For family recreation, take the kids ice fishing!
By Babe Winkelman
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Consider taking a family of five to dinner and
a movie. For cheap fast-food at six bucks per person, you're already
at $30. Movie tickets, conservatively speaking, will run you about
$40. Throw in popcorn and a Coke for everybody, and that's another
$30, easy. Add it up, and you're looking at a minimum of $100 for
just one night out. And both the movie and the grub will probably
Rather than taking your family to movies that do very little to
bring everyone together, I want to encourage you to go ice fishing
instead. There's nothing like a fun, productive day on the ice to
put smiles on kids' faces and make your family bond closer than
ever. And instead of SPENDING money on junk food, you'll come home
with the healthiest, most delicious food there is: fish fillets.
To properly introduce your clan to the magic of the frozen water
world, it's important to take the right approach to make sure
everyone has a great time. So here's a handy checklist to follow
Warmth and comfort
Nothing kills an otherwise perfect day of ice fishing like
discomfort. You want everyone to be cozy and safe. That doesn't mean
you have to go out and buy an expensive "wheelhouse" fishing
shelter. Nope, for the price of three family movie nights, you can
pick up a portable hub-style fish house like an Eskimo Quickfish
that goes up in a matter of minutes. They're available in two-,
three-, four- and six-person models, and with the addition of a
portable propane heater, you'll be toasty inside in no time. Bring
some comfortable folding chairs and some good snacks and drinks, and
you'll be all set for a full day of fun.
The sight of bobbers going down is a thrill. Watching them float
all day isn't. So when you first introduce your family to ice
fishing, target a species that's most apt to provide you with
consistent action. Crappies, sunfish and perch are the ideal quarry.
They're schooling fish, so where you find one, you're likely to find
many. Plus, panfish and perch are the best species to keep for the
frying pan. Talk with your local bait shop or to other ice anglers
for advice on where the panfish are biting.
Your gear for panfish can be very simple. Inexpensive rods and
reels, spooled with light monofilament (3-4 pound test), will do
just fine. An assortment of small ice jigs with live bait (waxworms
and small crappie minnows) suspended beneath slip bobbers is
virtually all you'll need.
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To make ice fishing more productive and entertaining, add a sonar
unit and underwater camera to your equipment bag. Sonar will help
you locate fish and catch them. And it's virtually impossible for
kids to get bored if they can watch fish on "TV" with an underwater
camera. A camera also teaches everyone a lot about fish behavior.
You'll discover how imparting a certain action to your bait can
trigger a strike response from fish.
Sometimes the fishing is hot and sometimes it's cold. During
periods of inactivity, the kids might get restless. So bring along
some things to help get them through the doldrums. A football or
Frisbee can go a long way in keeping children enthused about being
out on the lake. Skates are great, too, if the conditions are right
for skating. Nowadays, with nearly every kid owning a smartphone, go
ahead and allow some video game playing when the fish aren't
cooperating. It will keep you out longer, so when the bite starts up
again, you'll still be there and ready.
To ensure everyone's safety, always check ice conditions before
going ice fishing. As a rule of thumb, safe ice for walking is at
least 4 inches. For snowmobiles or ATVs, make sure it's 5-plus
inches. And wait for a good foot of snow before ice driving in a
medium-sized car or truck.
[By BABE WINKELMAN]
Babe Winkelman is a nationally known
outdoorsman. For more than 25 years he has taught people to fish and
hunt. Watch his award-winning "Good Fishing" and "Outdoor Secrets"
television shows on Versus, Fox Sports, Texas Channel and many local
www.winkelman.com for air times where you live and check out
Babe Winkelman on Facebook.