Tip Up Rigs.

These here are a couple of examples of the tip up rigs I have been using this season.
This one here is the business end of my Berkley tip up.  A sweet dual treble hook, quick strike style rig, wound onto 30 lb. Berkley Ice tip up line.
This is on the end of one of my Frabill 10" insulated tip ups.  The spool is wound with Woodstock 65 lb. ice line, smallish Swedish pimple with an upgraded and upsized treble hook in order to accomodate the big 'ol sucker minnows we have been using lately. 
 The final rig here on another Frabill 10' insulated tip up.  Wound with 25 lb. Shakespeare Ugly Braid, and topped off with a Kastmaster maroon and gold flasher, also retro fitted with a slightly larger treble hook, only to accommodate the larger bait fish.

Two Bucket Style...

So this here is my own personal recipe for a nice, lightweight tip up expedition.  Two buckets, filled to the brim, and you have everything you need, except a shelter, which I guess on windy days might come in real handy for sure. On second thought, I guess this also leaves you armed with only a hand auger, and that can leave you with some seriously tired arms, but once again, you still have all of the absolute bare necessities at hand.
Eight inch auger, check. I am using an HT Polar Auger.  It ain't perfect, but it is definitely light and it gets the job done.   Vexilar, check.  I have the FL-18 Genz Pack, no bells and whistles here, but it is (relatively) cheap, and, it's both light and extremely functional. 
Also included in my load out pictured here, one nice insulated styrofoam minnow bucket that fits all snug into a five gallon bucket, and I have that outfitted with a Frabill aerator to keep those minnows all lively and kicking for days.  In the picture up top,  I have three Frabill ten inch insulated tip ups stacked on top of the minnow bucket, with my sweet old coffee mug floating around on top of those... I've also got one Berkley tip up, stuffed into my other bucket, just in case.
So as for all of the other  miscellaneous gear , I also pack a big 'ol Frabill ice scoop, complete with a 36" measuring stick on the handle,  it is handy for positive ID.  Also included is a small tackle box with extra pimples, hooks, bobbers, weights, and leaders.   Pliers and jaw spreaders are a must for the big fish fishin, I can't be without these. Two rods fit nicely in the bucket, just in case you would rather be jigging, instead of just sitting around, waiting for your tip ups to go.
I had ordered what was described as a "fish-safe" gaff hook, thinking it would be all smooth and good to go.  When it arrived, however, I discovered that it was nothing more than a  huge sharpened treble hook welded onto the end of a steel shaft.  Not so "fish-safe".  I decided to  hack off the sharpened treble, and replaced it with a nice homemade brazed treble, all nicely rounded and smooth.  The rest of the gear I have loaded up here includes my thermos, (a nice small one to save room), a couple of packs of hand-warmers (just in case), and a camera in a (somewhat) waterproof case as well.


Thanks, Sharon!

I stopped by the Ace Hardware,  up on Diamond Lake Road and 54th  the other day before hitting the lake, but showed up and hour before they opened. They have taken over for Bob Moore, after he had to close his doors they bought some of his tanks, and are now peddling some real nice live bait, right here in the heart of the city. As I was driving out of the parking lot, a woman flagged me down and asked me what I was looking for.  I told her I was hoping ot get some minnows, and she was kind enough to open the doors early and sell me some real nice suckers, as well as a few good looking shiners.  So I just wanted to take a moment and say thanks, Sharon, you really saved the day!


Sunny Sunday...

Lets rewind for a quick minute...This last Sunday up here was absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to get out on the ice, but Brandon hit up the lake with his dad and brother, and was not disappointed with his catch of the day right here...
Another nice little tiger muskie up through the ice...And just check out the patterns on these guys, absolutely beautiful.

Fog and Fish...

Tons of fog on the lakes this morning, and not so many fish...
Brian showed up and landed the first two or three fish of the day, one of them being this trophy walleye. Come to think of it, it's actually the first walleye we've seen come up through the ice on this particular lake this season.  It was caught on a floating jig and minnow if I remember correctly.  Oh., and I can't forget to give a big old shout out to Brian's friends,  who had come out to meet him with some nice hot coffee and generously hooked us up on a cold wet morning... Thanks guys!
We definitely missed a some fish this morning during a couple frantic periods of  activity, and then it would shut off just as quickly as it started.  Brian had a nice pike earlier on a tip, unfortunately I don't have a picture of that one for you, and he managed to jig a couple of perch as well.   I ended up with this one here, a 30ish" tiger, and unfortunately that was about it for  Brandon and I for the day.


More Gear Talk...

Its all pretty simple, ice fishing gear, at least the ice fishing gear I prefer to use. A few different rod and reel set ups, and a couple of different tip up rigs. But I guess ice fishing is absolutely no different than everything else in the fishing world, in that there are seemingly millions of different tools, tactics and techniques at your disposal for each and every unique situation you might happen to find yourself in.
I have three different rod and reel combos that I use fairly regularly, each set up a slight bit differently than the others.   I'll get around to all the tip-ups in a later post.
I use an Ugly Stick wound with 20lb. braided line, tipped with a decent steel leader and finished off with a pretty big Swedish pimple.  Obviously, this rig is geared for the more aggressive fish, northern and muskie.
I also have a cheap little sporting goods store special combo, set up with 4 or 6 lb. mono on the spool, a sponge bobber and topped off with a basic Swedish pimple, not too big, not too small.  It's not the most sensitive rod, not a lot of finesse there, but it seems to work well on everything just the same.

I have saved the best for last. My absolute favorite setup, though, is something that is truly special.  This rig here is absolutely tangible proof of the age old adage, "you get what you pay for".  This is the whole reason I wanted to write about gear.

This beauty here is hand crafted by Scott Fox of Fox Custom Rods, located right here in Minneapolis, and I can tell you that this rod is absolutely magical.  Not only is it beautiful, but it is absolutely deadly as well. Perfectly sensitive and amazingly strong, it is the ultimate secret weapon in my arsenal for sure. Finicky crappies, no problem. Big 'ol ornery pike, absolutely. (I landed a 35" northern on this rig not two weeks ago...)  They might be a bit spendy for some folks, but after using this, I am definitely a bit hesitant to pick up anything else when I find myself fishing rod and reel through a hole in the ice. Right here is where  I need to give a quick shout out to Patty, who had given this rod to me as a gift  in the first place. It has definitely upped the ante in my own extremely limited knowledge of ice fishing.  Thanks for the rod bud, and Scott, thank you for the exquisite craftsmanship and love that you have poured into these.


It was supposed to be a warm Saturday morning, at least by mid-February Minnesota standards. So tip-up fishing was on the agenda, no house, no heaters, just some buckets and an auger.  Sunrise looked promising, as the sun had started forcing it's way through the clouds early on. But then all that stopped, the cloud cover thickened, and the cold decided to stick around.  Definitely under-dressed,  all I could do was hope that the days fishing we had in store would make up for the deteriorating  conditions.  Brandon had hooked up with the first fish earlier than we were expecting it, as the bite  has been somewhat predictable lately. A nice little northern, and, hopefully an auspicious omen. 

 The sun started to look as though it might come back out about a half hour later, and right on cue, suddenly I had a flag up. I grabbed the line, let it run for a second, and then gave it hell. I set the hook into what felt like a real nice fish, and after a little excitement,  ended up with this in hand as my first fish of the day..

A good looking 34-36 inch muskie, and everything seemed to start looking up right about now for sure.  Then the sun disappeared, the cold settled back in, and everything shut off for the next two hours.  Now I love fishin' as much as the next guy, but sitting out on the ice, cold and empty handed, certainly ain't good for my morale, and I started thinking about calling it a day. And again, the sun started peeking out again,and suddenly the bite turned right back on again. One of the other fellas who was out on the ice had landed a nice fish, another muskie, and as the three of us were were standing around, talking about the differences between tiger muskies and pure muskies, Brandon had another flag go up.  I'll fast forward to the pictures, enough dialog...

Brandon had his first muskie through the ice, as sun was coming back out.  He re-upped the minnow,  reset the tip-up, and hadn't even taken two steps away when the flag popped up again, right as his other tip up went off.  He ran to check that one and I went to reset the other one, we kind of figured the fresh minnow was just tripping the flag.  He pulled out another nice little northern on his, and we ended up with a double, as I hooked into another little muskie as well.

We hit a couple more small pike, that kept us busy for a bit, then a brief lull in the action. We started jawing about some other real nice fish that had been caught in the area, and figured our chances of landing a pig were pretty good. Two minutes later and I had a flag trip, and the spinner was absolutely flyin' on it by the time I got there.  I ripped a decent hook set, and it was on. It took about three minutes to get that beast to show itself, and it had taken off on three real nice runs during the fight.  Man, those three minutes felt like an hour for sure.  Maybe I am a glass half empty kind of guy, but all I can do when I am fighting with a fish is to think about the hundreds of things that could possibly go wrong at that moment...

I think this here is proof that nothing went wrong this time. 42" tiger muskie on a tip up, and a feeling that is hard to match.. And to think I was thinking about packing it in an hour earlier...I would have missed all this!