8 Tips for Ice Fishing With Kids

Taking kids out on the ice for a day of fishing can be a great way to create a fishing partner for life. If you do it right.

8 Tips for Ice Fishing With Kids

Photo courtesy of USFWS.

Any ice fishing trip requires a certain amount of preparation. Gassing up or charging your auger, packing the shanty, jig poles and tip-ups, stopping by the local bait shop for some waxies and shiners. Did you remember to pack the kids? Under the right conditions and with a little bit of planning, a day on the ice can make for a memorable experience. It can also go south in a hurry. Here are some things you need to keep in mind when taking children, teens and young adults ice fishing to ensure they have a good time.

1. Watch the Weather 

Ice fishing is inherently cold, it has to be. But there’s cold, and then there’s cold. If the mercury is dropping into the teens or colder, it could be difficult for the kids to have a good time. They likely won’t want to be cooped up in the ice shanty all day, so it’s important to pick a day when the conditions are favorable for playing outside in the snow. Slushy conditions are no fun for anyone, especially kids. 

2. Dress for Success

You may be comfortable in temps below zero with your two-piece flotation suit and multiple base layers, but kids’ winter clothes aren’t built with the same extreme conditions in mind. Dress the kids in layers for the same reasons you do. Bringing some spare boots, pants and gloves isn’t a bad idea in case someone steps in a hole or gets hands playing in the snow.  

3. No Big Holes

Leave the 10-inch auger at home. If you’ve got a 6-inch auger to use, even better. Not drilling any extra holes that won’t be fished from can also help prevent a wet boot or worse, a twisted ankle. Years ago, when I first started ice fishing as a kid, I (regrettably) had a bad habit of filling in holes with snow and slush to “hide” them. I stepped in my fair share of slushed in holes before I learned my lesson. But a 10-inch hole could swallow a small child. 

4. Start Simple

Setting up an arsenal of tip-ups in a northern pike hot spot is a great way to get kids interested in fishing. They’re not tied to a single hole and can roam or play in the snow then join the fun by running to the flag. Kids that require a bit more engagement to stay interested can try jigging, though I’d recommend an inexpensive jigging combo in case it winds up getting stepped on or falling to the bottom of the lake.

If you look like Jack Nicholson's character from "The Shining" after packing the vehicle with fishing gear, it might be too cold to take the kids fishing.
If you look like Jack Nicholson's character from "The Shining" after packing the vehicle with fishing gear, it might be too cold to take the kids fishing.

5. Snacks, Snacks and More Snacks

Pack plenty of snacks and refreshments. Munching on snacks can help fill the void between bites and add to the enjoyment if it’s a special treat they don’t normally get to eat. Bringing some hot cocoa in a thermos is a great way to warm up.

6. Bathroom Break

Have a plan for bathroom breaks. There are a few portable toilet options on the market that are a step up from a 5-gallon bucket. If you’re fishing without an ice shanty, make sure you pack something like a blanket to give the young angler some privacy while they do their business. Don’t forget the toilet paper.

7. Make it a Big Deal

Make a big deal about any fish the kids catch, no matter the size. They’ll likely be just as excited about a 4-inch panfish as a 24-inch northern, so don’t dampen their excitement. Take plenty of trophy photos to commemorate the occasion. 

8. Pack it in

When the kids are ready to go home, it’s time to go. Even if it’s just getting to be prime time, forcing them to stay on the ice any longer than their attention span can handle will make them dread the next trip.  

Remember, you’re trying to create a fishing partner for life. Getting them hooked early can lead to a lifetime of enjoyment for both of you. Following these tips will improve your odds of success, but it’s by no means an exhaustive list. If you think I forgot something, drop me a line at mike.schoblaska@grandviewoutdoors.com. I’d love to hear from you, or hear about a fun family fishing experience you had. 

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