Setting a Tip-Up Hook For Northern Pike, Walleyes

When is that prime moment for setting the hook into a toothy predator fish via Tip-Up? Here’s how I handle those exciting few moments.

OK, so we’re on the ice, and the flag goes up. Cautiously yet deliberately, approach the Tip-Up and look down the hole. The trip-shaft probably is still spinning, which means the fish is moving away with the bait. Slowly, and without creating tension on the line, lift and lay the Tip-Up on the ice. Pull some line off the Tip-Up as you do this to give the fish more slack and avoid creating tension.

Terry Tuma
Terry Tuma

Now, slowly take up the slack until you feel the slightest resistance. If you’re in serious walleye water and the spool is spinning, assume it’s a walleye, and immediately set the hook. To reiterate, if it’s a walleye, don’t wait for the spooling to stop. Set that hook when you take up slack and feel resistance.

In pike water, follow the same procedure, but when the trip shaft stops moving, this often signals that the pike has stopped, and they’ll turn the bait in their mouths. When the fish starts that second run, set the hook firmly!

Here’s another big factor: Too many people use gaff hooks to pull pike out of the hole. We want to release these big fish, so avoid gaffs. Reach down into the hole and grab the fish by the corner of the gill plate under the jaw. You’ll avoid hitting the gill rakers (which are red and can break your skin) that way. Better yet, use a lip-gripping device from Rapala or another company.

If releasing the fish, snap a quick picture and get it back in the water before the gills freeze. And for the love of future generations of anglers, don’t hold fish by the eyes! It kills fish!

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