By Dave Jones
It’s 5am, 20-something degrees Fahrenheit and windy when I arrive at my father’s house laden with buckets, tip-ups, tackle, rods and reels, grill, beer, and a copious amount of coffee. He’s been busy gathering all his gear including, thankfully, a small pop-up ice shanty and propane heater. We load everything into the back of his cherry red pickup and head out to pick up the third member of our fishing party, my buddy Mark. Our destination is Lower Nemahbin in the Town of Summit, about 30 minutes west of Milwaukee.
We arrive just past daybreak and begin unpacking our gear. While Mark and I fumble with the shanty, dad checks his bathographic map and starts drilling holes in the ice along the north end of the lake where he sees a bit of a ridge. Once we get the shanty up, we start baiting our tip-ups and arguing about how deep to set them. Of course none of us agree which leads to wager over who gets the first bite; the last guy to get a bite buys a round at the local watering hole.
While the wind billows across the lake we hunker down in the shanty with the heater firing on high around 6:30am. We crack open the second thermos of coffee and tie a jig onto our rods. The water is fairly clear and we can see a few fish swimming near the bottom. Mark gets the first bite and pulls up a small bluegill. It gets sent back into the water – we don’t keep anything under trophy size unless we’re hauling them in by the dozens. I get a few nibbles but the fish seem to be all too small to take the bait.
A little after 7am we get our first tip-up. It’s one of Mark’s so we follow him out to his hole. He’s still new to ice fishing so before we can stop him he has already pulled out most of the line and just keeps pulling. Somehow he managed to hook the fish and out pops a 28 inch Northern Pike. Mark’s obviously not buying lunch.
I finally get a bite around 7:45 but it’s a tiny sunfish that I’m tempted to use as bait on one of my tip-ups.
As noon approaches and I crack open my first beer, Dad decides to try his luck at a hole 10 yards away from our shanty. He gets his first bite and it’s a whopper! My dad and I have been known to tell a few tall tales so “whopper” may not be as big as it seems. He yells to us that he’s got one and we run out of the shanty to see what he’s hollering about. With a huge cheesy grin he holds up a dinky sunfish and laughs at our clumsy run to his hole. While laughing at his own joke, Mark and I share a knowing grin. We won Dad, you owe us a round.