Taking youth ice fishing
Last weekend I had the privilege to introduce about a dozen youth to the sport of ice fishing. I called upon my team of ice angling friends to lend a hand. David Bowles, Brian Bowles, and Chad Pietig accompanied me in this outdoor adventure. The youth group was a local group, organized through the ISU extension office here in Marshalltown. The weather was cold, but the fish cooperated.
The whole goal of the day was to introduce the kids to ice fishing. Most of the kids in attendance had never ice fished before. We started the day by talking about some of the dangers of ice fishing. Like any outdoor sport, dangers do exist. On that particular day the biggest danger was staying on your feet. The ice was like a pane of glass and everyone was slipping and sliding around. We also talked about the importance of safety materials whenever ice fishing, such as ropes, flotation devices and using the buddy system. It was a quick morning, about two hours of fishing. My friends and I tried our best to get every child to catch a fish, and we almost succeeded. Out of the dozen kids, only one did not catch a fish, however I think he had as much fun running and sliding on the ice with his other friends.
Our goal was met, the kids learned about ice fishing, the safety that goes along with it, and almost everyone caught a fish through the ice. The morning was a big success for the youth group. They showed their gratitude as they left the pond that day, and several of the parents too, as many of them were learning right along with their child about ice fishing.
That experience last weekend reminded me that taking kids out fishing is a wonderful thing to do when you get the chance. It also reminded me that I have never written any tips on how to take a youngster out ice fishing. I try to remind all the readers each spring and summer about some things to help make a kids days on the water an enjoyable one, but have never mentioned anything about ice fishing. So that thought process has led me to these following steps to help you take young angler ice fishing so they have a lasting experience to remember
SAFETY- Whenever we decide to take children fishing, your entire focus needs to be on them. This is the same, if not more important while ice fishing. Keeping the child near you, and explaining to them the dangers of ice fishing will help them be safe. Most youngsters feet will slip right through an average size ice fishing hole, so be sure to start with that safety tip. If their foot goes through an ice hole, your day, and perhaps their interest in ice fishing might be gone forever. Other things to talk about would be a heater being able to burn them, and staying away from the shoreline (often the weakest ice). Being aware of the location of the child should be your main focus, the fishing should be last on your list.
COLD- Obviously in ice fishing you have to pay close attention to the weather. It the forecast is calling for zero degrees with a wind, that is probably not the best day to take kid on the ice. Simple fact, if you are cold, things will not be fun, this is true for adults too! Pick a mild day, and bring a heater. If you have an ice shack, you can warm it up to about 50 degrees or higher most days with a small heater. If you don’t have an ice shack, just being able to warm your hands (which are often the coldest thing) on a small heater can keep the child interested for a good length of time. Keeping the child moving will help them stay warm too, so walking to different holes or just letting them explore is good too.
CATCHING- Obviously if you have chosen to take a child fishing, you want them to catch a fish. Even if you have to hook it, let them reel it in. Other things to let the child do is; feel the fish, get the bait ready, clean out the ice fishing holes, anything to “catch” their interest. If they are involved in those simple little things, they will feel a part of the experience and will have a good day. Do everything you can to let them catch a fish, but if not, let them do other things to help them feel important and part of the fishing experience.
FOOD- This is a no-brainer, who doesn’t enjoy some tasty snacks or hot cocoa on a cold winter day? By bringing several snacks and hot cocoa on the trip, it just adds one more fun thing the child can do. I have seen kids have a great time just sitting on a bucket and eating peanuts or other little snacks. This is something to occupy their time while you try different colors, change sizes of jigs, or spend time with your electronics trying to find some hungry fish.
KIDS IN CHARGE- Lastly, let the kids be in charge of the time of the trip. Sometimes the child may want to stay out for several hours, while another day they might be ready to go home in less than an hour. Let them be the timekeeper, and when they say it is time to go, then it is time to pack things up. If they are forced to be outside on the ice fishing trip, then they probably won’t want to do it again.