Ice, Ice & Babies
Ice fishing. Toddler. Baby. MAGICAL.
So I would be lying if I didn't tell you that the thought was slightly daunting to begin with. Cutting holes in a frozen lake and waiting for fish to bite while keeping a five month old and a nearly two year old happy? Not sounding so magical? But here's the thing: we need to challenge the conventional! We need to expose our children to nature and teach them, through our actions, an active and nature filled lifestyle.
Thankfully I've been blessed with a relative expert outdoorsman of a father, so having him agree to take us along made all of the difference. Having an experienced ice fisher was incredible, and I highly recommend going with someone who has experience and knowledge in the field. I'm all for adventures but I'm also keen on safety and ice fishing isn't exactly something to "go try out" on a whim without the proper education and gear.
Speaking of education and gear - ifishalberta.com is a fantastic resource for planning, they even have an app that you can download to your phone! I was able to search the lake (Ghost Lake, AB) and find all sorts of information, best times to fish, depths, fish types and most importantly ice reports! It is always important to check the ice conditions before venturing out. My jaw dropped when I saw people driving their trucks on the ice, I'm not a thrill seeker... After voicing my rather mommy-like concern my dad just sort of smirked and said "well, pretty much after February you just know that the ice will be thick enough." Spoken like a true man of the wild. But despite his February-faith boast the first thing he did was measure the ice thickness - I love his silent caution - and much to my relief the ice measured nineteen inches, which according to my husband's Google search that morning, offers a four inch cushion past the safe thickness of fifteen inches for a medium sized truck to drive on.
Drilling our holes was a piece of cake as my dad has a fabulous auger - I'm sure he loves that I just referred to it as fabulous. It starts up like a lawn mower and powers through that ice in no time! A power auger sure made the hole making quick but hand-powered augers are also an option and both power and hand augers are reasonably priced!
One of my favourite things that we had, and something I would deem almost necessary when going ice fishing with children, is a tent. My dad has "The Ice Cube" and let me tell you, you haven't lived until you have nursed a baby on a frozen lake inside The Ice Cube, ha! It was ideal - incredibly easy to set up and anchor down, offered protection from the wind, a place to nurse my babiest boy and a change of scenery for my toddler! And I must add that looking into the lake from inside the tent is simply gorgeous- Mother Nature sure is a beauty.
Outnumbering the children made things easier. We planned our trip on a day that my husband could also join. Not only is outnumbering children key, but ice fishing made for an incredible family experience. While wearing my baby on increasingly slippery ice, it made a huge difference having both my father and my husband available to wrangle the toddler. I'm not going to lie, watching my son run ahead of me out on to the frozen lake had my heart dropping to my stomach so fast, but as the day went on he learned to stay close(r) and I learned to trust the ice.
And so I encourage you to let go of your hang-ups and just play. As long as you have checked for safe conditions and have the proper attire on your kids they will be fine! My toddler had the most fun when we was throwing rocks and dirt from the shoreline, "skating" in his boots on the puddle covered ice and being towed in our makeshift sled - a milk crate and a rope. Was he soaked by the time we were packing up? You bet! Did he drive home without socks and shoes? You bet! But did he play and connect with nature! Heck yes!
Let's teach our children to embrace nature, embrace the weather, have fun outdoors and experience all that our world has to offer. Never stop playing my friends.
Oh, and naturally we caught a two-footer! But, ahem, all of our phones were dead so we couldn't snap a photo... Spoken like a true fisherman.