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Ready for ice fishing? Make sure your ice house is ready, too

The Outdoors
Lead Summary
Scott Rall, outdoors columnist

About three years ago I purchased a used tractor to fill the need I had when implementing wildlife habitat projects. I chose poorly with little experience, but after several large repair bills the machine was up and running.
As a result, I then needed a building to store it in, and a medium-sized pole barn shed was next on the list.
I built it bigger than I thought I needed and again, I was mistaken. “Go big or go home” was still not big enough. After I put everything in the shed, there was just not enough room for all the rest of my important outdoor stuff.
A friend of mine, Gary Johansson, from Madison, Wisconsin, recently gifted me a hard-sided spearing shelter.
It was designed to be taken apart, loaded in the back of a truck and then reassembled when you reached your destination.
It was only used for spearing opportunities that were multiple days in length. With the improvement of portable shelters, the flexibility they offer makes it easier to just skip the old-style spearing house for most part-time spearers.
I for one, when sitting on a windy lake in Minnesota, really don’t enjoy the shelter flapping in the wind. Add to that, portables are almost impossible to set up in a strong wind. At least for me they are.
I have spent the past few weeks of lunch hours and evenings converting this portable shack into a permanent one. Insulation was installed, runners attached and two coats of flat black paint were applied.
Shelters that stay out on a lake overnight need to be licensed. That license costs about $16 for one year or $46 for a three-year permit. In addition to the shelter license, the owner has to identify their shelter. This can be done by painting the owner’s name and address on the outside.
Another method, the one that I use, is to letter and number the side of the house with your Minnesota Department of Natural Resources identification number.
This number can be found on any of your hunting or fishing licenses. This can keep your hot spots under the radar because many folks can’t tell who is in the house.
Spearers also need to purchase a special spearing license.  It only costs $2.50 but you need one nonetheless. There has always been a little rub from spearers in that a person who purchases an angling license can then ice fish with that same license, but a spearer who purchases an angling license cannot then use that same license to throw a spear.
I researched this after the cost of the spearing licenses went way down several years back. I figured that is why they were not charging much; they were really using this fee to raise money. 
In the end, the spearing fee of $2.50 is really used to determine just how many individuals are actually out spearing. This number can have an important effect when setting species bag limits and special regulations because spearers often harvest fish of a much larger size.
Minnesota has three separate zones for pike harvest. In southwest Minnesota you can harvest only two fish over 24 inches in length per day.
Up in the northern reaches of the state, you can harvest many more, but they are required to almost all be slammer fish. This is because the lake management is trying to reduce the number of hammer handles where they exist in too large a number.
So, with a second hard-sided spearing house ready to go, I now have to position my stuff very tightly in order to get it all in my now oh too small shed.
Looks like we are going to have late ice again this year. Water levels are very low in some portions of the state, and a winter kill on some of these smaller water bodies is quite likely.
Until it is safe to travel in hard water, I will just keep chasing roosters until I can put a giant pike back in my spear’s cross hairs.
Scott Rall, Worthington, is a habitat conservationist, avid hunting and fishing enthusiast and is president of Nobles County Pheasants Forever. He can be reached at or on Twitter @habitat champion.

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