Ice Fishing: Four Tip-Up Line Questions Answered

When it comes to tip-up fishing, many questions arise regarding the best way to set up the apparatus..specifically in regards to fishing line: What type of line should I use with my tip-up?

Tip-up fishing can be an enjoyable way to catch fish particularly when fishing amongst a group friends or loving family members.

In the state of Wisconsin, the current fishing regulations stipulate an individual angler is allowed to fish with up to 3 lines concurrently.  A group of three people could have a strategically placed spread of 9 tip-ups set, as an example, while being hands free to toss a football around, play cards in a heated ice shelter, and simply socialize and relax.

Line Type and Size:
The most reliable and maintenance free line I recommend is any brand of Dacron (braided-nylon) fishing line.

I’ve seen more and more ice anglers beginning to put the different types of braided line (i.e. Fireline or Power Pro) as the main line on the spools of their tip-ups as the popularity of these lines for open water applications has increased.

This is a mistake in my opinion!  Although it has “no stretch”, which may be the attractant to using this type of line, the line has a tendency to coil and kink when spooled on a tip-up.  I’ve observed this particularly with those braided lines that have a waxy coating to them.

When a light-biting fish takes the bait, it slowly peels coils off the line and those coils allow for generous amounts of slack in the line.  Then, when having to take up this slack to set the hook, an ice angler gives the advantage to the fish in the form of time.  Time spent taking up the slack provides more opportunities for the fish to spit the hook and the bait out of its mouth.  The “No Stretch” properties that allow an angler great feel and sensitivity in open water fishing provides an advantage to the fish as well when used on a tip-up.  The transmission and feel of the slack in the line being taken up by the angler is easily felt by the fish alerting them to something unnatural with the presentation in their mouth…Ka-put!  Out comes the bait!

When considering line diameter and durability of the Dacron you’ll invest in for your season, sizes of lines ranging from 15-60# test will be a range of confidence you can rely on.  For me, 30# Dacron backing on my tip-up spools has enabled me to ice large crappie and perch on finesse tip up rigs as well as larger walleyes and northern pike while using large shiners and even giant smelt on the end.  Keep it simple in your selections.  Experiment with a few sizes in that 15-60# range and go with your confidence in feel and fishing success.

Dacron line spools come in a variety of colors.  Color consideration may come into play on popular bodies of water that receive high amounts of angler pressure OR when fishing in extremely clear waters with pristine clarity.  By sticking to Black or Green as your two reliable choices, you should do just as well as any other angler on the lake.  In fact, you’ll be better suited to utilize 3-5 feet Fluorocarbon leaders attached to a snap swivel at the end of your Dacron to increase your success in those conditions.  For larger fish like Northern Pike a leader of 20-25lb fluorocarbon will suffice while 4-10lb fluorocarbon will work perfectly for walleyes.

How much:
It’s not as important to fill the entire spool of your tip-up with this line as it is on your open water fishing reels.  A preference for me would be to place about 50-75 yards of Dacron line on each spool of my tip-ups.  Considering that this is 150-225 feet of line, it will suffice for most fishing conditions apart from perhaps fishing for lake trout and water depths of 60-80 feet.  If a fish were to “spool” the entire length of line on the tip-up, it’s more of a situation in which the angler may not be attending to his or her tip-ups as they should be.  As a bonus…since dacron line spools come in 100-150 yard spools, you can save a bit of money as one spool will fill 2 tip-ups adequately.

I’m hoping this post provides some clarity when it comes to tip-up line considerations!  Feel free to provide comments below regarding your confident tactics when it comes to tip-up line!

Chad Leton's blog posts are an extension of his youth fishing guide service, HookedUp101 Fishing Academy which serves Southeastern and Central Wisconsin

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