MASON CITY, Iowa - The chilly weather on Saturday made it a good day to cuddle up inside. But for some, it was the perfect day to bundle up and hit the lake or pond for ice fishing.
During Mason City Parks & Recreation's 9th annual Family Ice Fishing Derby at Big Blue, families were treated to not only hot food and drinks to stay warm, but also opportunities to fish for trout and great socialization.
Ryan Wilcke with the Heartland Muskies Inc. Chapter 10 club, which provides tournaments and other events for new and experienced fishers, brought out his nephews.
"They got a little cold and ran off. I'd hook the fish for them - hand them the pole, but lost a few, so they got discouraged. But a little bit older and they'll be able to do everything on their own."
For beginners learning how to fish, it can be discouraging, especially if you're fighting the cold while waiting for a bite. Wilcke says the best way to get someone interested is to look for a simple fish, such as trout.
"The big thing is when you got kids, you want to get them on a fish they can catch. Either you get them on a small pond and catch blue gills...and they're catching them hot and heavy. It's keeping the kids interested that's the hard part, so you've got to figure out a fish they can catch and that you can get a lot of. They put these trout in and it's like shooting fish in a barrel."
Nicholas Largent is one of the organizers of the event, which sees people from both sides of the state line grab a pole and jump in. And nothing beats the look on a child's face when a fish latches on to the bait.
"It's hard to catch them as it is, but...seeing these kids' faces light up when they catch that thing on the end of their fishing rods is awesome."
And because the success of their events goes over so well, Heartland Muskies member Christopher Doane says kids are "hooked."
"Some of these events that Muskies Inc. has put on with kids the last couple of years, their parents come up to me months later and say 'after we went to your event, we had to go buy fishing tackle and license.' It helps out the community and gets kids interested. It's an awesome thing."
For those who didn't come with all the essentials, Heartland Muskies donated tackle boxes filled with bobbers, hooks and sinkers, thanks in part to donations from a silent auction during their annual fishing tournament in April on Clear Lake. In addition, Iowa DNR supplied the trout and poles, as well as drilling the holes in the ice for fishing.