Taking the Youth Ice Fishing

January 10, 2013 by  

By Nick Simonson

It was another fun weekend of ice fishing, this time I spent some of it with my Godson, Gavin fishing perch on a local lake. When his jumbo 12.5-incher wrapped up all our lines and pulled the drag out from his reel, I could see the excitement in his face. Another young angler hooked on the awesome experience!

Fishing with kids provides its own unique challenges; ice fishing with kids, even more so due to the weather and fickle winter fish.  But if you follow a few guidelines, an outing on the ice with young anglers can be fun, productive and enjoyable for all, forming a lifelong appreciation for the sport in just a few outings.  By keeping it about the kids, focusing on fast action, and making sure comfort is a consideration, any hardwater trip can be considered a success.
It’s About Them
First and foremost, as an avid ice angler yourself, you should be looking to make an impression on your protégé.  Ice fishing is full of questions, even for an experienced angler, and a young one will have a supply of never-ending inquiries.  Do your best to field them as you go along throughout the trip.  Explain how an auger works, why some fish bite and others might not, show how a slip float and bobber stop works and focus in on a young angler’s needs.
If the action is fast, you’re going to spend your time unhooking fish and re-baiting lures.  Additionally, kids may need help operating standard spinning reels which accompany most ice rods, which are a step up from the Zebco 202 on their summer rods.  Show how to properly hold the rod and flip open the bail, explain how the drag works, and help them figure out when it’s the right time to reel up when the bobber starts to go down.
Stay on a Bite
A key for getting kids to take to ice fishing is to find a fast bite.  Whether it be a bevy of bluegills or a lake full of perch, it rarely matters what size the fish are.  Rather, kids are drawn into the experience by a continuous bite, where bobbers go down frequently and fish come up the hole often.  Younger kids will enjoy the excitement of panfish, while older kids may get a kick out of learning how to use tip-ups for pike, or they may have the patience which is sometimes required of walleye angling through the ice.
For the latter, focus on those high-percentage hours around dusk.  Many youngsters don’t want to wake up at five in the morning to catch the early bite, but they don’t have a problem using the later part of the day to prepare for a chance at Ol’ Marble Eyes.  Find a lake where there is a good population and a solid recent bite and help your young companion learn the ropes with jigging rods, bobber rods and other tactics that pay off for winter walleyes.
Comfort on Ice
Ultimately, the more comfortable the accommodations, the longer a young angler will last on the ice, no matter how fast or slow the angling is.  Try to pick a day where conditions are favorable, regardless of whether you’ll be fishing from a permanent shack or your trusty portable.  Make sure that warm, waterproof boots are worn by young anglers, as the first thing that tends to have kids longing for home are cold, wet feet.  Also, keep mittens and jackets dry and off of the ice or the floor of the shack where they can get damp and dirty.

Have snacks and drinks available if it’s going to be a long outing.  Juice and water are staples to keep kids going, and crackers, cookies and beef jerky are easy on-ice snacks that don’t get crushed easily and provided added energy.
Make sure to have your gear organized and have your rods and tackle in order before you hit the ice, this way you can deploy them quickly and effectively for the fish you are after. Have a good heater going to keep the overall environment warm during the event, and keep your shack well lit with a lantern or lightbar.  It doesn’t hurt to have a spare headlamp so your fishing buddy can fit right in when it’s time to catch fish in the dark, or pack up and head home.

Using these guidelines, you’ll be able to help young anglers become on-ice experts after just a few trips.  Keep the focus on their activities while fishing readily-biting species, and know when to call it a day due to cold, a slow down, or just when they’re ready to go.  You’ll find in time that the passion you hope to pass on will take root in their hearts and ice fishing will become a fun pastime for them too…in our outdoors.

Youth Ice Fishing

Taking your youth ice fishing will bring great big smiles and fond memories


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