Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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First ice: a great time to get kids fishing

Black Friday means kids home from school and – in some places – first ice, or at least ice forming and a good opportunity to start thinking about hard-water fishing.

Now is a perfect time to get youngsters geared up and to teach them some basic skills for ice fishing. Even if ice hasn’t formed in your area, go to Black Friday sales at local retailers. Get your young fishing companions a short, sight-fishing rod and reel of their very own.

Let them pick out a few jigs, some soft plastics, and other equipment for their personal ice-fishing kits. They’ll be ready and eager to use the baits when ice arrives.

When I take kids (my son is 7 and my daughter is 5) fishing, I head to one of the lakes that has high potential for lots of action. Instead of running and gunning, I look for shallow weeds where we can set up a hub shelter and sight-fish. 

A hub-style ice-fishing shelter is lightweight, easy to carry, and roomy. It keeps kids and adults warm – and allows kids to look down the hole from the dark shelter and watch for fish.

Sometimes I set up a compact Aqua-Vu Micro 5.0 camera so the kids can scan for fish that aren’t right underneath them. Most kids love seeing the mysterious world beneath the ice.

For sight-fishing, I drill a three-leaf clover-shaped cluster of 8-inch holes to allow easy viewing. Kids soon learn what kind of action they need to apply to their ice jigs by watching how fish react. 

An ideal lake not only offers good panfish action, but also has some pike, too. Bring some tip-ups and pike minnows. Watching young people’s reactions when flags pop up and joining them for the race to the hole will remind you just how exciting tip-up fishing can be.

Even kids who are easily bored can be entertained by the aquatic world right below their feet. Still, you have to play every trip by ear. Sometimes the youngsters just aren’t having a good time, and it might be best to head to shore for hamburgers. A fishing buddy brings a tube and takes kids for rides behind his four-wheeler for a break from fishing (away from other anglers, of course).

Along with tackle, I bring an extra pair of boots for each kid, and a couple pairs of extra gloves. Eventually, someone is likely step into an ice hole or forget to take a glove off when reaching in the bucket for a minnow. Whether it’s a boat, hub house, or permanent ice shack, always remember to bring good snacks! This keeps them at it a lot longer.

When teaching kids how to fish, coach instead of fishing yourself – at least at first.  Chances are, your young companions will get the hang of it sooner than you expect, so you’ll be able to fish alongside them. Just don’t get upset when they start catching more fish than you do.

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