Attachment 21535Jack Frost has done his part to hasten the ice-fishing season. Depending on the locale, several inches of frozen H2O are currently providing access to some fine first-ice fishing opportunities, with both northern pike and walleyes providing good action as of late. One of my favorite times of the year is the first ice period, especially when pursuing these toothy predators using tip-ups. While versatile and effective yet relatively simple to operate, there are definite tips and tricks to consistently catch fish on tip-ups, especially during the first-ice time period.

Given the fact that a good deal of first-ice angling is done in shallow water, having a solid game plan before heading out is a distinct must; not only does it ensure you are setting your lines in the most likely fish-holding areas, but helps eliminate needless foot-traffic and the subsequent spooking of fish. Holes should be spaced out and drilled as silently as possible, preferably with a quick quiet hand auger such as StrikeMaster’s Lazer series in a 6”-8” model.

Drilling extra holes is always highly advisable as it allows you to move “dead” tip-ups to a new spot without having to auger through the ice once things have settled down, potentially spooking fish once again. As you lay out your spread it’s a good idea to orient your tip-ups in the same direction as it will make flags easier to see, especially as visibility becomes diminished.

With the holes drilled, it’s time to get down to business. My hands-down favorite style of tip-up for these stealth situations is the Pro-Thermal from Frabill – not only does the insulated frame keep holes from freezing during chilly or windy days, but the rounded body prevents light from streaming down the hole and spooking fish. For walleye fishing with tip-ups I typically downsize my VMC treble hooks going as small as a #14 or #16. I attach the treble hook to a Sufix 100% Fluorocarbon Invisiline Leader which in turn is blood-knotted to 15# Sufix Performance Metered Tip-Up Ice Braid.

Approaching a tip-up with a tripped flag should be done so with a sense of caution as heavy boot steps and unnecessary noise can cause fish to drop your bait. Carefully remove the tip-up from the water, being sure to provide enough slack that no undue tension is added. With line in hand set the hook with a quick sharp jerk as soon as you feel the weight of the fish – the rest is hand-to-fin combat.

Attachment 21536Take advantage of an early Christmas present, first-ice - the period doesn’t last for long! I’ll see you on the water…

Tight lines,