Kids are having a cool picnic near the Arctic Circle.

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The boy who caught the first fish.  

It is the end of May, and the fifth-grade students at Maani Ulujuk School are excited. They’re going on a spring field trip—to ice fish! But they have to wait for the right kind of weather. This May, the weather is colder than usual. The temperature has been below zero. But that means the sea ice is still thick. Perfect for ice fishing!

The field trip is canceled on Thursday—too much wind. Friday is cold and foggy. The students have to wait all weekend. But next week they have to take tests. If the weather isn’t good on Monday, the trip will be canceled. Monday is cold, but the wind has stopped. The fog has lifted.

The fifth grade will go this afternoon!

Heading Out
Everybody comes to school after lunch in their boots, windpants, and parkas. It is too hot to wear these clothes inside, but Inuit people know how important it is to stay warm and dry on the ice. They are prepared. Down at the “point” (harbor), adults are preparing, too. They drill through the ice with gas-powered drills. They clear the snow away. The men make enough holes so that everyone can fish.

Students use a jig to ice fish.
  Students use a jig to ice fish.

Now it’s time to go. The students pile into two buses. The trip to the “point” is short, but it’s fun riding in the warm buses. There it is! The fishing spot! The children climb over the spring snow to the sea ice. Qamutiit—big wooden sleds—are waiting there. Inuit people sometimes use dogs to pull the sleds, but these days snowmobiles are faster. And a snowmobile can pull a sled with ten people in it. There is room for everyone.

Hold on! The engines roar. The towropes are taut. The sleds bounce and slide across the ice. They bang over bumps. Kids lift off the plywood floor and land with a thud. The snowmobiles pulling the qamutiit speed toward the fishing holes. This trip takes longer than the bus ride. Finally, the drivers cut their engines, and the sleds glide to a stop. Boys and girls vault over the sides of the qamutiit.

Going Fishing
Everyone has a jig—a wooden handle rigged with yards of fishing line. A big hook and some bait are at the end of the line. Most of the kids use orange peels or apple pieces for bait. Friends pick out their favorite holes. Watch your step. Don’t get wet. The children take turns fishing in the holes. If they put too many lines in one hole, the lines get tangled.

The boy who caught the first fish.  
The students travel to the fishing holes on qamutiit, wooden sleds. If you look closely, you can see the auger and shovels that were used to make the holes.  

“I’ve got one!” a boy yells. Everyone runs to see what he caught. It’s a big cod. That only took a couple of minutes. Now a lot of people want to fish in that hole.

A few kids have never ice fished. Their friends show them how to unroll their lines into the holes. The hook should hang near the bottom of the harbor, but the lines disappear under the ice. Older people teach children how much line to use. One boy scoops snow from the water in the fishing hole. Too much snow makes the hole dark, and fish are drawn to light. Now he bounces the line up and down and waits.

Fishing takes patience. The fish don’t come. A man shows them how to call the fish with a soft “Kah, kah, kah.”

Let’s Picnic
The adults bring out cookies, juice, and hot chocolate—with coffee and tea for themselves. The warm drinks taste good on the ice. The sun peeks out. Kids push their parka hoods back. “Will you take our picture?” they ask. Everyone wants a picture to remember this day.

Everyone likes to get into the picture!
  Everyone likes to get into the picture!

“Another fish! She caught one!”

Two fish, three qamutiit, and thirty kids add up to one great day. No one wants to leave, but the buses are waiting.

The field trip has turned out to be one cool picnic!


Rankin Inlet
Maani Ulujuk School Maani Ulujuk School is in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, Canada. Rankin Inlet is on the west coast of Hudson Bay, just below the Arctic Circle. Winter temperatures can fall below –50 degrees F. There are weeks in the winter when it never gets light. By May the temperatures are warmer—often near 15 or 20 degrees F. And the sun is shining! But several feet of ice still covers the harbor. It is perfect ice-fishing weather. In the spring, children in Nunavut also enjoy playing baseball and riding their bicycles—even in the snow and ice!