All of this snow this week has got me thinking about fishing. Ice fishing, that is. Not here in Southern Indiana, but in northern Wisconsin. Some time ago. And cold. Very, very cold.
I love to fish. I’m not that particular about species, location, or boat and motor. I do like good, reliable equipment, but otherwise I think of myself as pretty easy to please. I’ll fish out of a “leaker” of a boat as long as my shoes stay fairly dry. I’ll bank fish with a cane pole if asked. Want to fish in a farm pond for bluegill? Give me a call. I’ll be there. Want to go above the arctic circle? I’m in.
Our fishing season usually starts with a trip to Texas or Florida in February and then we just sorta work our way north from then until about September. Then we do a 180 degree turn and start heading back south again. By November we’re usually in Florida for the last of the season and then head home to Indiana for the holidays and wait for February again. That is, except for one year some time ago.
Before American Legacy Fishing I was in an industrial supply business and had a great supplier in Wausau, Wisconsin. One year just after the first of January this supplier’s sales manager, Bud, called me at my office and asked if I would like to do some ice fishing with him and his buddies north of Wausau around Rhinelander. He told me they had a “Cadillac” ice house with all the amenities; gas powered ice auger, generator, “refreshments”, Coleman stove, and all the necessary equipment required for a successful fishing trip in the north country. All I needed to bring as desire and some warm clothes and boots.
I had never been ice fishing. Frankly the idea of spending time on a frozen lake holding a pole with a line that dropped through the ice hoping that an itinerant fish would wander by was, safe to say, not the most attractive proposition I had been offered as of late. But, Bud persisted assuring me that the ice house was “really cozy” and the camaraderie “the best”. Since Bud was such a great guy I decided, against may better judgment I might add, to accept his offer.
By the weekend I had packed my gear and was on the road to Wausau to meet Bud. I arrived in the evening in time to have supper with Bud and his 3 friends who I would be spending many hours with in the ice house. We had a great meal and by the end of the evening I was excited about the prospect of spending the next day ice fishing, telling stories, and consuming some “beverages” that Bud and his pals promised to supply.
The next morning we met at a local diner for breakfast and a last minute check of gear. All seemed in order as we headed for the lake and Bud’s “home on the lake”. Now like I said, this was my first experience ice fishing. So I figured this ice house must be big, wallowing in creature comforts and cozy as a bug in a rug. Assumption is not always a good thing.
As we drove out on the frozen lake (this is another story entirely) I soon spotted Bud’s ice house. It was not a Cadillac. Ramshackle would be a better description. A shack. Granted, it was out on the ice, but it was nothing near what I had imagined. It was pieced together out of what looked like scrap timber. There were gaps in the siding and the roof was sagging with a sad look. The door fit was, how can I put this nicely, liberal with adequate room for a better seal. Once inside there were two benches, a Coleman stove that had seen better days, an ice auger that reeked of gasoline, Two electric lights strung from the ceiling joist, and a cooler (why would you need a cooler in this cold?) with a lid that lacked one of two hinges. But there was enthusiasm, at least from Bud and his pals.
“Whatduya’ think, Tom?”, Bud said with his usual enthusiasm. “Pretty good for being made out of salvaged wooden shipping pallets from my company, huh?”
The song that Johnny Cash did about building a Cadillac out of parts he had gotten from the auto plant he worked at immediately came to mind. “Not bad, not bad at all”, I said with as much enthusiasm I could muster given what stood in front of me.
Soon one of the guys had drilled a couple of holes in the thick ice and we rigged up for some action. I glanced at the wall clock sized thermometer on one wall and the dial was buried to one side. Can that be correct? Is it THAT cold? Must be broken.
“I don’t think your thermometer is working”, I said to Bud nonchalantly.
“Oh it’s fine”, Bud reassured. “Just goes down to zero. After that she just pegs and stays there.”
“Musta’ come from Florida”, I thought to myself. “I think zero is the daily low up here almost 6 months out of the year.”
My feet began to cringe. Even though I had dressed for cold weather, any temperature below zero was just beyond what I expected. At least when I’m sitting in a shack on a frozen lake in January. Call me a wuss, call me soft, call me a city boy, but I could feel my feet beginning to freeze up. As the day progressed I just got colder and colder, my hands barely able to move and my enthusiasm for ice fishing quickly retreating to “things I’ll never ever do again” status minute by minute.
Bud was all smiles and constantly reassured me that the “house will warm up” from our body heat. Body heat? What body heat I thought as I began to shiver. The wind was whistling through the sides of the ice house instantly removing any “body heat” from each of us, never mind any surplus that might in some small way contribute to our group’s comfort. And the fish, who I determined were far smarted than us, obviously had retreated to warmer depths of the lake. Boy, was this fun!
I won’t lie to you. I was miserable. I looked at my fellow “house inhabitants” and they were all smiles. I figured this was due to one of two things: Those smiles were either frozen on their faces or, God forbid, they were certifiably crazy.
By 3 PM the sun’s descent was just about touching the tops of the trees on the shoreline. I wondered to myself if Bud and the guys were staying on the ice just for my benefit. Now I think of myself as a courteous person, but I also felt an obligation to speak up so myself and my fellow fisherman would not be found later in the week frozen in place (with smiles on their faces) because they were so determined to make sure a visitor from “the south” had a good time. “Guys, I’m ready to hang it up whenever you are”, I said with feigned remorse.
“OK, if you’re ready I guess we can go”, Bud said regretfully. “We usually give the sun a chance to go down a bit more. Sometimes the fish come on the bite right before sunset.”
“Great”, I thought. “OK by me. I just didn’t want you staying out here for my benefit. I’m fine calling it a day whenever you guys want to.”
I suspect it was the shivering and the unsteadiness of my voice that ended the trip shortly after I had volunteered I was OK calling it a day. About 30 minutes later the smiles I thought were frozen on my companions faces disappeared and we packed up and headed across the frozen lake toward Rhinelander and then on to Wausau.
By the time we reached town I was actually feeling almost human again and suggested supper was on me if I had any takers. Bud accepted, but his three buddies declined citing family obligations. I think it may have had something to do with my “wussiness”, but we shall never know. Our supper was quick and by the time I hit the bed I was almost warm again. The next day I headed home early, leaving the vast, frozen northlands of Wisconsin in my rearview mirror.
Bud and I continued to do lots of business together over the years. He never again mentioned ice fishing nor suggested I give it another try at some future date. Obviously he knew that was not my cup of tea.
I know ice fishing is a great sport and admire those who participate. But for me, a Southern Indiana boy who likes his warm bed and fishing without two or three sets of gloves and layers upon layers of clothing I think I’ll pass. At least for now and for the next 50 or so years!
This week we have some new products such as the 13 Fishing Concept KP and the Spro Rock Crawlers , that you are sure to really love. We also have some continued great sale items that are at “must have” pricing.
Thanks to all of our great friends and customers who have supported us and passed our name on to their friends. We know we are only here by making sure your needs are our first and only priority. Please let me know if we ever fail to meet and exceed your expectations.
All the best,