Weather Forecast


Fish stories create memories for family

Tom Whitehead of Northland Tackle helped Jake Stockinger with his fishing line S

EAST GULL LAKE — We could’ve made a few fish sticks Saturday after fishing in the “Take a Kid Ice Fishing” event in front of Ernie’s on Gull Lake.

My 10-year-old-daughter Mackenzie and 7-year-old son Jake each caught a perch, but no fish sticks were made since it was catch (quick photo) and then release. My son always asks if we can make fish sticks after a day of fishing. My family doesn’t fish often as it seems there’s always something going on. My kids have more chances to go fishing during the summer, than to go ice fishing.

So when the opportunity presented itself — when the kids brought home a flyer on the “Take a Kid Ice Fishing” event — we thought it’d be a fun family outing.

Jamie Dietman, an ice fishing guide for S&W Bait, coordinated the event that included children’s games, such as the bean bag toss and the ice auger drilling contest. Children as young as 2 to as old as 12-13 took a shot at the ice auger drilling contest. Mackenzie drilled 11 inches and Jake drilled 8 inches — one more inch than their age. Neither of them had ever drilled a hole before so Mom was proud of their efforts. They tried really hard and did a good job.

Dietman enjoys hosting children events and he’s also an outdoorsman, so he thought it’d be fun to have an ice fishing event for children. About 25 volunteers with Northland Tackle, Strikemaster, S&W Bait, Ice Buster Bobber among other businesses helped the youths with tips on how to ice fish. Dietman said the event is a good way to get kids out on the lake to learn how to ice fish. And most of the kids caught a fish. Mainly perch were caught, but one little girl caught a nice size northern and someone caught a tullibee. We were fishing in only one to two feet of water.

Dietman was pleased with the attendance, with about 70 people attending the inaugural event. And the mild weather with sunshine was perfect.

After we were shuttled out to the fishing site, we found our lucky holes and my husband got the kids’ fishing poles ready. It didn’t go smoothly. He had trouble with the bobber stops and needed assistance, but of course, being a man, he was not going to ask for help. Well, when one of the volunteers, Tom Whitehead with Northland Tackle, walked by asking us if we needed any help, I said “Yes!” as my son said, “Mom, when am I going to fish?”

Whitehead helped my husband with the fishing line and then set up the holes for my children. Whitehead, who used a depth finder, helped show the kids that there “really were” fish to be caught. He showed them how to put the minnow on the hook and how far down the line should go into the water. And before you knew it they were catching fish.

Jake told Whitehead that he liked to keep wax worms as pets. And believe me, he has tried to keep these, as well as regular worms as pets behind his parents’ backs and it hasn’t been pretty. One night I found a worm dead in a shoebox between the refrigerator and cupboard. The next morning when Jake got up, he went to check on his pet and I had to tell him the news. I had to inform him again why we must let worms live outside in the dirt. You’d think seeing his friendly pet die overnight would make him want to give up on keeping worms as pets, but he is a persistent little boy. If it were up to Jake, he’d have every creature you could think of in his bedroom.

After hearing about the wax worms, Whitehead shared a “fishing story” with Jake that is known by many fisherman.

Whitehead said, “Did you know how to keep the wax worms warm when you’re ice fishing? You keep them in your cheeks.”

Jake just smiled. He wasn’t going to take the bait.

Mackenzie, who’ll put her own bait on and will take the fish off, if she can, said the event was “awesome.” She was excited when she caught her fish and she was quick on her feet to come up with the answers to the questions the organizers would ask about fishing facts. The youth who answered the question correctly received a prize.

Besides the fishing part, my daughter enjoyed doing the “fish dance.” All the youth came together to dance to “I don’t wanna be a fish” sung to “I don’t wanna be a chicken.”

Family members said afterward that they want to come back next year. So hopefully the event will be an annual one for more families to come out and create some good ice fishing memories.

As for the fish sticks? We had to go to the grocery store to pick those up!

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at or 855-5851. Follow me on Twitter at

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
(218) 855-5889