Brad Laabs: Prepare ahead to get ice houses off lakes
This last week we had many anglers remove fish houses from area lakes, especially the lakes south of highways 10 and 34. This Monday, March 3, all houses south have to be off. The lakes north will have two more weeks before shelters need to be removed.
The melt we had a couple weeks ago helped knock the snow down considerably. The subsequent cold weather has helped freeze a crust on top of the snow. This has helped those that don’t have plowed roads or trails get to fish houses and get them off the lake.
The best time to maximize the advantage of the frozen surface is the early morning after the super cold nights. Waiting until it warms up may be more comfortable for you, but may increase the amount of work and effort to get challenging houses off the lake. The warmth and sun makes it easier for vehicles to break through the frozen crust on the lake. Under that crust is still a significant amount of snow cover. Some areas that drifted can be even worse to get unstuck from if you break through.
For those that haven’t yet retrieved your house, make sure you are properly prepared. Make sure you dress for the occasion, and just in case, plan like you will be out in the elements longer than you think. Take a shovel, breaker bar, jack, tow rope, cell phone, and most importantly…some committed friends to help with your house removal project.
For those that will be removing skid houses and putting them on trailers, make sure you have an appropriate trailer. The trailer needs to be the right size and be able to handle the weight of the fish house. Make sure that the lights work, the tires are good, properly inflated, and you have straps to properly secure the load. Every year, without fail, some crews dump a few fish houses on the road. This is not only a terrible frustration for them to deal with, but also dangerous for others using our public roads.
For those with wheel houses, it is good to check your lights before you head down the road. Because they worked when you set the house, doesn’t mean they will work when you take it off the ice now. They are trailers after all, and the trailer gremlins visit every trailer at some time or another. The winter ice and cold have an amazing ability to interfere with everything working properly.
For heavy wheel houses, investing in a pair of skis that the wheels slide into can make a big difference in getting your house out of a challenging area. Heavy houses have a tendency to drag in the snow, build up snow in front of them, and make for a heavy tow off the lake. If you have had one of these heavy wheel houses stuck before and had to shovel yourself off the lake, you can save yourself time and effort with skiing your house off. Most manufactures skis for these houses are under $200. It could easily cost that or more in time, money to other to help, frustration, or fines (not getting your house off in time) not having them. Plan ahead, get your houses off when the getting is good.
Last year I wrote an article about my frustration with some anglers that leave messes on the lake for others to clean up. This was a significant issue last year and the worst I remember seeing it in years. I write this reminder in advance this year and hope we are better as a community with picking up after yourself after you remove your house. Do not leave garbage on the lake! Make sure you also break loose 2x4’s and 4x4’s that you used to block up your house and take them with you. A few good jabs with the breaker bar usually breaks them free. Don’t leave a problem for someone else to deal with, be responsible for yourself. Remember, it’s not all about “me,” it’s about “we.”
(Laabs runs Brad Laabs’ Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)