Fishing with children can be very rewarding. Helping them experience the thrill of connecting is usually more exciting than catching a fish on your own. However, fishing, especially ice fishing with children, is a thorough test of your amateur leadership skills. Here are some tips to keep in mind when ice fishing with the whole family.
1. Find safe ice
The first component of any ice fishing is safe ice. 5 inches is a generally recommended thickness. You can check with other ice fishermen who have already been out. However, always drill this by drilling a test hole before venturing very far from the shore.
2. Wear ice traction cleats
When the ice is thick enough to help everyone get around, invest in slip-on ice studs. When there’s some blanket of snow, the heavy profile of most insulated boots can be enough, but extra studs can add confidence at a time when one slip can instantly end any ice fishing trip with kids.
3. Be picky about when you go
Sometimes it’s just too cold, especially for children. However, when you go to the frozen lake there is an old saying, “start warm, stay warm.” Children should dress in layers and be well protected from the cold. Buy a large pack of these little shake-to-activate hand warmers. Children love to play with them. Watch their warmth closely. No fishing is worth hypothermia.
4. Think of family ice fishing as day camping
A small tent or hut not only offers protection from the effects of the wind, but also increases the fun during the entire excursion, as you hang out in a “clubhouse”. Sufficient snacks and a thermos of hot chocolate are also highly recommended.
5. Bring bait
Don’t forget the bait. When ice fishing with kids, you want to keep the odds of catching fish and bait in your favor that are hard to beat. A bucket of minnows or a container of jiggling mealworms can be something else to grab their attention while they wait for a nibble.
Stay safe, stay warm, and keep it short. As the old showbiz saying goes, “Make them want more and more.” Don’t push it to make them want to come back.
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Andy is an outdoor writer (http://www.justkeepreeling.com/) and stressed-out dad has contributed over 380 blogs to takemefishing.org since 2011. Born in Florida but raised on the banks of farm ponds in Oklahoma, he now hunts pike, small bass and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After graduating with a degree in zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, in the US state of Iowa and the US state of Michigan.