| This fishing season has been one of the most successful
in recent memory for me. Not because of the big fish we caught. Not because
of how many fish we caught. In fact, I don’t remember this season as a stand
out because of any of the average measures of success. What made this season
great for me, was my opportunity to be involved in a true family fishing
epiphany. A father and two young teenage boys, who literally woke up one
morning as non-anglers, then fished only a single day and became hooked or
maybe you could even say obsessed with the idea of learning to fish.
Since that day, these three never missed a weekend.
Heading out on foot, with simple fishing gear, they found fishing piers,
channels and shoreline areas around the Twin Cities Metro Region and fished
just like we used to as kids. Trial and error, picking up tips and tricks
from anywhere they could. Best of all, they caught fish and had fun together
as a family. The passion for their new pastime has grown even stronger with
the coming of winter. Which leads us to their new challenge, Ice Fishing.
Here was the question they posed to me; How can a
family get started in the sport of ice fishing on a modest budget and still
have a good chance of success?
Being the thoughtful type, I pondered this question
for a while and came up with this simple, but effective system that
purposely avoids complication and focuses on a general game plan of simply
catching fish, whatever they might be.
Here’s the recipe list of gear I put together for the
whole group; 3 Tip ups @ $6.00 each, 3 simple jig rods with plastic handles
and hand winding reels (line included) @ $6.00 each, 3 spools of tip up line
@ $3.00each, 1 spool of 14 lb. Test mono line for leaders @ $4.00, 6
packages of assorted size split shot and small size egg sinkers @ $1.00
each, 3 packs of plain fish hooks in size 6, 4 and 1/0 for a total of $5.00,
a small assortment of bobbers, snap swivels, clip on depth finders, a
plastic ice scoop and a small pocket size tackle box for a total of $11.00.
When it came to the auger I decided to splurge a bit.
Even though I could find a less expensive hand auger, I went with the Lazer
(by Stikemaster) because we want these young fellows to drill lots of holes
and only a good sharp auger will encourage them to keep drilling. So, we
added the light weight, Lazer 7-inch hand auger at $70.00. The seven-inch
size is large enough for most Pike they’ll come across and makes drilling
To finish off the set up, I added a couple of plastic
pails scrounged up from the garage and voila, these guys are ready to head
out to the lake. When I run the numbers, we’ve got the whole outfit ready to
fish for about $150.00 including tax. That’s not bad, especially when you
compare it to the cost of getting your kid into hockey, football or most
other sports. Best of all, in this sport the parents get to play too!
| The game plan is really simple. Knowing that they’ll be
on foot and looking for action, my selection of three tip ups is the
foundation of the system. Tip ups are easy to rig and almost always provide
some action. Pike, Walleye, Bass and even panfish will "pop the top",
keeping the kids busy while they search for other fish nearby.
We rigged each tip up with a spool of the plastic
coated tip up line, added a ¼ ounce egg sinker and tied on a snap swivel.
Then we tied a 1/0 hook to a 3-foot piece of 14-pound mono line and attached
this to the snap swivel. Once they locate the first drop of along shore by
drilling holes and checking depth with the clip on depth weight, they can
place the tip ups at a variety of depths along the drop off edge. Using the
plain hook and a tail hooked Sucker or Golden Shiner Minnow, they can set
the tip ups so that the bait is a couple of feet above the bottom.
Keeping an eye on the tip up flags, they’ll want to
move out deeper and continue drilling additional holes along the drop off
and out into deep water. Here the jig rods can be set up with the plain
hook, split shot sinker and small bobber. For Crappies, Perch or Walleye the
size 4 hook tipped with a small to medium size fathead minnow is probably
going to be the best bet. For Bluegills and occasionally Crappies, the size
6 hook tipped with a Wax Worm, Maggot or other small grub will probably do
best. Experiment with the depth and set the bobber so that it holds the bait
anywhere from a few inches to as much as several feet above the bottom.
Perch and Walleye will want to hold closer to the bottom. Crappies and
sometimes Bluegills can suspend several feet above bottom, so they’ll need
to keep trying different depths.
Now that all of the rods and tip ups are in operation,
it’s time to take turns drilling holes as they move along the shoreline
searching for areas where the action is best. Concentrating on depths where
they found action in other areas will really help. Over time, there will be
key areas that seem to always produce and they’ll be able to put together a
list of predictable starting places. This is a pro-active approach and it
will always work best when they keep moving and covering water.
After all is said and done, this basic kit of goodies
to get a family out on the ice and catching fish isn’t much more expensive
than a nice dinner and a movie. Best of all, this really is the gift that
keeps on giving. As the years go by, they’ll gain experience and knowledge,
they’ll be able to add new tackle and other tools that make ice fishing
simpler and more productive. Every time they return home, they’ll eat good
and sleep even better and best of all they’ll be doing it together.
"Jeff Sundin is a full time professional
fishing guide in Deer River MN and member of the Up North Pro Staff and founding member of
the Northern Minnesota League of Guides"
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