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Fishing WisconsinA father's time-tested tips

Skip Sommerfeldt, a DNR biologist, avid ice angler and father of three girls started getting his girls involved in fishing when they were about 5 or 6 years old - when they were old enough to actively participate and have an idea of what they were supposed to be doing.

kids enjoy ice fishing

Beth Sommerfeldt has been fishing with her father for years.

Sommerfeldt's tips for ice fishing fun with the whole family.

  • Try to get them involved in the whole process. For instance, I might have the lake and general area picked out -- but let the kids pick exact spot where they want 'their' holes drilled. Maybe let them help with the drilling of the holes and have them scoop the slush out of the holes as well. They could also assist in setting the tip-ups - checking the depth, even baiting their own hooks and setting the flag.
  • Make sure they're dressed for the weather and don't make them suffer out in the cold. Let them go inside a vehicle, shack or house to warm up when they do get cold. Bring food, snacks and soda for them - but have a plan on how to take care of bathroom needs (my girls didn't mind a bucket if there was toilet paper and a little privacy).
  • Fishing with tip-ups are usually more successful than asking kids to sit on a bucket watching a hole. With tip ups, they don't have to sit in one place and watch for a bobber to go down and get cold and cranky. They can run around, build forts in the snow, slide on a little hill down to the lake, build snowmen -- and then come running to catch a fish when a flag pops up.
  • Let them do most of the catching of the fish. Have them watch for flags - and either set turns on who gets to check flags or have the tip-ups divided by each kid - and they check theirs alone.
  • Make a big deal about any fish they do catch -- any size or any species. To a kid, a skinny 22-inch 'pickler' northern pike is a bigger fish than a nice chunky 19-inch walleye. And always have a camera along - it makes a kid proud to get his or her picture taken with a fish. Again, any size or species of fish will do.
  • Let them play and make up their own fun - using some of the tools of the trade. A simple shovel - used to clear snow from around holes - can often keep the kids busy for hours. They can clear off sliding rinks, shovel paths, and make forts and houses. Half drilled holes, some water, an ice scooper and a few minnows will also keep them entertained for awhile.
  • If you have the energy, empty out the hauling sled and pull them around on the ice - what kid doesn't enjoy being pulled around on a sled? If the snow is packing - make a snowman and decorate with any material you can find (twigs, grass, stones, minnows, seaweed, etc.) – and take a picture.
  • Lastly, stay away from snowball fights. I've found that that's just asking for trouble and one kid always ends up crying and wanting to go home!

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Last revised: Monday April 06 2015