Cold weather didn't stop this kid from ice fishing

Jerry Apps
Herman Apps with tip up out on frozen lake.

When I was nine or ten years old, during Christmas break from school, we went ice fishing. Every day. No matter if it was 10 degrees above zero or ten degrees below, we went ice fishing.

We would hurry up the morning barn chores, gather up the minnows Pa kept in the pump house, the tip ups, ice strainer, and ice chisel. And not to forget our lunch that Ma had prepared that she stuffed in a lunch pail along with a thermos of coffee.

We were off to Mt. Morris Lake, between Wild Rose and Wautoma, about a half hour drive in our 1936 Plymouth. Arriving at the parking spot, we gathered up our equipment and trudged a half-mile or so through the cold and snow to the lake.

Once there, Pa decided where we should fish, meaning where we would cut holes through the ice with ice chisel—not an easy task. By this time, the lake had ten or more inches of ice. We fished for northern pike and used tip ups to try and catch them. 

Once the holes were cut and the tip ups were in place, we each could have two tip ups, we returned to shore. We started a little campfire, using cattail heads, and twigs and small branches that we gathered.

Soon the little fire was sending a lazy thread of smoke into the air as we sat around it warming ourselves, and watching the tip ups for a flag to fly up meaning we had a bite. The Kolka boys and their dad might join us, Uncle Wilbur sometime did, as did the Nelson boys and others, too.

It was a time for story-telling—maybe better called truth stretching—as fishermen have a bad habit of catching more and larger fish in their stories than what really happened. It was a time that I have never forgotten.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Christmas break evokes ice fishing stories and wonderful memories.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work, go to