Important Tip-up Features
An excellent choice for an ice fishing tip-up is the polar thermal tip-up, with Frabill putting out a good one of this type. The Frabill polar thermals are compact, allowing an angler to fit as many as nine in a bucket for quick and easy transport out onto the ice. Their design, which involves a reel arm and a trip flag on a circular disk, keeps a hole from freezing since the disk will cover the hole. This also keeps out snow. A handy tip for ice fishermen is to make use of the small compartment on this type of tip-up to keep an extra hook and a few split shots, which can make a trip back to the tackle box unnecessary. These tip-ups should be rigged with a 25-pound Dacron braided ice line with a 4- to 5-foot fluorocarbon leader. Fluorocarbon is nearly invisible in the water and will not be detected by fish. At the end of fishing the Frabill polar thermal tip-up can be easily picked up and stored away; it folds up quickly and effortlessly and also has a place to stick the hook into, which many other tip-ups lack.
In windy conditions it is a good trick to set the tip-ups with the trip mechanism for the flags facing into the wind. This will keep the flags from being blown off the notches that hold them by a breeze, triggering a false alarm. On polar thermal tip-ups there is a top "T" bar with a notch on each side to hold the flag. One should use the larger notch side to hold the flag when fishing for aggressive biting species such as the northern pike, since this kind of fish is much less prone to noticing any resistance on the take. Fish like walleye and crappies, which bite with much less enthusiasm, will be unlikely to feel resistance when the flag is on the smaller notch. Some tip-ups have one side of the T bar with no notch at all for a smoother release of the flag.
Use smaller hooks when trying to catch panfish like crappies and bluegills, with a good size being a No. 6 or 8 hook. Bring along minnows of varied lengths when fishing for crappies, as this species in particular can be finicky about the size of the baitfish it goes after. The best fishing through the ice for bluegills usually occurs after the first ice forms, which can present safety issues. A good tip to remember is that the smaller ponds and lakes will freeze first, offering the best bluegill action. To stay above the ice, wear a life jacket and be conscious of not grouping people too close together. Finding bluegills and crappies sometimes requires drilling dozens of holes until the fish have been located. It is important to keep ice augers sharp, especially manual ones, since there will be much more of an inclination to keep drilling holes to find fish if holes can be made quickly and effortlessly. By having two sets of blades, the fisherman can have one newly sharpened set available in the event that the auger becomes dull.