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Hook and Bullet Club - Ice fishing

The 2004 ice fishing season has been reluctant in arriving but with temperatures in the -30s last week, the ice is finally getting ready for the invasion. With Burntside not freezing over until the middle of December, you knew slush was going to be a common word. When we get snow before the big cold snaps, the ice doesn’t get a chance to freeze down and the slush starts popping up. Skiing and snowmobiling become more of an adventure than most care to enjoy and many ice fisherman end up with wet feet. This is where a fish house comes in real handy. Not those nifty pop-up ones but the classic plywood palace you see being pulled out by a truck or four wheeler. There is the trick of finding a way to keep the slush from grabbing hold of the bottom and bonding the fish house to the lake. Some will use concrete blocks but a better way is to lay down some logs or cut some sections of firewood into heights that exceed the slush depth. The DNR, of course, has some rules on leaving a fish house out on the ice, from requiring a license ($11.50) to having two square inches of reflective material on each side of the house. New this year is more detailed information that must be posted in letters two inches high on the outside of the fish house. Instead of just having, “Joe Shmoe, Ely, MN,” the rules state there must be a complete name and address, driver’s license number or Minnesota DNR number displayed. Winter fisherman have to be cognizant of a number of DNR rules, specifically in the license department. Fishing licenses are good through Feb. 28. However, the walleye and northern pike season ends on Feb. 20. Crappies are legal year ’round but trout are a whole different story.Lakes completely inside the BWCAW open for trout fishing on Jan. 1 and are open through March 15.Lakes outside or partially inside the BWCAW open for trout on Jan. 17 and run through March 15. Confused? Wait, there’s more.In our area fish houses can be on the ice until March 15. Fish houses or shelters can be used in the BWCAW but must be removed from the ice each night. There’s even a rule that says a fish house or shelter can be used one hour before sunrise to midnight after March 15, but only if there is open fishing season on the lake. Of course the big rule in the winter is being able to fish with two lines through the ice (except on designated trout lakes). This is where the tip-up becomes part of your fishing arsenal (as long as you stay within 200 feet). We don’t have a lot of guys who do it, but you can use a dark house to spear northern pike and whitefish (as long as you have a spearing license). Now, with all of that in mind, the next time you drive by Shagawa Lake and see smoke puffing out of the chimneys of the fish houses by Sandy Point, keep in mind not everybody fishes.There are plenty of fish houses that become just a spot to get away for a while. Sort of a hunting shack experience without the outhouse. Many a game of cards are played in fish houses no matter what lake they are on or what kind of fish lurk below. You’ll even see TV antennas and small generators humming outside. We don’t have fish houses to the degree they do on Lake of the Woods, Rainy or Leech, but it is part of the winter experience and if you get a chance, be sure to go. Just make sure you bring your wallet along. You need to have your fishing license or at the very least some money to play cards with. Whatever you’re after above or below the ice, be sure to check the ice conditions before you venture out. Ending up below the ice with the fish is not a place you want to be.

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