For those not indoctrinated in the cold-weather arts of hard-water fishing, tip-ups—also called ice traps, fish traps, or tilts—are mechanical strike indicators that suspend lines under the ice. When well made and properly fished, they are instruments of exquisite practicality. Each dangles a spool of line and hook (typically adorned with a minnow) beneath a small hole. When a fish strikes the bait and moves off, the submerged spool spins, tripping a small, pop-up flag above the ice. The flag signals the bite.
The rest is up to the fisherman, who rushes to the hole, sets the hook, and plays the fish by hand. If the fish is big—and many of the biggest fish of the year come through the ice—this hand-over-hand fight on water locked tight by frigid weather and accumulated snow is a primal pleasure.
We often hear that the golden age of one outdoor item or another was long ago. My father maintains that Johnson Silver Minnows were better when they were plated with real silver—as children, we were forbidden to fish with them, lest they be lost. With tip-ups, the golden age is now.
There is no sense denying the continued effectiveness of those tip-ups of yesteryear. But many have been improved upon by a new generation of craftsmen. Tip-ups found in tackle shops or via direct order from their makers today are sturdier than most of the old products, and they often have features that the old traps lacked. Moreover, a whole host of tip-ups on the market retain firm local roots, right down to manufacturers who cut or mill their hardwoods near their lakefront homes.
Posted by Scott Freerksen “The Lake Guy”