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Some fish houses need to be off lakes by Monday

Curt Olson and Jerry Ross jack up Olson’s ice house on Little Detroit Lake and prepare to remove the house from the ice Thursday afternoon. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham

It’s time to reel up the lines and get ready to say goodbye to this year’s ice fishing season.

Fish houses need to be off area lakes by Monday if they are located south of Highways 10 and 34. That includes Big and Little Detroit lakes.

This year, early snowfall caused water to be pushed up onto the ice, which quickly translated into slushy, rough conditions.

DNR officer Nathan Olson says all that snow and icy slush could lead to a few problems during the removal process.

“We definitely had more snowfall than a lot of the state, so we’ve been kind of hindered in moving around some of the lakes,” he said, adding that lake mobility will vary greatly from lake to lake depending on how much anglers maintenance and plowed them throughout the winter.

Curtis Olson of Detroit Lakes was busy taking his fish house off Little Detroit Lake Thursday afternoon, and while he tended to his house a couple of dozen times throughout the winter, he says his “neighbor” didn’t have such good luck.

“He had to get a chainsaw out and cut about 12 inches or so around the house, and then when he finally got in the door, he saw there was about nine inches of ice in there from the water that had come up through the hole,” said Olson. “Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not.”

The Minnesota DNR is reporting many incidents like Olson’s neighbor, as some anglers are finding themselves doing a lot of chiseling, chopping and prying in order to get their houses off.

And while it might be easier to leave them a bit longer in hopes of melting, officials warn that could be a costly decision.

Joe Stadelman of the Minnesota DNR says if fish houses are left on the ice past the deadline, anglers face a possible fine.

“And that fine goes up a sliding scale the longer past the deadline it is,” said Stadelman, adding that if the DNR has to remove the structure, its owner will likely be charged restitution.

Nathan Olson says when anglers are removing fish houses, they should also pick up any garbage that could otherwise end up at the bottom of the lake, including doing their best to remove the wooden blocks that often get frozen into the ice.

Season wrap up

So how was the ice fishing season this year?

“Early on, Rock Lake was doing well with pan fish. On Little Detroit there was a pretty good bite going on. Sally had some decent walleye and croppy action that kind of tapered off later in the season. Melissa had de-cent pressure, and Sauer Lake off 59 was hit and miss,” said Nathan Olson.

“Well, I don’t think I had my house sitting on a hot spot or anything,” smiled Curtis Olson, “but it wasn’t bad. I got some pan fish and croppies — I have yet to catch a walleye though.”

Olson’s chance for that elusive walleye is gone for this winter now, as the pike/walleye season closed Feb. 23.

“So if you’re out there you should be looking for pan fish — croppies, blue gills, yellow perch…those are all still open,” said Nathan Olson, adding that lakes north of the cut off line have until March 17 to get their fish houses off.

A cold winter means anglers could have a little longer to catch those pan fish this year, as ice safety has up until this point not been an issue in this area.

“Even under Long Bridge there was good ice,” said Nathan Olson, of the spot where running water often means thinner ice. “That was pushing where you’d need an extension on your auger.”

Olson says the DNR did not receive any reports of vehicles or fish houses going through any local lakes.

“So if nothing else, it was a safe ice fishing season,” he said.

But sometimes cold winters can be hard on the fish population in terms of winter kill, and DNR officials are hoping that no news is good news.

“We haven’t had anybody calling us about dead fish anywhere or foul odors when they drill their holes, but we’ll be investigating that later on this month,” he said.

But as one fishing season begins to wrap up, teary-eyed anglers are left with another one to look forward to.

“Fishing opener this year is May 10 for walleyes northern pike,” said an optimistic Nathan Olson, “and so hopefully we’ll have open water this year.”