Introducing Kids To Ice Fishing by James L. Bruner
When you combine kids, cold weather, and often very little activity, it’s not uncommon to lose a child’s interest in a quick hurry. These ingredients can spell disaster in nearly any outdoor event and this statement rings loud and true when it comes to ice fishing. Consequently this is a common hurdle when you’re attempting to introduce children to the sport. But, there are numerous techniques to keep your child active and interested on their first few ice fishing trips with the hopes that further family ventures onto the ice will come with the understanding that not every day is going to take place in a funhouse atmosphere. That doesn’t mean that ice fishing won’t be as enjoyable. Quite simply put, it means that your children will advance in the sport and focus more on the actual event of catching fish. Or at least trying to catch fish. With that in mind, let’s get down to the basics.
First and foremost is going to be the element of warmth. This holds true for all members of the fishing party. If you’re going to be fishing without a shelter then your choice of apparel will be paramount. Keep in mind that kids, unlike adults, will typically be much more active and may require different levels of protection from the cold. Layering is always the right choice and the very correct choice in this scenario. When your kids go from sitting on a bucket to chasing each other around on the ice you want to have that option to shed a layer of clothing to be sure they do not overheat, sweat, and then have a problem with the cold afterwards when they settle down. Your layering of clothing provides the options to add or remove each layer as necessary dictated by their current activities. Of course boots, hats, gloves, and extra gloves, are all part of the norm when hitting the ice. When you keep the kids warm you keep them happy.
Next you should consider activities on the ice. Don’t make the kids spend all day staring at a bobber or into a blank ice fishing hole. Plan on some sort of activity to break the tension of boredom when the fish aren’t cooperating. Here’s a few suggestions.
A small Nerf football or mini Nerf ball provides a lot of fun on the ice and it’s practically nothing to carry along as it’s will fit easily into a pocket or tucked inside a jacket. This type of ball is also not imposing to yourself if an errant kick of the ball should fly in your direction. Take it from a parent that has this motto. “If it’s in the sky, it’s in my eye.” Sadly enough the statement is true which is why I suggest a Nerf ball or something very similar. Anything of this nature is acceptable. Just make sure that it’s easy to transport and can provide entertainment. I suggest leaving the IPod, PSP, and other portable devices at home. Remember, one slip and the expensive piece of electronics could find itself at the bottom of the lake. Then you’ll be dealing with a possible traumatic, and pricey, experience on the first fishing trip.
Food. Now you’re probably thinking we can eat before we head out onto the ice. That’s true but in all honesty creating a positive first ice fishing trip can be greatly increased through the addition of food. Now, your choice of food is obviously up to you but your basic treats that the kids eat every day will not have the same impact. Although it requires a bit more planning I bring a small portable grill along. Probably sounds out of place doesn’t it? That’s exactly the idea here. I can pack a small grill with charcoal that lights without fluid very easily and with practically no mess. All you need now is a package of hotdogs, some buns, and small packages of condiments. These are small items that stow away quite easily. Pack your gear correctly and you can secure all of this, including some drinks or juices, in a 5 gallon bucket which you will need anyway. If you think hotdogs taste good on the grill at home you’ll be pleasantly surprised how well they go down during a day of ice fishing. And, the addition of a small hot meal goes a long way to lifting your spirits and warming your bones on a cold day.
You’re probably wondering where the actual fishing comes in. To begin with, these first trips aren’t so much about catching fish as they are about acquainting your child with the basics. But, since you’re wondering, here we go.
My first suggestion would be to bring the kids to an area that is already active. By this I mean you probably want to tackle some panfish like bluegills or perch before taking them out for some deeper water fishing for walleyes. A quick check in the local newspaper, call to the bait shop, or internet reports, can most likely point you in the right direction. Since panfish tend to group in schools more readily your percentage of actually catching some fish greatly increase. Walleyes on the other hand tend to be much more sporadic. Fish the percentages with panfish and work your way up. Small lures like teardrops or plain hooks will work just fine so you don’t need a huge arsenal of big bulky tackle. You can also skip the need for a minnow bucket and the sloshing water if you fish with wax worms, maggots, wigglers, or any variety of small baits that your local bait shop handles.
Most likely you will also find that in these areas there will already be a group of fishermen. Even though this may reduce your own percentage to catch fish it does add for some visual stimulation to the kids. All of us parents understand that visual stimulation plays a large role in a child’s everyday schedule. That’s exactly why I mention leaving the IPod and electronic toys at home. Again, I can’t stress enough that this first trip or two is more about introduction rather than pushing the importance to catch fish.
Now that you’ve found your fishing spot, planned extra activities, and decided on a meal, it’s time to pack for the day of ice fishing. Your best friend at this point is really nothing more than 5 gallon buckets as they play a dual role for transporting equipment and a place to sit. Of course, in the event you do actually catch some fish, they also serve nicely for storing your catch. Think about your kids sleds for packing everything and dragging it out to your fishing spot. In fact the use of their sled may make them feel like they’ve actually made a larger contribtuion. With fishing poles, lunch, drinks, and bait stashed away securely in 5 gallon buckets on top of the sleds it becomes rather easy to secure them with a simple bungee chord. Of course your options for transporting the gear are your own choice. I won’t cover any indepth fishing techniques for this introduction because I assume you already are equipped for ice fishing and therefore have your own techniques. This article is based on keeping it simple yet enjoyable for the kids and more specifically to those parents who have pondered the idea of getting their children involved in a sport they already enjoy.
So there you go. Some very basic plans for providing a very easy and inexpensive day of family enjoyment on the ice. Remember these first few trips will make a large impact on the kids which can either make or break the desire to continue further into ice fishing throughout the season. Make the best of this opportunity.