As I walked down the chute, flanked by holes and anglers on both sides, I was struck by the diversity in the crowd.
There were the hardy veterans in camouflage with shelters, ATVs, sleds and other fish finding gizmos. There were young families with infants in chariots working little Dora rods looking for junior’s first fish. There were also seniors taking it easy with a cup of coffee and few generations of family.
Regardless of age or expectations, all anglers were out enjoying the annual Family Ice Fishing Day sponsored by the Yukon Fish and Game Association.
It all begins the day before, when volunteers systematically punch over 20 holes into Lake Laberge, just off the campground. Families simply park and walk out onto the ice to pick any hole of their liking.
For two-and-a-half year-old Chloe Tatsumi, the choice was the third hole in on the south side. With Jedi-like mind concentration, she appeared to be willing the fish to bite.
For parents, Kenji and Corinne, fishing is just something you do in the Yukon.
“We fish as a family on Kusawa or in Haines every year and we just love getting outside,” they say.
Not scared to tell a fish tale or two, Chloe tells me about the fish she’s already caught today and how she has one on at that exact moment.
For Steve Kosmenko, the pleasure of the event is more about the ease of having someone else come out and set up your hole.
“We just walk out and get these free holes,” he says. Most of the year, Kosmenko and his fishing buddies, Matt Willis and Rick Ladd, regularly grind away on skinnier ice with their hand auger.
Kosmenko also enjoys the neighbourly banter and spirit of cooperation of Family Fishing Day. He’s been coming for three years and remembers one year when he helped a Japanese tourist on one hole, only to assist some anglers from Cuba and England on the next.
“You never know who will come out. It is a pretty big deal for some of these tourists who just can’t believe we are walking on water.”
Farther along the line of holes I run into a well-dressed young man, fishing by hand and wearing what looks like a pair of dress slacks.
Naturally, he’s from France and his two friends are from Québec. The three of them are having a great time, without the slightest inclination of what they are fishing for.
“I don’t know what is under here. Maybe perche?” he says in a thick French accent.
Either way – and he sounds convincing, as he explains that his innovative “corn” presentation will catch him something – the fish will taste great in his soup.
With my grand tour almost coming to an end, I meander across a family fishing with three colourful girls.
The girls are on hands and knees, creatively using bottles of water and food colouring to make patterns that freeze on their unusual canvas – ice and snow. Greg Hammond, father of two of the girls, explains how this environmentally friendly craft keeps them entertained for hours.
Personally, I am always keen to learn new ways to keep kids entertained while out ice-fishing. I will definitely add this one to my repertoire.
The Yukon Fish and Game Association hosts the Family Ice Fishing Day twice a year, one in Whitehorse and another outside of Haines Junction at Pine Lake.
Regardless of your level of experience, I highly recommend taking the family out to this stress-free event. Simply bring some lawn chairs and fishing tackle.
And don’t forget the food colouring.