Youth and hard water: Tips for taking kids ice fishing
Ice fishing season is winding down, but there's still time to take young people ice fishing. To make a good first impression, choose a day when the weather isn’t terribly cold. If you have a big ice fishing shelter or wheelhouse, such as an Ice Castle, you can push the limits on this rule a bit. Flip-over fish houses and pop-up shelters have come a long way, too, and can make rough weather tolerable for kiddos, too.
Kids want to be part of the whole experience. From choosing locations, to selecting snacks and bait, to picking out the right hook, to cranking in and releasing fish. At the same time, respect that they might be a little squeamish with the bait and or fish.
Bring snacks. Lots of snacks. Let them bring something you normally wouldn’t allow at home to make your fishing outing feel even more special.
Plan ahead to ensure that those youngsters catch something. Crappies and sunfish are the perfect target since kids don’t usually care what they catch. They just want to have fun cranking in fish, even if it’s 3-inch perch.
Underwater cameras are great entertainment for kids. Show them what’s happening under the ice and how their jigging action moves their lure.
Dress according to the weather and check their hands and feet throughout your time on the ice. One trick I’ve developed with my kids is to wear less outdoor gear than them, so I feel the elements first. Youth outdoor clothing has come a long way from when I was a kid, but it still doesn’t compare to top-notch adult ice fishing clothing. If you’re cold first, you probably won’t overextend their outing.
Consider safety and include your young partner in those decisions. Keep their feet out of the holes, though – trust me – every child will try this at least once. If they see you kicking holes open, they’ll try it, too, but they usually won’t stop until their feet are wet. Also, cover those sharp auger blades when not in use. In fishing, go figure, there are sharp hooks around, so teach kids to respect them.
Be prepared to lose any equipment that will fit down a hole. Leave your favorite rod-and-reel combo or ice hole cleaner at home. Accidents happen, especially when you bring the kids.
Remember, you’re introducing kids to the great outdoors with these trips, so it’s about their success on this day, not yours. Make sure to follow all the laws, and to show respect for Mother Nature and everyone around you. Pick up your trash and anyone else’s. Children are like little sponges absorbing everything you do and say, so keep it positive!
Finally, have fun out there and catch lots of fish.
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