Getting Kids out of Pyjamas and into Ice Fishing

To a large extent, the past four months have featured long stretches of bone-chilling temperatures, blustery weekends and mind-numbing wind chill. After a few weeks of missing the “hard water”, I can usually muster up the inner strength to head out there in the freeze and give it a go.

(Trying to entice my kids to fish under these conditions is an entirely different story.)

Don’t get me wrong; there are many tough Yukon kids who head out and fish hours at a time regardless of weather. I just don’t have those kinds of kids. My boys would love nothing more on a cold day than to stay in their pyjamas and hang out at home.

My philosophy is that if you expect kids to enjoy it, ice fishing needs to be comfortable, filled with sideline adventure and planned well in advance.

I find that breaking the fishing experience up into phases helps get them out of the house and makes the trip a success. I tested this philosophy this past weekend with some kids at the tried and true Pumphouse Lake.

Phase One starts by making sure you have all of the necessary gear and the right mix of people. I made sure to borrow a power auger and to invite some friends with children roughly the same age as mine.

Phase Two involves getting the kids onto the lake and engaging them in the process of drilling holes. Kids want to be helpful, so I usually assign roles such as the “executive hole-selector”, the “certified snow-shoveller” and the “expert (hole) ice-scooper”.

Phase Three includes rigging up a few functioning rods, setting up tip-ups and answering up to 85 consecutive questions from a five year old. Kids are curious and want to know why fish like shrimp, how they can see the lure, how big are they, why I pick a green lure, etc.

My goal, at this point, is to get a few active lines in the hands of accompanying adults. The kids are very excited at this point and will usually fish frantically with their parents expecting a fish to hit right away.

Given that fish are seldom caught within the first five minutes, Phase Four features a high-energy hike into the nearby woods for a special jigging stick. A willow is cut into foot-long sections and fixed with line and a lure just deep enough to touch the bottom of the lake. Each child now has a line and a hole and can jig to their heart’s content.

By now, an hour has passed and hopefully a fish has been caught. If a fish is caught, Phase Five involves cleaning and processing, then explaining the innards and examining the stomach contents. If there are no signs of fish, at all, the nearby fire replaces phase five with hot-dog roasting and hot-chocolate warming.

Fortunately, our two-hour outing this past weekend involved the catching of two nice little rainbow trout. This not only topped off a fun afternoon, but also included the bonus Phase Six: pan-frying with garlic butter and eating fish for dinner.

If you would like to share your fishing story or hear more about this one, visit Dennis Zimmermann’s Yukon fishing blog at

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