It’s cold outside. But we Minnesotan’s have plenty to keep us busy. We have 10,000 lakes (now ice) and they are full of fish. How about combining the two for some family ice fishing? Not sure where to start?
It’s not as hard as you think. Here are some hard and fast pointers on making it happen:
- Getting Started: get a guide (and/or a seasoned Grandpa, Uncle or friend)
Especially if this is the family’s first time out, a fishing guide is worth his/her weight in gold (and fishing gear). And it’s much more economical that one would think. A fishing guide will take care of a whole list of fishing gear families may not have thought about, including:
- Ice fishing house – (guides will usually have permanent ones that will keep the wind and cold at bay, and perhaps even have a little heater inside) If not, sitting on a bucket on the ice works well enough, too.
- Rods – The guide will use a short rod if your in an ice house; they let the fisherman sit closer to the ice hole, and they also let the fisherman set the hook easier. Longer rods can be used if you’re sitting on a bucket out on the ice. (Home Depot has nice 5 gallon buckets for cheap that can be used to carry your gear, then to sit on)
- Ice Drill – This is for cutting through the ice to fish, and it also helps to have a slush remover to clean out the ice hole. Remember: four inches of ice and deeper for walking on the ice, 6 inches for an ATV, 12 inches for a car or pick up.
- Forceps/needle nose pliers – your guide will use these to help you with hook removal
- Bait – should be kept on the small side, and include minnows, crawlers or small moth larvae (otherwise known as waxies) but your guide will have all the bait on hand already. The guide will also have ice-fishing lures on hand as well.
- Know your fish: the guide will also act as a teacher of sorts, and be able to help out with fish identification. Did your son just catch a perch? Or your daughter a walleye? Might be fun to get a Fish ID book to bring along (one that can be read with mittens on)
* Safety. Clothes and Manners
- Know where you are on the ice, and set boundaries. (ie: look for holes in the ice) Although your guide will know, it helps for everyone to know the area-carry a phone, compass, map or GPS unit. The guide will have your locations mapped out for you, and will know the best “honey holes” to fish. Ice Fishing takes place on ponds and lakes of all sizes, with safe ice of course. Larger water bodies will provide more of a diverse fishing opportunity for your kids. Most state-owned lakes do allow ice fishing, while county or municipally owned waters may prohibit it.
- Keeping your feet warm and dry will be the first priority-get the kids (and yourself) heavy, felt-lined boots and wear thick, wool socks. Maybe tuck an extra pair along just in case of cold, little toes. Stocking caps are a must, try a knitted or fleecy hat that covers ALL the ear. A scarf or muffler helps, as well. For gloves or mittens, remember that mittens tend to trap more warmth than gloves, so find some mittens that are thick. Layer up thin gloves underneath the mittens for some extra warmth. This also works well when the kids have to take off the mittens to either tie a knot, or take a fish off the hook.
- Manners aren’t just for the table. The fishing guide can be helpful with etiquette, but some rules of the road include: don’t set up too close to another fisherman unless you ask first, keep your fish in a bucket with some water and slush or release them before they freeze; don’t blast your radio or litter; and the big one: Do not make a lot of noise, it can spook the fish!
* This is Fun Remember….
Keep in mind these are kids that are fishing. Keep the sessions short, 4 hours max. Plan a big lunch for a slow bite day, maybe even bring a grill and have a hot dog cookout on the ice! Some other tricks for kids include having them use a hand auger and let them try making the hole; be sure to pack some warm, sweet liquids like hot chocolate; try out a underwater camera (like the AquaVue) to get a real view of what’s happening underneath the ice.
If families are interested in more group events, check out the Minnesota DNR’s website at www.dnr.state.mn.us/events and/or www.dnr.state.mn.us/minnaqua/icefishing for a complete calendar listing of winter ice fishing events, including Winter Trout Fishing, Ice Fishing 101, Fishing Derbies, and Take a kid ice fishing clinics. For ice safety, check out www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety