Ice fishing makes for perfect opportunities to get kids fishing. But if you want your little ones to grow up loving the outdoors you’ll have to make a few changes when you bring them along.
You know those days when you and your buddies are drilling holes all over the lake, testing new holes, checking depths and running to tip-up flags between beers?
Well, yeah the focus is going to change a little. Here are eight tips to get kids ice fishing and helping them love it while keeping them safe.
- Make it fun – bring the shanty – no matter how “warm” the temps are. Shanties are fun and it gives the kids something to play in if the fish aren’t biting. And when kids catch a fish – dance around and say things like Woot! woot! it doesn’t matter who’s watching – make it fun!
- Be ready for a short day – Let them sleep a little , enjoy a nice breakfast and talk about the anticipation on the day. Then if they start to lose interest while out on the ice – have the sleds ready for a little family downhill fun. The fishing day might be short but the memories will last a lifetime.
- Kids First, Fishing Second – Getting on the ice is almost as exiting for kids as pulling a 5 pound trout through the ice is for you. Take your time setting up the shanty and let the kids help with things like drilling holes, carrying little items and picking the spot, picking the worm or maggot. It may add two hours to your day but full participation in the whole experience is what the kids remember most.
- Be patient – It’s not easy to watch kids struggle to pull the tip-up out of the ice or haul fish in with lines going everywhere and it can be frustrating when they “check” the bait for the 20th time in the last half hour. But they are learning – use their inquisitiveness as an opportunity to teach them techniques. Remember number 3.
- Check hands and feet often – Kids will ignore the pain of cold when they are having fun and asking kids if their feet are cold may not be enough. Saying things like, “my feet are cold, I think I’m going to go in the shanty for a few minutes – do you want to come too?” is probably going to be more effective at getting kids to admit they are cold than simply asking them.
- Don’t forget the hot cocoa! – Or tea or chicken broth or whatever hot drink your kids might enjoy. Making hot drinks is fun and its a good excuse for them to sit inside the shanty (I bring a pop-up hunting blind and it works just fine) to warm up.
- Dad! (Mom!) I have to poop! – Yup, it’s going to happen so be ready for it. A bucket, shovel, toilet paper, and a pre-game strategy should be prepared for when the words come rolling out as your digging through your jig box.
- Keep the tip-ups and holes close – Stretching out a long line of tip ups may be the best strategy for catching lots of fish but when you’re bringing kids out for the first time it’s good to keep things close so they can get in the action easier. Remember number 3.
Bringing young children outdoors is always a good idea, but be sure to keep it fun with lots of different activities, celebrate even the smallest successes and be safe! Your kids (or who’s ever kids you bring along) will thank you for it – even if it takes ten years or so – remember number 4?