Skip to main content

Wisconsin Parent

Making Ice Fishing a Family Friendly Sport

Jan 02, 2014 03:02PM, Published by Guest Contributor, Categories:



Winter in the Midwest is a short but intense season. With temperatures that start out at a potential of 25* below zero to a balmy 30* the next day, makes the season as undesirable to most as it is unpleasant to many.

One of my favorite ways to pass time in the winter is ice fishing. The ability to walk drive out to my favorite fishing hole, plop down, drill a few holes in the ice, and catch nice bass, pike, or bluegill is a great way to connect with the family in the close quarters of the ice fishing shack, or play a quick pick up game of toss with my buddies.

How to Get Started

The best way to get started is to simply go with someone you know. Ask a buddy from work, a family member, or even a local professional  to get you out on the ice those first few times.  See how they do and the techniques they use. Most importantly, ASK QUESTIONS! The best way to learn is hands on.

Then, once you are past the intermediate phase and discovered you like the sport; you start shopping for gear. Most bait and tackle shops are great places to find the right start-up kits with knowledgeable staff to answer questions and point you in the right direction based on the right gear selection and desired species of fish you want to pursue.

The average startup kit- from ground zero is roughly $300-$400 that will include a strike master hand auger (my preference- the laser model $90.00) few halfway decent rod and reel combos (average cost $20.00 each), a portable shack (clam thermos are my preferences $150.00), some tip-ups ($20.00 each), a good spud ($30.00), and a Mr. Heater ($70.00).

Where to Go

The biggest question I get as a local fishing pro is “Where do I go?” or “Where are they biting?” Like open water fishing, the fish move, so the only answer I can give is to watch the crowds, and go where you feel comfortable.

If I am taking my family, I want a fishing location that is going to have a heated bathroom close-by and someplace that is easy to access both on and off the ice for the unskilled legs of my children.

Reading fishing forums like Hotspot Outdoors is a good place to start because it will give you a sense of what species is more active, and the type of fishing being done to catch them.

Staying Comfortable

Staying comfortbale is key for making any outdoor experience a positive and long lasting one.  To keep warm, I rely on the Hot Hands hand warmers. Pop them open before leaving the house, and keep them exposed to the air as much as possible before getting to the fishing location, and they’ll be nice and toasty when you need them.

I also carry with me foam floor mats. I like to toss them on the ice to keep the cold from seeping up from the ice through my kid’s boots to help keep their feet warmer a little longer. Should their feet get cold, I have them remove their boots—stand on the mat and place the heater in front of them for a quick warm-up.

Eli on matIs it Safe to go Out There?

Safe is a word based on perception. The biggest element of ice fishing isn’t falling THROUGH the ice, its falling ON the ice. According to OSHA, the leading government agency that monitors workplace injuries, the leading cause of injuries in the fishing/outdoor industry is slips and trips.

To gauge the safety level of the ice, I NEVER leave home without my spud—especially during first ice when the ice is at it’s thinnest. Gauging ice depth is nice, but overall you want to monitor its hardness. I like to give the spud 3-5 good whacks on the ice before it breaks through to determine the hardness. The more whacks the ice can take, the harder and more sustainable the ice is.

For my personal safety gear, I recommend Yak Trax Pro or Yak Trax Extreme. These two models both have a strap that goes across the top of the user’s foot and better secures the unit to the boot.

To prevent further slipping and to keep my feet warmer, I carry padded floor mats with me at all times. When I get set up; I toss the mat on the ice, and I can stand or sit on the ice for longer periods of time before the cold seeps through to the bottom of my boot. This also gives me something to kneel on when I am pulling in fish, or setting up gear.

Driving on the ice is never recommended but done anyways (including yours truly-ahem). The biggest thing to keep in mind when driving on the ice is to never go faster than 20 MPH— as this will cause shock waves in the ice, which will shatter as the car passes over the weak points.  Also, leaving a car parked on the ice for long periods of time will weaken the ice; as the car builds up heat from the sun and radiates it onto the ice beneath.

In short, don’t stray from the ice roads, and don’t park by other cars if it can be avoided. To extract a car from the ice, the start-up cost is $2500.00

Ice fishing is a family friendly sport and one of the fastest growing sports in the fishing industry. New technologies in clothing, shacks, and electronics have made the sport more pleasurable and user friendly. I encourage families to go out and give it a try!




outdoors winter how to ice fish ice fishing ice fishing gear ice fishing safety where to ice fish


  • Cooking Demonstration

    07/23/2017
    01:00PM — 02:00PM

    We invite you who are interested in a cooking demonstration to Piggly Wiggly in Beaver Dam on Sun...


  • Walldogs Mural Walk

    07/24/2017
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    The Beaver Dam community is all pitching in to revive the downtown in order to create a vibrant s...


  • Mom's Unite Evening Meet Up

    07/25/2017
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Join us for a Mom's Group! Bring your kids or bring yourself! The choice is yours! Our Mom's g...


  • Mom's Unite Morning Meet Up

    07/26/2017
    08:30AM — 09:30AM

    Join us for a Mom's Group! Bring your kids or bring yourself! The choice is yours! Our Mom's g...


  • Native Prairie Plants and Seed Bombs

    07/26/2017
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Learn about native Wisconsin prairie plants from Elizabeth Herzmann, WI Department of Natural Re...


  • Kids From Wisconsin

    07/26/2017
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    The Kids from Wisconsin are back at the Schauer for their 49th show season! Sit back, buckle up, ...


  • Restless Heart

    07/26/2017
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    Playing a pop-friendly brand of country-rock indebted to The Eagles, Restless Heart was one of th...


  • Junior Archaeologists Day Camp

    07/27/2017
    09:00AM — 02:00PM

    Uncover Wisconsin’s ancient history! We will see artifacts thousands of years old and make some a...


  • Adventure Kids

    07/27/2017
    09:30AM — 11:00AM

    Drop the kiddos off to a morning of ADVENTURE! Adventure Kids includes Adventure, Crafts and Play...


  • Mom's Unite Active Play Meet Up

    07/27/2017
    10:30AM — 11:30AM

    Join us for a Mom's Group! Bring your kids or bring yourself! The choice is yours! Our Mom's g...


  • Bike Night at the Library

    07/27/2017
    06:00PM — 07:30PM

    Ride your bike to the library to see a Beaver Dam Police Department Bicycle up close, enter to wi...


  • Museum Explorer Day Camp

    07/21/2017
    09:00AM — 02:00PM

    Museums are basically the coolest places on earth, or so we believe. Spend a day seeing a few of ...


  • Join us as we head to the Madison Mallards Game on Friday, July 21, 2017. EVERYONE IS WELCOME!...


  • Middle School Production Check out times & dates. Evenings, & matinees. Show Dates: ...


  • Spotlight Night for Teens

    07/21/2017
    07:30PM — 11:30PM

    A night for 9-12th grade students-- come and hang out at The Open Door. Enjoy music from local te...


  • Geocache Hunt

    07/22/2017
    08:00AM — 03:00PM

    Looking for an adventure? Want to explore your community? Join us for a Geocaching competition. C...


  • EARTHcamp - Living Lightly on the Land

    07/22/2017
    09:00AM — 03:00PM

    The activities for this weekend program includes a focus on Native American traditions. Campers w...


  • SAGES' 6th Annual Craft Fair & Bake Sale

    07/22/2017
    09:00AM — 03:00PM

    The School for AGricultural and Environmental Studies (SAGES), a K-6 project-based, public charte...


  • FAMILY EVENT: Zoo To You

    07/22/2017
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Who’s ready to spend a morning meeting new animal friends? Join the Henry Vilas Zoo at DreamBank ...


  • Summer of Love 50th Anniversary Party

    07/22/2017
    06:00PM — 10:00PM

    Summer of Love 50th Anniversary Party 1967 - 2017 Saturday, July 22nd Can you dig it? Get ...


  • An Evening in Ireland - July 22nd

    07/22/2017
    06:00PM — 11:00PM

    Support CHS while having a great time! Old Hickory's chef has prepared a great Irish menu for yo...


  • Middle School Production Check out times & dates. Evenings, & matinees. Show Dates: ...


  • Cooking Demonstration

    07/23/2017
    01:00PM — 02:00PM

    We invite you who are interested in a cooking demonstration to Piggly Wiggly in Beaver Dam on Sun...


  • Walldogs Mural Walk

    07/24/2017
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    The Beaver Dam community is all pitching in to revive the downtown in order to create a vibrant s...


  • Mom's Unite Evening Meet Up

    07/25/2017
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Join us for a Mom's Group! Bring your kids or bring yourself! The choice is yours! Our Mom's g...


  • Mom's Unite Morning Meet Up

    07/26/2017
    08:30AM — 09:30AM

    Join us for a Mom's Group! Bring your kids or bring yourself! The choice is yours! Our Mom's g...


  • Native Prairie Plants and Seed Bombs

    07/26/2017
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Learn about native Wisconsin prairie plants from Elizabeth Herzmann, WI Department of Natural Re...


  • Kids From Wisconsin

    07/26/2017
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    The Kids from Wisconsin are back at the Schauer for their 49th show season! Sit back, buckle up, ...


  • Restless Heart

    07/26/2017
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    Playing a pop-friendly brand of country-rock indebted to The Eagles, Restless Heart was one of th...


  • Junior Archaeologists Day Camp

    07/27/2017
    09:00AM — 02:00PM

    Uncover Wisconsin’s ancient history! We will see artifacts thousands of years old and make some a...


  • Adventure Kids

    07/27/2017
    09:30AM — 11:00AM

    Drop the kiddos off to a morning of ADVENTURE! Adventure Kids includes Adventure, Crafts and Play...


  • Mom's Unite Active Play Meet Up

    07/27/2017
    10:30AM — 11:30AM

    Join us for a Mom's Group! Bring your kids or bring yourself! The choice is yours! Our Mom's g...


  • Bike Night at the Library

    07/27/2017
    06:00PM — 07:30PM

    Ride your bike to the library to see a Beaver Dam Police Department Bicycle up close, enter to wi...


  • Family Night - Humane Society Service Project

    07/28/2017
    06:00PM — 08:00PM

    Join The Open Door Coffeehouse and Sara Karweick with Modern Woodman of America for a service pro...


  • Art and Chalk Fest 2017

    07/29/2017
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Art and Chalk Fest 2017 Museum of Wisconsin Art Saturday and Sunday, July 29 and 30, 2017 | 10:...


  • Art and Chalk Fest 2017

    07/30/2017
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Art and Chalk Fest 2017 Museum of Wisconsin Art Saturday and Sunday, July 29 and 30, 2017 | 10:...


  • Lumber Camp Life Day Camp

    08/02/2017
    09:00AM — 02:00PM

    Wear your flannel and come ready to explore Wisconsin’s lumber history. Learn the lingo -- are yo...


  • Senior Movie Matinee

    08/02/2017
    01:00PM — 03:00PM

    Introducing something new for our WISER friends (60 yrs +)! Every 1st Wednesday of every month, w...


  • Sharing the Love Back Community Event

    08/03/2017
    03:00PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Woodmen of America and Jimmy Johns are partnering to help New Beginnings Homeless Shelter ...


  • Beaver Dam's Corn Roast

    08/03/2017
    05:00PM — 08:30PM

    The Beaver Dam Chamber of Commerce and Heiar Insurance and Estate Planning invite the public to c...


  • EARTHcamp - Big Blue Planet

    08/05/2017
    09:00AM — 03:00PM

    With this theme, campers will learn about recycling, water quality and conservation, wetland res...


  • Stop by DreamBank for a morning of family fun and flying objects! The Truly Remarkable Loon will ...


  • Saturday Science at Discovery

    08/05/2017
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Discover how life is connected to the sun during this free event held on the first Saturday of ev...


  • FAMILY EVENT: Morning Play Date

    08/10/2017
    10:00AM — 11:00AM

    Spend a morning meeting new friends at DreamBank. While the kids enjoy interactive story time and...


  • Books & Beer Columbus

    08/10/2017
    07:00PM — 08:00PM

    Join us as we talk with author Shannon Henry Kleiber about her biography of the founder of the Gi...


  • 9 Hole Golf — 4 person scramble with goofy golf! Raffles, silent auction, and more! Cost -...


  • INTO THE WOODS Directed by Ryan Madala-Klug Summer Main Stage Musical! Show Dates: $ A S...



Special Thanks to These Relaunch Partners


Woodman's Markets - Employee Owned
Greater Green Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau