Icy Cold Fun
What do you do for fun during the winter? Kids who live near the mountains might ski or snowboard. Families in Florida can spend time at the beach, and Arizonans can hike and play outdoors all year long. For those who spend the winter months where temperatures are freezing and snow is all around, ice fishing can be a great way to be outdoors and enjoy friends and family. This week, The Mini Page learns more about this fun winter sport.
What is ice fishing?
Ice fishing involves cutting a hole in a frozen lake or pond where fish live. This is done using an auger, a tool that is screwed down through the ice to make the hole. Some people use a power drill for this task. Then, using a fishing pole and line, bait is dropped into the hole, and fish gobble it up. Ice fishers typically catch yellow perch, bluegill or sunfish — known as panfish — or larger species like northern pike. Some are taken home to cook and eat; the bonier species are usually released back into the water.
Cutting a hole in ice over frigid water might sound dangerous, but ice fishers know how to stay safe on the frozen lake. First, people use a spud bar, a long piece of steel with a point at the end, to prod the ice as they walk away from the shoreline. In some lakes, during the coldest months, ice can be 2 to 3 feet thick, but experts agree that it must be at least 4 to 8 inches thick to be considered safe to walk on. When the ice is very thick, it can support pickup trucks driving onto it! Bait shops and sporting goods stores also may have ice reports with current news about the safety of specific lakes.
Fun for kids
If sitting in the cold around a small hole in the ice, waiting for a fish to bite sounds boring, you haven’t heard the whole story. Kids love to ice fish “because they’re not contained in a boat,” said Sabrina Chandler, refuge manager in Minnesota. “If fish aren’t biting, they can build a snowman, throw snowballs, run around.” Kids also can help keep the hole open by scooping out ice as it falls into or refreezes in the hole. And they can use a special tool called a tip-up, a spring and trigger with a little flag that is attached to the fishing pole. When a fish bites, the trigger releases the hook, and the flag pops up. Then kids can pull the line up by hand and grab the fish.
Mini Fact: Small fish called minnows and worms called night crawlers are used for bait in ice fishing.