is paramount in tip up selection. Plastics can be brightly colored and lightweight, but can also break down with sunlight and cold temperature exposure. Opt for stronger materials and sturdy design, because you never know how big of a fish will hit your tip up.

Also, choose one with a flag that’s easy to see from a distance. Orange tends to work the best, especially from distances of 100 yards or more. Keep an eye out for additional features, like a round cover that will keep the hole from freezing over.


We would suggest using a braided or Dacron line for your tip up spool, with a monofilament leader. Braided or Dacron line will be easier to spot against white snow. If you’re going after pike or something similar, consider a braided steel leader. Add your bait and lead weights if needed, and drop the line only after determining how deep the water is below, and if there are any structures towards the bottom.

Set the flag indicator according to the tip up’s specific directions, and sit back and wait for the fish to bite.


Since the main idea behind tip ups is to allow anglers multiple lines in the water at the same time, placing them can be a big factor in their success. In fact, some prefer to use tip ups as attractant methods, with visual- and audio-based stimulation meant to bring in game fish from afar, and entice them to go after the bait.

Jonny Petrowske, a Minnesota fishing guide interviewed for an article, swears by a diamond-shaped pattern when going after pike. A tip up is centered between four other holes, stretching 40-50 yards apart. Petrowske uses the exterior holes to attract fish to the centered tip up, capitalizing on each sense the fish uses.

RELATED: Brewery Uses Drone To Deliver Beer To Ice Fishermen [VIDEO]

If panfish or others are more your style, patterns don’t matter as much as distance. Too close together, and fish may get distracted from  one tip up to the next. Too far apart, and you’ll spend more time setting up and walking than you will catching fish. A good rule of thumb is to keep holes around 20-30 yards away from each other.

Now that you’ve received your Tip Up 101 basic education, you’ll be ready to catch fish for as long as the ice stays thick.

you might also like

How To Use a Tip Up