When it comes to ice fishing, many anglers swear by using tip-ups. These simple yet effective tools improve your efficiency in fishing exponentially. By setting your tip-up to the desired depth, you can leave it to patiently fish for various species under the ice; but before you drop your line, what size hooks work best for tip-ups?

The size of the hook used with any tip-up is directly related to the type and size of fish you are targeting and the bait you are using. Tip-ups set for larger species like pike, trout, and walleye have hooks ranging from size 16 to 6 unless you aim to catch twenty-pound pike with size 4 hooks.

The size of hooks For tip ups are heavily dependent on what fish species you target and the type and size of bait you use. But what other factors contribute to a tip-up’s success, what different types of bait pair with which hooks, and what if you’re targeting smaller fish species?

What Are The Best Size Hooks For Tip Ups?

Ice Tip-Ups: The Hook, The Bait, And The Method

In its simplest design, a tip-up is a frame constructed over a hole in the ice that supports a spool of line with a hook and bait attached to it.

But since its humble beginnings, the tip-up has received a degree of modification by upgrading the basic form and adding convenience factors.

The  majority of tip-ups consist of:

  • A stable, wide base. Tip-ups need to remain stable over an ice hole, so the wider and longer, the better.
  • A bait clip. This clip’s purpose is to secure the line entering the water below the tip-up. This clip prevents false tripping from bait movement in the water.
  • A trip bar. The importance of trip bars is that they can be set to heavy or light trip settings. Smaller fish will set off a light trip, while a heavy trip is reserved for larger fish and strong wind conditions.
  • A flag lock keeps the flag safely stored while not used to prevent damage and line tangling.
  • A hook holder is similar functionally to the flag lock; it keeps spare hooks from tangling up with tack during storage.
  • Hooks for tip ups will depend on the species of fish you are targeting.

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There are several different tip-up designs suited for different purposes. These include:

  1. Crossed-stick/traditional three-stick tip-ups
  2. Flat-board tip-ups
  3. Thermal tip-ups
  4. Wind/windlass tip-ups.

No matter the design of a tip-up, it needs to serve the purpose of holding a line with a baited hook at a set depth, without the angler’s contact with the gear, and then to indicate to the angler when a fish is caught, either through a flag being raised or dropped.

How To Select A Hook And Bait When Setting Up A Tip-up

What Are The Best Size Hooks For Tip Ups?

The type of fish you want to catch and the type of bait you use to achieve that goal play a direct role in determining the size (and type) of hooks for tip ups you use.

What Hook Sizes Should Be Used With A Tip-up

Aside from the spool connected to the tip-up, the hook you choose is one of the most important features of your ice-fishing tip-up rig.

The hook size that you choose depends on two important questions:

  1. What type of fish do I want to catch?
  1. What is the size of the fish I want to catch?

By answering these two questions, you can better decide on what bait to use and what size hook on which you will present that bait.

The most popular hook used while tip-up fishing is a treble hook, as they are incredibly versatile; however, some anglers also opt for Swedish-style hooks  (especially the pike variety) or octopus hooks.

Many anglers agree that regarding hooks For tip ups – the smaller the hook, the better the fishing results with a tip-up rig and ice fishing in general. In the colder water, fish are lethargic and are less likely to greedily gulp down #4 to #6 sized hooks, which they have had an opportunity to inspect thoroughly.

Instead, fooling them with a smaller, well-hidden hook gives better results.

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Most anglers choose to target the following fish while fishing with tip-up rigs:

Fish SpeciesFish sizeHook size
BluegillPanfish (small to medium)#8 to #14 size octopus hook
CrappiePanfish (small to medium)#8 to #14 size octopus hook
PerchPanfish (small to medium)#8 to #14 size octopus hook
WalleyeGame fish (medium to large)Walleye can be caught on hooks as small as #16 but generally between #6 to #8.
Lake troutGame fish (medium to large)#6 to #12 size hook works well for trout.
Northern pikeGame fish (medium to large)#6 to #8 size for medium-sized fish, but for trophy-sized pike, you may need a #4 size hook.

Some anglers disagree with using a tip-up setup for smaller fish, as they believe that smaller fish do not trip the tip-up sufficiently enough. Instead, they believe that tip-up efforts should be directed to catching lake trout, northern pike, and walleye.

After the type of fish you are targeting, the next biggest determining factor for hook size is the size of the bait you are using.

What Are The Best Size Hooks For Tip Ups?

Bait may actually play a more pivotal role in determining hook size than the fish species you are targeting. When using frozen bait (non-living bait), hook sizes of 16, 14, 12, and 10 are ideal choices.

If you are using live bait, like emerald shiners (blues) or smaller minnows, a size 10 or 8 is what you should aim for (but depending on the species, you could even go as small as a size 16, e.g., walleyes).

When using larger live bait, such as sucker minnows, then a hook-sized 8 or 6 would be optimal. Although, in most situations, if you used a size 10 or 8 hooks, it may still be sufficient.

The limiting factor is, is the hook strong enough to hold a fish of between 15 and 20 pounds?

And if so, what is the smallest-sized hook that can do that? Again, the smaller, the more beneficial when ice fishing.

Other popular baits include:

  • Smelt
  • Golden (and other live) shiners
  • Shad
  • Frozen herring
  • Raw chicken

The choice of which bait to use is a more or less personal preference. Many anglers swear by their preferred bait. The reality is, if it works for you, great!

Remember, fish (both live bait and the fish you’re targeting) are rather sluggish in the ice, so something that moves may entice a lazy fish into taking a bite; however, that is accomplished.


The benefits of using a tip-up when ice fishing are tremendous. You can cover more ground while not needing to be directly in control of your rig, or you can jig with a small handheld rod while the tip-up does the job of waiting for a bite.

When deciding what size hook to use with a tip-up, the important factors to consider are what type of fish you are targeting and what bait you are using. The smaller the hook, the better the results.





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