-As featured in Fish Alaska December 2017 Families Column
Cold dark Saturday mornings can be spent one of two ways, sleeping the day away or pulling out of the driveway prepared for a day of adventure, hot cocoa and fish slime. The former sure sounds nice about now, but a brisk weekend adventure on the ice is so much more rewarding.
As your kids get older, you start to realize you have but a short period of time to teach them all the ways to enjoy the outdoors. Ice fishing is one of our favorite winter past times, but it’s always the most fun when it revolves around the kids.
As adults we love to fish for big beautiful robust lake trout, burbot and pike through the ice. Sometimes this means picking the right lake, at the right time and waiting for hours for the bite. As kids, we just wanted to feel a tug on the line and see a flopping fish on the ice. Sometimes we have to think back to remember what a successful outing looks like to a kid so we can plan accordingly. The cold really seems to zap your energy, so make sure you bring lots of good snack food and hot cocoa to keep the kiddos going.
A successful ice fishing trip for kids includes the following must haves:
· Plenty of warm gear – boots, jacket, snowpants, gloves, hat, neck gaiter, and back-ups
· One-piece Oakiwear Rainsuits to keep dry
· Disposable heater packs for boots and gloves (check out Gordini Heaterpack mittens for little ones)
· Fire starting essentials
· Hot Cocoa
· Camp chairs
· Fish bonker
· Fishing equipment and bait
· Don’t forget the bait
First you need to pick a lake where you know there are fish to catch. Some stocked lakes are great for fast action ice fishing, but it’s good to ask around. You want to be wary of lakes that experience regular winter-kill, meaning the oxygen gets too low for stocked fish to survive year round. Fishing can still be good in some of these lakes early in the winter, but do your homework.
Rainbow trout are one of our favorite target fish in the winter. When they are available, they are voracious little foragers and they’ll keep coming back for more. No fancy lures required, just bring small hooks. Cured eggs are a favorite rainbow bait. Don’t be stingy.
Lake trout can offer a more substantial fight through the ice, but low density populations can equate to relatively slow fishing. Kids love a good fight, but if nothing happens for a while they tend to lose interest in the wait. Jigging shiny or brightly colored spoons can work well for winter lakers, but patience may be required. Adding a little fresh fish skin bait and herring oil often helps. If you remember, put aside some salmon skin, cut into small strips to get started on your next ice fishing trip. Once you start catching fish, fresh belly strips work great.
Sometimes pike fishing can offer better action for older kids if you hit it right. Pike are serious predators and the bite can take you by surprise. If fishing is good, kids can have a blast pulling pike up through the ice. Pike will hit on spoons, but consider tipping the hook with fresh fish skin bait and fish oil for scent.
Beware kids have a bad habit of setting their rods down and walking away, oblivious to the idea their pole may end up under the ice when a fish decides to bite and run. There are some pretty effective ice fishing rod holders on the market, but movement of the lure is generally necessary to illicit an under ice strike.
Of course, as much fun as actual ice fishing can be, it’s often about much more than fish. Depending on the kid, sometimes you’ll get a good hour of fishing in before they get bored. Collecting firewood and kindling in deep snow is a fantastic way to keep warm. You may need to promise the kids they can start the fire to get them motivated. Some kids are excited to cook their catch over the fire right away, so it’s always nice to bring a small grill, forks, butter, salt and pepper. Some are happy to just roast a hotdog over open flames.
I can remember having more fun ice fishing with my friends as a kid than any other winter activity. It was cheap to go, and we had all the freedom in the world to run around, laugh, build snow forts, pull each other on the snowmachine, eat marshmallows and be loud. I’m sure we caught fish too, but it’s amazing how I remember all those other things vividly.
I can only hope my own son and his friends have the same fond memories of ice fishing as they grow older. We try to get out as much as we can during the winter. Time flies, and before you know it the snow will be melting again. It’s always an amazing feeling getting home after a fun filled ice fishing trip with the family, and there’s no better medicine for a good night’s sleep!
If you are looking for some awesome cold weather gear for your kids, don't miss out on our Clearance Sale on Kids Winter Outerwear going on now! From super warm Stonzwear Winter Boots, to snowproof SnowStoppers Gloves, to waterproof reflective Dare2B SnowPants, to warm waterproof and fashionable Trespass Jackets, we have winter solutions for you!