Tip-ups or tip-downs, you be the judge

Ice fishing is a time-honored outdoors activity going back thousands of years. The use of unmanned fishing apparatus are likely only predated by the hand line. Modern fishermen have many choices as to which system best suits their fishing needs.

I love feeling a fish on a rod. The only thing more exciting is hand-lining one in. There are several methods of fishing, that as an end product you will have to pull the fish in by hand. Tip-ups and tip-downs are the most common forms of fishing in which you pull the fish in by hand.

The way you fish them can be a bit confusing to the beginner, but to the experienced ice angler, they can be a fish-catching machine. The time you fish them, how you rig them, what bait you choose, and how far away you sit from them will all impact your success level. Although, the most important thing to take into consideration is how you set the hook and pull them in. The truth is, if you fight the fish wrong, you will likely come home emptyhanded.

Tip-ups and downs are much like snares used on land. In the old days, they used a sharp cigar-shaped bone hook called a gorge. The hook or toggle would be hidden in some form of bait. When the fish swallowed it and swam away, it would be pulled into a “T” shape in the fish’s stomach. The fish would be unable to spit out the hook, and could be retrieved at any time. The fish traps would be set and left for hours, even days, before being checked. This way a single person could catch as many as several people hand-fishing. It's not legal to leave unmanned fishing devices on the ice these days. Back then, it was much more of a necessity to catch dinner. I believe the reason for this practice being illegal is the effectiveness of the system. Large numbers can be caught, and the protection of the fishery had to be accounted for.

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