Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz

Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Minn.

February 1, 1999

What if the fish aren't biting?

For the most part, and so far this winter, there just hasn't been too much to report. The ice fishing season got off to a slow start and it has basically stayed that way.

On occasion, a few lakes have produced fish and a few good fish stories have flopped their way into the newspaper office. But, compared to most years the action has been slower than a snowman melting away in February.

With the fishing slow, the weather warm, and snow perfect for sculpting, forming, and building. I scrapped the fishing idea last week and my wife, Amy and I, along with our 11 month old daughter, Abbigayle and, of course, Angus, took to the front yard for a little snowman building.

What developed was a wonderful afternoon in the snow and a pretty good-looking fellow made out of snow appropriately named Frosty.

Along with a big round head and belly, Frosty has two arms made of tree branches, pine cone buttons borrowed from an old Christmas wreath, film canisters for eyes, a hat and scarf to keep him warm, and his nose is half of a bright orange plastic Easter egg.

Frosty won't be modeling for any of the winter sports magazines anytime soon, but he enjoys posing for the camera and is somewhat of a handsome gentlemen.

My daughter loves looking at him through the window, so my wife and I hope he doesn't melt away during a February thaw. If he does, we'll just have to build another Frosty, because the fish probably won't be biting anyway.

If Frosty was an ice angler, he'd most likely tell you a few panfish have been hitting on Collinwood and Waconia. The fishing on Howard and most other lakes in the area has been slow. Local anglers heading to Mille Lacs have had good luck and are bringing home good numbers of fish.

Also, Frosty would like to throw his stocking hat in the ring for the job of DNR Commissioner. Frosty has the same hairstyle as Governor Ventura, and he thinks that might get him a few points.

Fish house rules explained

Ice fishing on a frozen lake or river is an integral part of Minnesota's winter recreation. But with that benefit comes responsibility. Minnesota law requires people to post their complete name, complete address or driver's license number if they use a fish house, dark house or portable shelter on state waterways, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

A person may not fish from a fish house, dark house or shelter unless the tag supplied with their annual fish house license is attached to the structure no more than six inches below the top edge of the exterior side of the door, according to DNR Enforcement Chief Leo Haseman.

On structures with openings other than doors, the tag must be attached to the material on the right side of the opening when facing the structure and not more than six inches below the top of the opening.

The law requiring complete name, complete address or driver's license number enables conservation officers to quickly notify the owner of a structure damaged by vandals or weather, to warn occupants of changing ice and weather conditions, to identify locations where illegal activity may be occurring, and to assist officers in identifying and returning stolen equipment to the appropriate owner.

"Over the years, anglers have become far more mobile, so it's common to find a small, outstate lake with fish house owners from a 100-mile radius," said Conservation Officer Dave Mador. "The full name and address or driver's license number are vital if we need to locate an individual because of an emergency or safety issue."

Conservation officers say the tag supplied with the fish house license is a superior identification device. "I've seen a lot of 'attachments' made of cardboard, paint, pencil, crayon or magic marker easily removed by vandals or wind," said Lt. Brad Riba, a conservation officer district supervisor. "A structure with a properly displayed tag containing complete data is much better."

The following regulations also apply to fish houses, dark houses and portable shelters on all Minnesota waters:

  • Dark houses, fish houses and portable shelters must have a door that can be opened from the outside at any time when in use.
  • Taking fish by angling or with tip-ups is prohibited while spearing fish in a dark house, fish house or portable shelter.
  • No person may erect a dark house, fish house or shelter within 10 feet of an existing dark house, fish house or shelter.
  • Storing or leaving fish houses or dark houses on a public access is prohibited.
  • Nonresidents may not spear from a dark house.
  • Nonresidents may angle from a licensed fish house.
  • Nonresidents may only obtain a license for portable fish shelters; the shelter cannot remain on the ice when unattended.

Fish house, dark house and portable shelter requirements are outlined in the 1998 Minnesota Fishing Regulations Handbook (pages 38 and 39). For more information or a copy of the handbook, call 1-888-MINNDNR (outstate) or (651) 296-6157 (Twin Cities metro area).

Outdoor notes

  • The Howard Lake Sportsmen's Club will hold their annual Fishing Derby on Howard Lake, Sat. Feb. 13. The grand prize in this year's drawing is a deluxe King Crow fish house on wheels. Tickets for the raffle are available at Joe's Sport Shop in Howard Lake and from club members.
  • The Winsted Sportsmen's Club will hold their annual He/She Mixer at the Blue Note in Winsted on Friday, Feb. 12. Tickets are available at the Blue Note, Tom's Corner Bar in Winsted, Keg's Bar in Winsted and from club members.
  • The Lester Prairie Sportsmen's Club will meet tonight, 7 p.m. at the clubhouse.
  • In the past few weeks I have been pleased to see a good number of pheasants that look healthy and in good shape, and on two occasions just south of Lester Prairie, small flocks of wild turkeys.
  • If the fishing has got you down, give another winter sport a try. Skiing, sledding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and, of course, snowman building are all great outdoor activities.

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