There’s no doubt that every outdoorsy parent out there has been in a winter time dilemma where they’d much rather be enjoying time on the ice rather than stuck at home with their kids glued to the same movie you’ve seen 400 times or scattering toys throughout the house like a small walking, talking tornado. With the chill of temps hovering near zero, the hassle of bundling your young ones in 10 different layers of clothing just to have them make it half an hour watching you punch holes and attempt to find fish for them before they say they’re bored or cold is just unreasonable.
For my family, I made the decision to ditch my priorities of being a “hard core” mobile fisherman and keep them happy with offering a warm, inviting place to hang out (aka a wheelhouse). The times have changed for many of us where we are camping has becoming a year-round adventure, replacing our old bumper hitch RV’s for a piece of luxury we can tow onto a frozen lake. Our family ice outings have never been more comfortable, even without the usage of water systems such showers or flushing toilets.
Now just because we (as in adults) can adjust to being cooped up in something only 100 square feet, doesn’t mean our children see it in the same light. First and foremost, comes the safety aspect for them! A hole cover inside diameter is roughly 12 inches, with a short drop into either a 8 or 10 inch ice hole. Something of this size will easily fit a toddler thru (horrifying thought for any parent), but with an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of trouble. At any given fish house supply retailer, you can purchase ventilated hole covers that allow you to fish thru them. Personally, in my hut I use them for all set lines or rattle reels.
Second comes the entertainment factor for the kids, especially if you are on a body of water with less than stellar fishing results. You need to find something to fill the gaps between bites. This may be as simple as bringing a few coloring books or possibly a portable movie player to watch the same movies as mentioned in the first paragraph. Beware of loaning out your cell phone to small children as electronic devices seem to be magnetized towards ice holes. At any given time when my kids are in the shack we could have a dinette table full of crayons, some Disney film on the TV with a low volume and the radio playing the top hits for the older kids to enjoy.
Finally, DO NOT, and I repeat DO NOT FORGET THE SNACKS!! And by snacks, I mean the junk that most people hide far and away from small prying eyes. Make this something that the kids look forward to. Being able to hang out with a parent, catching fish, coloring or watching movies and eating something that they only get when they’ve been a “good kid” at home. You’ll find that their experience and your stress level will be something that all parties will be happy with at the end of the trip.