Spearfishing Through the Ice

February 5, 2009 by  

By Jason Phillips

Reminiscent of a scene on the coral reef in the Gulf of Mexico, I watched perch drifting against the bottom of the frozen lake. Subtle breaks in the lake floor, accompanied by a weed bed and an old sunken log were the coral in this picture. As I gazed down the hole waiting for a pike to take note of our decoy I recognized the allure accompanying dark house spear fishing. For many it may not rival the picturesque scenes of a reef barrier, but for a dedicated few this is as good as it gets. The 2002-2003 Dark House Spear Fishing season is well underway in North Dakota and opportunities across the state exist to take part in this age old tradition.

Although the season is in its infant stages in the state, dark house spear fishing is a timeless tradition for many outdoorsmen. This tradition has been passed down from generation to generation in other areas of the country. To residents of the Great Lakes region, fish decoy carving is as deep rooted as family gumbo recipes are in the south. For many, time spent on a frozen lake during the winter months is mush more than a pastime; it is a way of life. The solitude of a day spent on the ice revives the spirit for those who take part in spear fishing.

Although only Northern Pike and non game species are currently open to spearing, the chance to observe all species of fish in their natural habitat can provide some very valuable knowledge on fish behavior. From watching a school of bait fish dart through the field of view to catching a quick glimpse of a walleye in the background waiting to seize an opportunity to strike, anyone can enjoy the classic predator and prey drama that unfolds in the depths of the lake. The hole in the ice is a window to a whole new world.

The up close and personal nature of spear fishing has opened it up to opposition. Once the spear hits its mark there is no catch and release. It is the responsibility of the spear fisherman to make conscious decisions when thrusting the spear at their target. As with any outdoor activity a select few can have a negative impact on everyone who participates, once again responsible behavior is essential to ensure spear fishing becomes a new tradition across our state.

Opponents to dark house spear fishing argue that a few successful spear fishermen may have a dramatic impact on Northern Pike populations of certain lakes, especially in spawning areas late in the season. This can in turn impact other game fish. Another argument against the season is the risk spear fishing holes pose after a dark house is removed from a location. Due to the size of the holes this is a definite risk if proper precautions are not taken by spear fisherman when they move their dark houses. Depending on the size of holes and method used in removing the ice from a hole also comes the risk of large blocks of ice being left behind and potentially struck by snowmobiles or other vehicles. By using common sense while spear fishing we can all help to ensure its success in the state well into the future.
All individuals who participate in dark house spear fishing must first register with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department which can be done on the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website. The site also provides additional information on other regulations as well as a listing of lakes that are open to spear fishing.The excitement of watching a school of perch scatter as a northern pike breaks through to the decoy rivals any outdoor adventure. If you do not have a tropical winter vacation planned take some time to enjoy the depths of North Dakota lakes as the opportunity to take part in this season runs through February 28.

Check out the Ice Fishing Information all this winter.


One Comment on "Spearfishing Through the Ice"

  1. terry hangge on Sun, 3rd Jan 2010 1:07 pm 

    I first speared by accident in Dec 1973 I met friends at winnibigoshis lake to ice fish all houses out were spear houses wehad them move a fish close to a spear house so we did both after buying licences. Took us awhile to lean to drop it not throw it only got three but I got a 13lb am going to try again this year

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