How and Where to go Ice Fishing in New Jersey with Kids

Posted on: January 4th, 2021 by

Are you dreading this winter because you’re out of ideas of things to do in New Jersey with kids? We’ve got an exciting, unique idea that we bet you’ve never tried before. Ice fishing in New Jersey could be exactly what you and the family need to make the cold days of winter as fun as possible!

Ice fishing is an excellent activity for the whole family to take part in together. If your kids have never tried it before, it can be just as fun teaching them as leaving them to catch their own fish.

a fish being pulled from the ice in New Jersey

Here’s why you should try it this winter!

Why go ice fishing with kids?

There are many reasons to love winter, like sledding, ice skating, and family ski vacations. This year will be slightly different. This year we must maintain social distancing for all winter activities in New Jersey.

Ice fishing is a great way of getting your loved ones out of the house for some fresh air, bonding time and fun. It’s also one of the few activities where it’s easy to maintain social distancing!

Sipping on hot chocolate, nibbling on warm snacks and spending time with loved ones sounds like paradise. Best of all, you get to bond with your family while catching fish.

father and son ice fishing in New Jersey

How To Teach Your Kids To Ice Fish

Get your kids excited about the fishing experience before they even leave the house. Get them involved in the whole process!

First and foremost, get your kid a cane fishing pole. These are light and flexible, and can handle the cold. Next, an ice fishing reel. Make sure it’s for ice fishing specifically, so it can handle the harsh conditions and your line won’t freeze.

Once you’ve geared your kid up, show them how to put it all together. Help them to practice dropping their line and wiggling it as they would do it in an ice hole (also known as jigging), in the backyard.

Go to a bait and tackle store and let your kids choose the bait. Tell them about the fish that they can catch with that bait. 

an ice fisher lowers the fishing line through a hole in the ice

Explain the difference between bait types, like a ned jig hook and jig hook (weighted bait), swimbait (bait that moves like a fish in water), spinnerbait (a flashy, eye-catching bait), and live bait. 

Show them how to bait the hook (carefully and without hurting themselves!). 

Let them practice how to tie knots, so they know what to do if their fishing line breaks and they need to reattach the hook.

When you get out on the ice, be prepared to spend a lot of time re-baiting hooks or sorting out tangled lines. It’s all part of the fun! 

Remember that you can’t make the fish bite, so take regular breaks so that your little one doesn’t get restless. As soon as the fish start biting, call them over to catch their first fish. 

a fisher pulls the fish through the ice at a lake in New Jersey

The best places to take your family ice fishing in New Jersey

There’s no shortage of ice fishing spots in New Jersey. You’ll find miles of streams and rivers and lots of lakes and reservoirs. Pick any fishing spot! There are several family-friendly fishing spots that you and your loved ones can visit. 

Here are four ice fishing spots in New Jersey you and your family can go ice fishing.

Lake Hopatcong in Landing, New Jersey

Lake Hopatcong is one of the best freshwater fishing spots in New Jersey. Here you can fish for largemouth bass, walleye, black crappie, rainbow trout, chain pickerel and muskie. These are just a few of the fish species here. During winter, avoid areas where the ice could be thinner, like around the dock bubblers. Safety first! 

Try to fish near the bottom of the lake. You would have more chance of catching a fish, as trout and crappie tend to suspend within the water column. You’d find fish around steep drop-offs and points. Be sure to check the thickness of the ice before venturing out. 

If you’re looking to catch the bigger fish like bass or pike, then use larger jig hooks. You could even use live bait to help get the fish on the hook.

Lake Assunpink in Upper Freehold Township, New Jersey

If you’ve been waiting to pull that large bass out of the ice, Lake Assunpink would be the best fishing spot to spend a day with your family. Anglers have caught largemouth bass here that have weighed up to seven pounds. 

There’s a variety of fish to catch, from channel catfish and chain pickerel to yellow perch. If you want a successful day’s fishing, you should jig live bait.

Spruce Run Recreation Area in Clinton, New Jersey

Spruce Run is one of the oldest reservoirs in New Jersey. You’ll find ice fishing here to be a treat as it has 29 different species of fish. It’s also known to be one of the best bass fishing spots in New Jersey! 

You can target fish like largemouth bass, yellow perch, carp, sunfish, trout, and northern pike. Fish along the shoreline from the cove to the limit of the public use area, and you should find the bass. It’s best to use straight worms rigged on slider jigs or spinnerbaits.

Green Turtle Pond in West Milford, New Jersey

Green Turtle Pond is a hidden gem where you can ice fish for a variety of species. Brown trout, pickerel, smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, and perch are common. Most anglers come for the winter-stocked trout, and the fish aren’t easy to catch.

To catch the trout, get creative with your bait and use power bait in the stream. You could also try using worms, swimbaits, or ned rigs. If you’re using tip-ups, you may want to try jigs tipped with spikes or mousies. This combination could attract fish like crappie, smallmouth bass, and yellow perch.

a mother and daughter ice fishing in New Jersey

A few more places for ice fishing in New Jersey

  • Sussex County has numerous lakes for ice fishing including Cranberry Lake, Jefferson Lake, Lake Aeroflex, Lake Musconetcong, Swartswood Lakes and Lake Wawayanda.
  • Hudson County’s Round Valley State Park offers ice fishing. 
  • In Monmouth County, drop a line for ice fishing at the Manasquan Reservoir, Thompson Park, and Turkey Swamp Park.

Ready to try ice fishing with the kids?

When it comes to winter things to do in New Jersey, if you haven’t tried ice fishing, you’re missing out! 

Even if you’ve been fishing on open water, ice fishing is entirely different. While it can be an isolated activity, it’s also a fantastic day out for the whole family. 

It’s also a super opportunity to teach your kids a bit about the great outdoors. Learning how to respect nature should be part of growing up! 

Gear up properly, stock up on comfort food and drink, and catch all the exciting moments on camera!

two sets of feet waiting next to an ice fishing spot in New Jersey.

More about our guest author, Kenneth Reaves

Kenneth Reaves is an outdoor guru who loves fishing. He has been exploring nature and having great fishing adventures since he was 5 years old. Currently, he is busy sharing his passion for exciting adventures and fishing to amateur anglers through his blog, https://www.perfectcaptain.com. 

an ice fishing house sits on a stretch of snow.

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