A Brave Ski Mom interview with Lia Keller, an Alaska mom who blogs about outdoor fun and family at Skedaddle.
It’s winter. You’ve got kids. How do you keep them busy?
We love hiking, skiing and sledding, but our current favorite is ice fishing!
Wow! Ice fishing?
My sons are both obsessed with fish. About 90% of our day relates to fish in some manner – drawing fish, playing with toy fish or using boxes as fishing boats. We fish during the summer and it just naturally happens in the winter as well.
Ice fishing is a nice introduction to fishing as you don’t need all the gear that summer fishing necessitates. It also is a bit safer as you are not in a boat or on the stream of a river.
I have many memories of ice fishing as a child. I loved looking down the hole and was amazed that the fish still swam around in the cold lake.
My cousin took my boys and me ice fishing for their first time. He simply used a hammer to make a hole in the ice, tied fishing line to a branch and baited the hook with leftover shrimp. They caught four fish that first time and were hooked.
(Note from BSM: Four fish the first time out, using a branch. I hooked already and I haven’t been!)
What do your boys most enjoy about ice fishing?
My boys love watching for the pole to bend at nibbles and of course seeing the fish flop around. They decide if the fish is large enough to eat for supper or if they should release it back into the hole.
What do you enjoy about ice fishing?
I love seeing them sit still much longer than they do at home. They stare at the rod and jump up to reel in the fish. There are no squabbles or fights over toys. Also, it teaches them a useful skill, lets them know where food comes from and why we need to take care of our environment.
What equipment do you need for ice fishing?
At the most basic level you need fishing line, a hook and bait. You can step it up with a fishing pole, ice auger (to make the fishing hole) and a chair. I love how accessible this sport is as you don’t need piles of expensive gear.
What advice do you have for other families who want to try ice fishing?
Make your first trip posh and quick. Choose a warmer day so the child isn’t miserable. Bring lots of snacks and treats. Take a sled and blanket for the child to sit on at the hole. Let the child hold one pole and pull it out every second to check if there is a fish. Have the adult actually try to catch a fish at another hole and the let the kiddo run over and reel it in!
My son wants to let children know not to let go of the pole. On our last outing, the “pole fell down the hole.”
Do you always catch some fish?
Mostly we do catch fish, or I don’t think the boys would enjoy it as much! We have been “skunked” (fishing lingo for not catching anything) a few times. This year we seem to have good luck and my boys have had bites all day and had fun choosing which fish to bring home for dinner and which ones to put back into the hole.
What do your kids think about using bait? Is it gross, cool or just something nobody things about?
I have a terrible memory of having to dig worms and bait my own hook as a child. For ice fishing, we use shrimp. We actually get the small trays with cocktail sauce from the store and use the leftovers for our fishing trip! I don’t find this offensive at all and don’t mind if the kids munch on one during the trip. They have never fished with live bait and in Alaska not much fishing needs worms (thankfully!).
What’s the biggest fish you’re boys have caught ice fishing?
My sons caught a 13 inch Arctic Char and good-sized Rainbow Trout as well.
Do you have any ice fishing secrets to share?
How late in the season can you ice fish in Alaska?
It depends on our winter for the most part, but you could find frozen lakes into April, I think. You then just transition right into regular fishing season!
The Brave Ski Mom Adds…
Although ice fishing is a big time winter activity in our county (we’ve got over 200 lakes!), I’ve never been. Now that I know how easy it is, and how little gear is necessary, I’m thinking it might be a really fun expedition!
Thanks for the inspiration Lia!
A Bit More About Lia and Skedaddle
Lia was born in Alaska and is now raising her two boys there. She loves snowboarding, fishing, knitting, cooking, orienteering and climbing. Lia run an all-weather outdoor playgroup called Skedaddle and co-organizes the Anchorage Outdoor Family Network with a friend.
February Fun: In Praise of Pond Hockey, February 1, 2011.
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