How to Build an Ice Fishing Tip-Up

How to Build an Ice Fishing Tip-Up

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Ice fishing is a pastime that many enthusiasts enjoy during the bleak winter months of many parts of the United States and the world. Ice fishers set up mobile shanties on the thick winter ice of lakes and ponds and then cut one or several holes in the ice to fish from. Because the fish are more lethargic in their feeding patterns during this time of year, setting up several poles and waiting for a bite is the norm rather than the exception. Watching all of these poles can be tedious unless you have a tip-up setup in which a flag or colored marker of some type is raised when a fish bites. There are a myriad of commercial units available for this purpose; however, you can just as easily build you own.

Items you will need

  • 1-inch dowel rods

  • 2-by-4 lumber

  • Ice fishing reels

  • Eight penny nails

  • Screw-in metal eyelets

  • Circular saw

Cut the 2-by-4 lumber into 24-inch sections, and then cut one end of each section into a point using the circular saw. Next cut a 2-inch by 2-inch square notch in the end of the 2-by-4 opposite the point. This is where the rod will sit, and the notches should be as even as you can get them.

Build the rod by cutting the 1-inch dowel rods into 28-inch sections with the circular saw. Mount the spinning reel at one end of the rod, and then screw one eyelet into the rod right in front of the reel and one at the very end of the rod, opposite the reel. Thread the fishing line through these eyelets, and then measure 8 inches from the reel end of the rod and place a nail on either side of the rod. This is what the rod will balance on when you set the tip-up.

Assemble the tip-up by driving the 2-by-4 into the snow near your fishing hole. Pull out some line from the reel, bait your hook and drop it through the hole. Balance your rod on the nails in the notch at the top of the 2x4 and watch for it to point or tip-up when a fish hits the bait.


  • Always wear gloves and goggles when using the circular saw to avoid injury.


  • You can also paint the reel end of the rod with fluorescent orange paint to make it easier to see the tips from a distance.