Ice Fishing with Your Children
Author: gary.engberg | Date: 12.27.2016
Now that southern Wisconsin has enough ice on it’s lakes to be safe, it’s time to take the children out fishing and hopefully get them interested in this outdoor activity. One of my don’ts for early ice fishing is not to take children out fishing on “first ice” because of the safety factor and I have also believe that you besides being a fisherman are also a father who should always have your children’s safety at the forefront. Wait until you are sure that the ice is safe and to me, safe is at least 5 or 6 inches and most area lakes have at least that much of good ice right now. Besides having solid and thick ice, you should always keep your children away from any pressure cracks, feeder creeks and streams, warm water discharges, and any water that is moving. Keep your children close to you when fishing and try to make their time on the ice as enjoyable and educational as possible. Make it a fun activity and spend time teaching and demonstrating the ice fishing basics.
Make sure that you pick a day when its nice out with temperatures in the 20’s and 30’s degree F and hopefully not too windy. Make sure that the children are dressed properly with good warm clothing: this includes boots, mittens, wool hats, plus warm under garments. It’s always a good idea to bring some extra garments because a cold child is not a happy child and your “fishing day” won’t bring fond memories that you’re looking for. I’ve always found that the chemical hand warmers work wonders on cold hands too so I suggest that you bring some on your outing. There’s a certain amount of responsibility when taking young children on the ice. Don’t just set up your ice shelter or bucket and start fishing. Take the time to show the children how you’re fishing and show them the correct and proper use of the equipment and gear that they’ll be using and a little talk about fishing technique and ice safety. Remember that you’re trying to get the children interested in the activity, so help them as much as you can. Catching fish is one of the important things when trying to introduce kids to fishing and the outdoors. This is why the first few outings with children should be to lakes and ponds where there are abundant fish that the youngsters can regularly catch with fish size and “keepers” not that important. One can see the joy and excitement in your child’s face after they catch a few fish on their own. There are lakes and ponds close to most communities that have panfish that children can catch while learning the sport.
One good location to take the kids in southern Wisconsin is to Brittingham Park in downtown Madison’s “Triangle” area. The local fishing club, the Yahara Fishing Club, has a ice fishing jamboree every winter for hundreds of young and beginning anglers at this location, The Club gives away fishing rods, bait buckets, and other fishing gear to all the kids who show up to learn and get instruction to improve their ice fishing skills. Check your local newspapers because there may be groups like the Yahara Fishing Club in your town! It’s been proven time and time again that you have to start children when they’re young or they’ll be lost to the sport of fishing forever. Brittingham Park and nearby Monona Bay are locations where panfish, mainly bluegills and crappies, can be caught by children with minimal instruction. The fish are on the small side, but there are also some “good” keepers that would keep anyone happy and later make a great fish fry. Most of the bluegills are in the 5 to 7 inch range with a few in excess of 8 inches, which I consider to be a decent or “keeper” bluegill. The crappies average 8 to 9 inches with the biggest fish around 10 inches. There’s also are the odd largemouth bass or northern pike that are occasionally caught. But, panfish are the most abundant species and bite most of the time, if you stay mobile and keep moving from hole to hole and area to area. In many of these “spots” you can get fishing without an auger, just by fishing holes already drilled by other anglers.
The Yahara Fishing Club outing for children this year is January 21st from 9:00 am to 12 noon. There will be plenty of free equipment for the children and many club members to help beginners. There also are hot dogs and hot chocolate for all. This is an annual event and well worth it for beginners and even experienced ice anglers. Club members drill hundreds of holes to fish in and there are many members to help get you going. Plus, the free equipment is enough to go fishing with your parents and with your new and free equipment. Mark this date (January 21st) on your calendar. This is also the Wisconsin DNR free fishing weekend where no license is needed.
The nice thing about fishing Brittingham Park and Lake Monona Bay is that; 1) there is a parking lot close to the ice and the walk is not too far for even young children and older adults. 2) There’s plenty of fish for the kids to catch and they usually bite consistently. 3) You don’t need any fancy equipment to catch fish here. A light and sensitive rod and reel with a spring bobber on the tip to detect light bites, an assortment of ice jigs for pan fish, wax worms or spikes for bait, and a 5 gallon pail to sit on is all that is needed for a child’s success. 4) You will catch some keeper fish, so the kid’s can eat some of what they catch and also learn something about cleaning fish plus the important practice of catching and releasing fish.
No matter where you live, there are places like this where you can take the kids to catch some fish and learn the sport of ice fishing. Take the children to a place where they will have some success and hopefully get hooked on fishing for their lives along with other outdoor activities. Madison’s Lake Monona and the Triangle around Brittingham Park are two good spots to take that child of yours fishing on a nice sunny day or even a cloudy day if it’s not too cold. There are others fishing locations where you can take a child and not have as many people and also have success fishing are; Fish and Crystal Lake near Sauk City, Indian Lake off Highway 12 and Highway 19 west of Middleton, and I almost forgot to mention little Lake Wingra near the zoo in Madison which is full of small bluegills for the catching. Make your ice fishing day with your child or children a fun and enjoyable day if you want to have a fishing partner. Hopefully, you’ll have that fishing partner for life! Have fun.
We had some rain and warmer weather on Sunday and Monday, but I checked out Brittingham Park and there was still good ice and plenty of anglers fishing and catching bluegills and crappies which had to be sorted for a good meal.
Contacts; D and S Bait, Madison, WI. (608)- 241-4225.
Wilderness Fish and Game store, Sauk City, Wi. (608)-643-2433.
McFarland’s True Value, Sauk City, Wi. (608)-643-3311.
Guide Wally Banfi (608) 644-9823.
Guide Ron Barefield (608)-235-7685.
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