GETTING KIDS STARTED AT ICE FISHING   6 comments

Getting children involved in ice fishing is a challenging family experience as well as an opportunity to learn about nature.  But, safety and fun have to be given consideration. 

 Kids need plenty of opportunity to catch fish to make their first experience a memorable one.  Many families will go out ice fishing and if they are not catching fish the kids are soon off sledding or doing something else.  Kids love to feel that slight tug on a line or watch the flag of a tip-up spring to attention. There is something special in that anticipation.

 In order to be safe, it is important to wait for good cold weather over a long period of time.  Then it is time to take to the ice with an overturned bucket or ice fishing shanty.  Basically, a safe family sport, ice fishing accidents can happen due to inadequate information or poor judgment.

 According to Buddy Seiner of  South Dakota, a popular way of attracting and maintaining the interest of children is have communities put on small tournaments.  Local parks are good as they have small ponds that freeze over which contain panfish and small game fish.  It adds competition and children win prizes.

 “Taking them to a spot that is going to be productive the first time and teaching them what the fish are doing and how to catch these fish and how to rig up the line and doing all that stuff the first time, says Buddy, “They will have a lot of fun and want to do it again.”

 It is always a good idea for kids to wear a personal flotation device and not to fish alone.  Ice can vary in thickness from one location to another.  This is especially true near creek mouths, points, bridges and springs.  Ice is thinner anywhere there is current.

 Kids do have a short attention span.  “I saw a kid last year that was fishing with his dad who caught a couple of fish.”  “The kid left his pole and was just kicking the fish around on the ice,” explained Seiner.  “He was having fun but he was not having fun fishing.”

 It is a good idea to bring something along for the kids to do if the fish are not biting.  Video games (hand held) balls, etc.  They can do anything they want on the ice and it will not interfere with the fishing action of others.  It is not like warm weather fishing when kids start to play in the water or throw sticks and stones into it and scare away the fish. 

 Buddy recommends the use of underwater cameras.  A lot of people have them these days.  Seiner used one and was amazed to watch fish swim by and see how the fish reacted to the bait.  He even saw how they reacted to each other.  He found it really interesting. 

If you do not have a camera, then consider buying or renting a shanty for the day.  When enclosed, kids can actually view fish much like in an aquarium.  It gives them a chance to see how fish live as well as view how the bottom appears.

 Ice fishing rods are a perfect size for kids.  Everybody can do it.  Unlike in the summer time when you sometimes need a boat to get to the fish, everybody can get to these fish.

 The sport is a great opportunity to get kids involved in fishing because you can go out and find the fish and equipment is not expensive.  You can buy a rod for $15 and a couple jigs and some wax worms and then you have a day of fishing that does not break the family budget.  Vertically jigging gives the kids a chance to experience one on one contact with the fish.

 The main thing is getting them started.  You can get them a gift, like a Christmas present of a nice fishing rod to get them excited about it.  It is all about how you start it off.  Make it a learning experience for them.  They can read up on the fish before going out. 

 Clothing is important.  You need to focus on the feet and fingers in terms of getting cold.  If kids feet get cold or their hands get cold they are going to be miserable.  Steiner stresses the need for good boots, gloves and of course the coat and hat as really important.  “Make them look like a big puffball.”

 It is not just small children that enjoying ice fishing.  Seiner asserts that he sees more and more teenagers going out on their own.  He feels there has to be something fun about it or they would not be doing it.  The teens are out in groups of four or five guys and they go out, drill a few holes, sit there and have a good time.

 A lot of sports shows have ice fishing seminars that produce third party reinforcement to the kids.  Kids can learn techniques and have their questions answered by experts in the field.  They can talk to the pros that they have seen on TV. 

 Besides being a sure cure for the winter doldrums, ice fishing is a fun family experience that provides education as to how man fits into the over all scheme of nature.  And it adds some nice healthy fish for the table.

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