How to Teach Kids to Fish… In the Cold

Fishing is a great activity to teach kids. It is empowering, increases environmental awareness, and is just plain fun. There are many tips to teach kids to fish but the old rule to “always leave them wanting more” has never been more important than fishing in the cold. Extra creature comforts can help their cold fishing enjoyment.

Here are three tips for teaching kids to fish in the cold.

“Start warm, stay warm.” That old saying has helped extend many cold outings. Crank up the heater in the truck on the way. Make sure they dress in layers, including a hooded sweatshirt, extra socks, and long underwear. Shake up several of those little hand-warming packets and make sure they have in their pockets. Monitor your kids’ warmth. Keep in mind that it will take a little bit to pack up and hike back to the truck so don’t wait to leave until one of them finally says, “I’m cold.”

Sweeten the deal. For example, my son likes to grab a drive-through bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit before we hit an icy steelhead stream. He also likes that we sometimes shop for fishing tackle before or after the trip. Ice-fishing is like camping in the daytime. A tent-like ice hut or ice shanty is helpful for wind protection. Bring a thermos of hot chocolate and some snacks like jerky or sunflower seeds. With a little propane heater, even though sitting on buckets on a frozen lake, the interior can almost grow cozy.

Don’t forget the bait. There are lots of lures that work in cold water conditions. Jerkbaits will work in open water and small jigs or spoons like Al’s Goldfish are staples for trout and when fishing through ice. And although we want to teach patience, live bait is a confidence builder. It quickly lets you know if you are in the right spot. Time is of the essence when fishing with kids. And nothing keeps everyone warm more than catching fish.

When you venture out in the cold to fish with your kids, stay safe. In Pennsylvania, life jackets are not only a great idea but required by law until April 30 for anyone in a kayak, canoe, or boat under 16 feet. (Your boat registration is up to date, right?) When ice fishing, I prefer to wait until at least 5 inches of clear ice for safe support. If conditions are “iffy,” try again another day.


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Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb is a columnist, outdoor humorist, and stressed-out Dad. He says there are “people who fish”… and there are “fishermen”.  One of the few things he knows is that he is a “fisherman”...  To the point it could be classified as borderline illness.  Sharing this obsession is rewarding, therapeutic. He likes to encourage people to “stop and smell the crappie."  Enjoys catching fish, but gets a greater thrill out of helping someone else hook up.
Born in Florida, but raised on the banks of Oklahoma farm ponds. Now relocated to western Pennsylvania. He has fished, worked, lived all around the US.  He has a B.S. in Zoology from Oklahoma State as well...
And he met his wife while electrofishing. He has been contributing weekly to www.takemefishing.org since 2011.