10 Tips for Ice Fishing With Kids

From choosing a location to bringing S'mores, this guide will make your next ice fishing trip a breeze!

When going ice fishing with kids you always want to be prepared. If you have all the right gear and safety knowledge your day can be filled with fun and lifelong memories. Being unprepared can ruin your trip and potentially turn you off from going out again on an ice fishing adventure. This would be a shame as ice fishing is a great winter outdoor activity to do with friends and family. Here are some tips for ice fishing with kids that will ensure a day of fun!

1. Location, Location, Location!!

Yup, just like in the real estate business. This is important to consider when going ice fishing with kids. Things can happen with young ones where you may need to leave and take them home. Depending on their age they have various needs and comfort levels. They may need a nap and it would be easier to take them home and do that in the comfort and warmth of a house and not in an ice fishing hut. If a situation arises where you need to take them home quickly you will want to be close to home. Choose a location that is preferably not 4 to 5 hours away. Think about how long of a vehicle drive and/or snowmobile ride it would be if you needed to take them home. Easy access is important to consider. Choose a location that has a plowed winter road or a packed snowmobile trail. This brings me to my next tip…

2. Know Your Lake!

If you are thinking about taking kids to a new Lake that you have not been to before then you better get yourself out there a day or two before and check it out. Find out what you are getting yourself into. If you want to have an enjoyable day of fun and excitement with your kids then make it easy on yourself and do the research. You will be more confident if you become familiar with where you are going. Here are some questions to ask yourself. This stuff matters because if you get there and you didn’t check it out beforehand you could be wasting half your day just trying to get to the lake you want to fish at. That’s not fun for the kids.

Things to Consider

  • What are the road conditions like? Is it plowed? Sanded? Salted? Do you have a car or truck with 4x4?
  • Is there parking? Is there room to park on the side of the road? And if so, can a vehicle get past you?
  • Is there a trail into the lake from the road?
  • Can you snowmobile into the lake? Is the trail broken in? Will you have to break trail?
  • Can you walk into the lake? Do you need snowshoes? How deep is the snow? Is the trail packed down? How far is it?
  • When you get to the lake what is the ice condition like? How much ice is there? Did you check with an axe, then drill a hole? Ice Safety is the most important. Make sure to have a minimum of 4 inches of ice. Look for open ice.
  • Is there slush? This matters because slush can ruin your day. You can get stuck on a snowmobile; you can get wet and cold.
  • If you are confident and comfortable with the ice condition, then explore the lake. If you are on foot, then take a walk or snowshoe around. If you are on a snowmobile drive around.
  • Are there creeks? Look for creeks as there will often be open water around them and you do not want the kids running around exploring and going in areas with open water.

3. Check the Weather

Choose your days wisely. Check the weather forecast. Watch for snowfall, wind, and temperature.  This can make or break your day and travel time.

4. Packing Your Clothing Bag

You will be surprised at how much stuff you can bring anywhere with kids. The same goes for ice fishing.  You will want to be prepared and dressed for the weather.  With winter temperatures, wind, slush, and snowfall it is strongly recommended to pack extras.  This means extra socks, mitts, hand warmers, and neck warmers. Extra mitts are nice because if you catch a fish and hold it the fish slime gets on the mitts and is hard to wash the smell out. Have an extra pair designated as their “ice fishing mitts”. Then when they go to school on Monday their everyday mitts don’t smell like fish. Perfect! Another good pointer is to bring plastic grocery bags. This may seem strange but trust me they come in handy. There is always one kid who steps in an ice fishing hole. Seriously! The boot goes in and the crying begins! Get out your extra socks that are warm and dry, then put the plastic grocery bags over their feet and back into their wet boots. It will work for a few hours. Eventually, you will want to take them home, but if the day is going great and everyone wants to stay then this tip will help your kid last a few more hours. Plus, if you have a campfire they can sit and try to dry their boots out.

5. Bring Some Toys

Plan to have other things to do. Especially with kids, this is a must. Not all kids want to ice fish. And the ones that do may lose interest quickly. Remember they are kids, and they have short attention spans. They will be present but may not want to participate in the fishing all day long. Part of the fun is to just be outside together enjoying the outdoors. To keep them there for the day while you fish, you need to keep them occupied. One of the best forms of entertainment for them can be sliding. If there is a little hill close by where you can see them, then sliding can occupy them for hours. We always throw a few lightweight sleds on our snowmobile to bring with us. Not every lake will have a hill so pack some age-appropriate toys or snowshoes. A few examples are hot wheel cars, toy trucks, a doll, a shovel and pail to build snow castles, a soccer ball, or frisbee. We have used all of these. So much fun to do in the snow. One last thing to pack for fun with kids is a deck of cards. You can’t go wrong with cards if there is no wind or if you have an ice hut. Cards can be a blast.

6. Remember the Snacks

Bring enough food! Kids love snacks. Bring as much as you can. Keep them happy. If you run out of food and have hungry kids you are in for some tears and whining. Adults get cranky when they are hungry—guess what, kids do too. Having enough food and snacks will make their mood enjoyable to be around. Even if there are some sugary treats, pack them, it’s a special day to let them enjoy something delicious. Make a big deal out of it—kids get excited about the little things. Candy is one of them LOL!  Some ice fishing favourites of ours are campfire S'more, hot dogs, sandwiches, chips, crackers, cheese, juice, pop, hot chocolate, water, sandwiches, smokies, and cookies.

7. Get Them Involved With the Gear

There is a lot of gear involved for ice fishing. Get the kids involved. They love to feel important and helpful. They can help pack and unpack the gear. One piece of gear that is fun for them to use is the ice scoop. If they get tired of holding a rod then ask them to scoop the ice out of the holes. If it is really cold then they will be busy keeping the holes clean. They love doing this.

You will need to bring a shovel for excess snow and/or slush. Bring an axe, hatchet, lighter, camping chairs, garbage bag, a bucket for your fish, toilet paper, knife, rods, bait (where appropriate and allowed). Don’t forget your ice auger. If you are walking into a lake you can bring a hand pull sled to put all your gear and food in. If you have a snowmobile a sled to pull behind is handy and saves trips back and forth.  I highly recommend a cover for your sled. It will save all your gear from getting snow-covered and wet. Make sure you have gas for anything that needs it. Fill up your tanks.

8. Opt For An Ice Fishing Shelter

If you plan on going ice fishing several times a year you may want to invest in an ice fishing shelter. You can get portable ones that are easy to set up and pack away. Or if you are handy you can attempt to build your own ice fishing hut. These rarely come for sale, but occasionally you may find one that could be perfect for you and your family. These provide shelter from the wind and warmth with a woodstove or portable propane heater. While they are nice to have, not every ice fishing experience needs one. We have both a hut and a portable shelter and there are places where we go ice fishing and don't need them. It depends on when and where you plan to go. Kids enjoy going in these to warm up, dry their mitts and have a snack break. Then back out they go to fish and play.

9. Take Pictures

Bring your cell phone or camera. The best part of the day is being able to capture those fun moments and Northern Ontario winter scenery. If you catch a fish or not there are so many opportunities to take some great photos.  Be sure to keep your phone warm in your pocket so your battery lasts the day.

10. Have a Campfire

If possible, have a campfire. Kids love it. Campfires give everyone a chance to warm up, dry clothing items, and make yummy snacks.  Who doesn’t love a campfire? It’s a no-brainer!!

Use these tips to enjoy your outdoor experience ice fishing with kids. Take a break from fishing to sit by the fire. Go for a short walk or snowshoe to warm up or exercise. Play a game with the kids. Have a snowball fight. Have fun and make your family winter memories in Superior Country.

About Shalane Sarrasin

Shalane is a staff writer at Superior Country. She has spent most of her life in Nipigon. She loves to acrylic paint trees and landscapes. Shalane loves boating, hiking, fishing and camping. Her favourite season is winter and enjoys the beauty of being outside in the snowy landscape cross country skiing, snowshoeing or ice fishing with her husband and son.

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