Let's be honest. The following ice-fishing scenario has happened to most of us at least once. You're concentrating on the lure beneath the jigging rod, when someone yelling, "You got a fish on your tip-up," shatters your focus.
Suddenly, you leap forward, dashing across the ice and, hopefully, getting to the fish in time. You were lucky if you landed the fish, but this problem has a simple solution.
The issue is that most tip-ups have a signaling device that needs to be seen to be effective. If you're looking somewhere else, and your tip-up goes off, you miss the hit until you happen to glance over at your tip-up (which should be often, of course). The situation gets worse when fishing in the dark. Yet, the solution is as simple as adding a strike indicator (or sensor) to your tip-up. Here are some designs and how to use them to your advantage.
Stepping Up Signal Types
As mentioned, most strike signals rely on the angler seeing the tip-up's flag when a fish hits. Adding a strike sensor to your tip-up upgrades the unit's performance. These indicators boost the signaling potential of tip-ups by incorporating sound, light, or both when a fish hits. Noise-emitting strike sensors dramatically improve how quickly you're aware there's action at your tip-up, while illuminated indicators have two purposes. On one hand, they mark the location of your tip-up in low-light conditions. They also improve your ability to see strikes by adding light to the tip-up's strike indicator. Let's look at the types of strike indicators in more detail.
Supreme Strike Sensors
Electronic strike sensors are far superior to bells. They cost a little more, but you get what you pay for in on-ice performance. My motto in ice fishing is why fool around with low-grade gear in cold conditions; that's just asking for problems. The cream of the crop in electronic sounding devices is the Strike Sensor Strike Alert System, a wireless remote paging set-up.
The components include a pager and at least one transmitter, although one pager can monitor several transmitters. Each device requires a 9V battery to operate. The transmitters' trip mechanism connects to a flag, and once tripped, a signal is sent to the pager unit. The pager's beeping immediately alerts the angler that a fish has tripped the tip-up. Transmitters have a red light that shines when the unit is tripped, a useful feature when night fishing. These units are weatherproof, letting you use them in winter conditions, and operate up to a maximum distance of 100 yards.
Units can be coded to prevent false alarms if other anglers are using the same devices. When using this system, always test the set-up at the hole to ensure it's operating properly. For storage and transport, I recommend securing the trip mechanism in a container (I use a plastic film case) to ensure you don't loose the part -- and don't forget to shut off the pager and transmitter when not in use. When the weather is ugly and I'm cozy in my portable shelter, I rely heavily on this system for immediate indication of a hit on my tip-up.
Let There Be Light
Illuminated strike indicators have two main categories, both of which are extremely useful in low-light conditions. The first group comprises lights that are constantly shining, and are often disposable, glow sticks. These sticks attach to the flag and/or trip mechanism with a plastic holder. These sticks are relatively cheap, but the cost can add up quickly if you do a lot of fishing. The second lights are battery operated, with many featuring replaceable, lithium batteries (the same models used in illuminated floats). The majority of these higher-end indicators feature trip mechanisms and light-up when moved.
Strike indicators are one of the best ways to improve your catch rate on tip-ups, especially in low-light conditions. As anglers, it's difficult to monitor two sets of lines in different locations. Tip-ups allow us to fish different places at the same time, but strike indicators dramatically improve the ability to diligently watch remote lines and improve hook-ups. Try some sound or light emitting indicators this ice season because it won't be just the fish getting hooked -- you'll likely never want to use tip-ups without them again.
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