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Rod, Gun & Game: Youth can get into ice fishing and make memories, too

Forrest Fisher has taken in some fun ice fishing with his family, including his grandson.
Since this is the first year in quite some time that we have actually had a good winter for making natural ice on lakes, its high time we addressed fishing during the times that ordinary people can walk on water.

You do need to dress warm, in layers, have good gloves with some hand warmers tucked in there and make certain that you have good boots with a heavy insulation layer between the soles of your feet and the ice. After that, look for the groups of people that seem to be clustered on the ice and try to fish near them, especially if it may be your first time, or if you are not sure what you are doing out there yet.

Even little kids seem to be fascinated with ice fishing. A few years ago, when my 3-year-old grandson asked me to join him at his pre-school show and tell, to talk about one of his favorite things - fishing. That day, the little guy brought in his 4-foot long Zebco “Tigger” rod with push-button casting reel, his little blue Plano tackle box, all his bobbers, sinkers and hooks, and one more thing that just touched my soul. A picture of him and I taken by his father when he caught his first sunfish on vacation.

At his young age, my grandson could probably best be described as a “talker.” He asked lots of questions and offered lots of answers, too. He was and still is a joy. As I drove the youngster home after the class, he asked me about where the fish go in the winter time. I told him the whole story about how water gets cold when winter comes and it eventually freezes on the top. The ice forms a hard thick layer and there is still regular lake water below the ice where the fish live through the winter cold. I explained that most of the fish live on the bottom in the deepest part of the lake.

The youngster asked, “Don’t the fish get cold?” I explained that fish are not like people, fish are the same temperature of the water they swim in (they are cold-blooded). So when the water gets cold, the fish get cold too, but they don’t freeze, they just slow down. I told him that lots of people fish in the winter by drilling a hole through the ice and fishing a little jig and bobber for fish on the bottom. “Can we go, can we go?” he asked. How could I say no?

The next day after clearing it with his mom and dad, off we went to a small frozen pond that I knew had crappie, sunfish, yellow perch and black bass in it. We walked over to an area of the pond that I thought was the deepest and after drilling the hole with an ice auger, a hand-held, drill-like device that made a 6-inch diameter hole in the 12 inches of ice we were standing on. I explained how a clip-on weight could be used to show how deep the water was. It was about 14 feet.

The youngster enjoyed using the ice scoop (hand skimmer) to clear the hole of ice chips and slush from digging the hole. He took on to that job and owned it. We had a clear blue sunshine day, no clouds and no snow, air temperature about 20 degrees and a five mile per hour wind from the north. Not a bad winter day in WNY.

We added a bobber stop and tiny slip bobber to the very thin and supple four-pound test Berkley monofilament ice line, a tiny ice-jig and about 1/16 ounce of pinch-on split shot a foot above the jig. We again used the clip-on weight to set the bobber stop so the jig would be about one inch off the bottom. I didn’t bother to explain this part of the set-up to the youngster. He wanted to fish! We added a mousie grub to the hook point of the tiny ice-jig and let the line fall into the depths below. As the line settled out, we both watched the bobber with total focus.

Of course, most of the time, ice fishermen will concede that it takes two or three stops and digging new holes each time to find fish and get a strike. We lucked out! The bobber started to quiver and wobble, then it disappeared going down the hole. My grandson yelled, “There it goes!” I picked up the tiny two-foot long ice fishing rod and handed it to him. He had been practicing how the open-face reel worked from the day before and knew very well how to work the reel handle to wind it in.

It was bit of a struggle as his face was straining a little. He was excited and I bet a little scared at the same time. The lightweight, micro-sized, ice fishing rod was bent double and a wiggling fish was definitely on the end. I coached him to keep reeling and he was doing a great job, slowly turning the handle over. An instant later, a 12-inch perch plopped out of the hole right onto the ice surface. “Wow. Look at that!” He was beaming! “We better take it off the hook, we have to put it back into the water,” he added.

I began thinking, ‘man, I have been born a lucky man.’ We caught about six more fish in the next hour. A black bass, another yellow perch, several bluegills. It was a great day for first time ice fishing and I did not want him to get cold, so I explained that we had some work to do at home and we had to go soon. He quickly retorted, “Do we have to go?” I carefully answered, “Yes, your mom and dad miss you, too.”

We had already started talking about another day on the ice for next weekend. I realize now that as I get older, I don’t have any time to get older. This stuff is fun. I suddenly want to eat the right foods, get some exercise, live healthier and make sure that I can stay on this planet for a very long time. Did I mention that all this fishing with kids can make you younger too.

Step out there for some WNY winter ice-fishing fun this year! With negative Fahrenheit readings on the mercury, you know we have adequate ice in most ponds and lakes. Take a kid with you! In New York State, there is no closed season for bluegill, crappie or yellow perch. Need help? Drop me a line!

Outdoor calendar:

– Jan. 31: Indoor Winter 3D Archery, West Falls Conservation, 55 Bridge St., Friday fun shoot, 7 p.m., call Mike Cummings at 337-0126 .

– Feb. 2: WNY Winter 3D League Shoot, West Falls Conservation, 55 Bridge St., open to public, 7 a.m. – 2 p.m. Call Mike Matala at 337-0126.

– Feb. 7 – 9: Annual Coyote Hunt Contest, White Sulphur Springs Firehouse, Sullivan County, $2,000 grand prize for heaviest coyote, women’s and youth division, call 845-482-4987 or visit and click on news.

Send outdoor information to Forrest Fisher 10 days in advance, to

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2014-01-31 | 15:56:50
Always loved ice fishing, and I'm glad my kids do too. They really like catching perch. And speaking of perch, found quite a few great suggestions on baits and tackle, here:
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