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April Jeppson: The joy of simply getting out on the lake

Every Little Thing

I’ve been wanting to go up North and go ice fishing with my dad for years. When it comes to activities out on the frozen lake, you have a fairly short window of opportunity. You get a solid two months, maybe closer to three if the lake freezes fast. Being that my family lives four hours north, I not only have to wait for the ice to be thick enough, I also have to keep my eye on blizzards and general road conditions for the weekend. Oh, and it has to be on a weekend, because of jobs and school and whatnot. Not to mention I coach every other weekend, and there are other activities, so basically there are four weekends a year that I might be free to fish if the weather is cooperating.

April Jeppson

My folks have been going down South during the winters the last few years, so I’ve been using that as an excuse to not make my way to the lake. Last winter I was up North for a funeral and a few of my relatives offered up their skills, ice houses and even homes if I wanted to come back while my parents were out of town. I made up my mind then that I would find a way to ice fish this year — no excuses.

Every day when I drive by the lake on the way to work, I see the fish houses. I notice when the first one bravely goes on, and I monitor when more come out and join. I see when it’s just snowmobiles driving out and when it’s trucks and ice castles. I was looking at my calendar and watching the weather. I didn’t have a specific date picked out yet, I would just periodically talk to my folks about the weather up there and if the ice was thick enough.

The other day I was looking at the calendar and realized that I had one free weekend until March. Then not again till Easter — if I was going to do this, it’d have to be now.

Last weekend was the coldest weekend of the year. I’m not going to fact-check that, but I’m 99% sure it’s true. When I decided to head up North last week, I’m pretty sure every person that I saw made sure to tell me how cold it was going to be — giving me all the warnings of what would happen if I was out in the exposed cold for too long, as if I wasn’t born and raised in the great North. As long as it wasn’t snowing, I was fine. I told myself I was going fishing this winter and gall darn it a little cold wasn’t going to stop me.

For the record, my father is amazing. He sold his fish house years ago and now only has a small pop-up tent. When I expressed that I wanted my entire family of five to go ice fishing last weekend, he quickly went to work. He talked to countless friends and relatives. He was able to borrow an ice house from a friend, get my uncle to plow the snow on the lake where we were going to set up, and he even put in the extra work to fix the heating and electrical issues in the house before we set it up.

It was cold.

My husband and I helped my father get the house ready, and the tip of my nose was cold. We went on the lake and set up the house and my fingers were starting to freeze through my mittens. My nose was running, but it wasn’t, because everything was just freezing to my face. As I’m helping hook up the propane tanks and shoveling snow, I found myself grinning. I know I was grinning because my teeth were hurting from the cold. I didn’t mind any of the work or the numbness. Knowing that soon we’d be on the lake and my children would finally understand what was happening inside those fish houses we drove past everyday — that was enough.

I wrote last week about being giddy. That feeling of excitement and anticipation that causes you to almost giggle because you are just so dang happy. I thought I’d have to wait for a concert until my cheeks hurt from smiling. I thought I’d have to wait till at least summer to get that nervous energy that comes before something great. Apparently, this Minnesota gal just needed to get out on the lake.

Albert Lean April Jeppson is a wife, mom, coach and encourager of dreams. Her column appears every Saturday.