THERE IS COLD. There is more cold and then, there is get me the heck out of here and put me on a beach in Waikiki Beach cold.

That is the cold of the past couple of weeks. In 71 years of living in the North Woods, I have seen many cold snaps come and go. This was a nasty one.

There have been worse. In the mid-1970s, for instance, there was the cold snap that brought a one-day low of, depending on whose thermometer you believed, -57. I do not think the weather service recognized that temperature as official, just as it has probably never recorded temperatures of 60 below or more that some old-timers would have you believe really happened.

Nowadays, zero is about the extent of my tolerance for outdoor activity. Such was not the case for the throngs of people who turned out for the Sayner-Star Lake Lions Club Plum Lake ice fishing tournament last Saturday. In a year when COVID-19 has forced my club to cancel all other fundraising activities, it was great to keep this one going. The response from all the people who turned out, regardless of cold, wind and some deep slush on the lake, was fantastic.

There were a lot of them, more than 200 strong. The fishing was lousy. The cold pierced some of the most insulated outerwear known to man. People kept close to the propane heaters in their tents and shacks, but they were there and they were having a good time.

I spent several hours on the ice, along with fellow Lions Club member Dave Olmsted, selling raffle tickets to all the fishermen. Sometimes, driving our John Deere Gator through heavy snow and some really deep slush was like riding a bucking bronco, but we made it and at every stop the fishermen were there. The number of people on the ice, many of them greeting us with $50 bills in their hands, some even more, tells me three things.

One, that they care about the good things the Lions Club does; two that they really want to support our Lions Club and probably Lions Clubs in their home communities as much as they can; and three, that they were just waiting for some event they could get outdoors to participate in that was organized with all the safety precautions we could think of to keep it a COVID-19 free day.

During our round trips on the lake, we found nothing but people having fun, staying close to their outdoor fires in enclosed steel fire pits or in their shelters with heaters, and hoping for the big fish to hit their lures and baits.

They certainly accomplished the eating and staying warm by heaters and fires, but the fish did not exactly cooperate. A 27-inch northern pike took first place in that division, a length that would have relegated it to eighth place last year. Such is fishing. Only one keeper walleye was caught, that one at 133⁄4 inches.

As for panfish, it was the same story. Even they did not want to cooperate. Normally, we get quite a few registered, but with cash payouts down to third place for bluegill, perch and crappie categories, we didn’t even get three entries for two of those and just three in the other.

Despite the lack of fishing success, every single person I talked to said they had a great time just getting outside to spend time with close friends and family. For the most part, everyone was sheltering in place, with those places being in warm tents and shacks.

One thing I missed by having to work through the entire day was taking time to stop and sample some of the great food I always find out on the ice during the tournament. I guarantee you ice shack cooking is some of the best in the world.

Never have I tasted anything that wasn’t super good at the Durski gathering. The same with what used to be simply the Worthen-McCaughn party, but is now formally the Camp Larry gang in honor of our good friend, the late Larry McCaughn.

Over the years, even in stopping at the parties of complete strangers or casual friends I see only once or twice in a blue moon, I never have turned down an offer of good ice shack food.

For a couple of years, we even held a contest for ice shack food and you can bet your bottom dollar who made sure he was one of the judges.

The ice fishing tournament is by far the biggest fundraising event of the year for the Sayner-Star Lake Lions Club, and I’m sure I can speak for all of us in the club that we sincerely appreciate and thank all the people who turned out in what I would call bitterly cold conditions for some fun, fishing, prizes, and support of great causes and projects.

Oh, and I almost forgot. As was the case last year, I’ve got a fishing date for next summer. Last summer, the 7-year-old who won a half-day of fishing with me, along with his 11-year-old brother, caught 60 largemouth, and believe me, they were keeping close count like a couple of little human computers, in four hours of fishing.

This year, I’ll get to fish on a much warmer day than last Saturday, with Sammy Nampel and the companion of her choice. Hopefully, the catching will be as good as last summer.

Boulder Junction guide and Lions District 27-C2 Gov. Bob Bertch, will be taking Amiya Cheaton and a companion of her choice for a half-day of fishing.

We’ll all have fun.