Icy Cold Fun

Montreal Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - photo cour­tesy USFWS

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.

Safety first

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.

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