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Ice fishing offers COVID-safe outdoor escape

Posted at 7:41 AM, Jan 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-13 10:20:28-05

The coronavirus pandemic has most of us sick of being cooped up inside, and as a result, more Idahoans are getting outdoors--but if skiing and snowboarding isn't your thing, you have another option: ice fishing!

Whether you're looking for a little winter serenity or some socially-distanced family fun, ice fishing is an all-ages sport.

"It can be really peaceful and quiet, and on the other token it can be a party out there... you can have a couple of families out there," said Joe Thiessen with Idaho Fish and Game. "That's the beauty of it: it can be what you want it to be."

For ice fishing guides like Kyle Sandy, ice fishing is a special experience like no other--especially for kids. Sandy does guide ice fishing trips with Deadwood Outfitters out of Cascade, and he says every single day in February is booked with trips.

"I even see little three, four-year-old kids out there," Sandy said. "I'm out here 7 days a week doing it--and I love every bit of it."

Though the season is already underway, Sandy says the early bird doesn't always get the worm when it comes to getting big fish.

"As time goes by they're getting bigger and bigger and bigger," Sandy explained. "The longer you wait to catch those big perch, the bigger they're going to be--some of them are just ginormous, their head is so tiny compared to their body--it's incredible."

You don't need much to get started, just some warm clothes (make sure to layer), something to break through the ice, a ladle and a pole.

"It's very common to use two-pound test, four-pound test, lightweight gear. Water is clear under the ice so visibility of your gear is something to consider," Thiessen said.

If you're new, there's no shortage of places you can go for advice. Avid fisherwoman Robin Shindelar has been fishing for decades, and she and her husband started a Facebook group dedicated to sharing the treasure trove of knowledge they've accrued over the years.

"If you're considering it, do it," Shindelar said. "Get out there, experience it, and at least you'll say you did it. I'm sure you'll enjoy it--it's spectacular."