All About Lake Minnetonka's Ice-fishing Houses
Ice-fishing Houses on Lake Minnetonka.
Do you want to know more about those little houses? The fish houses offer shelter
and protection from the cold of winter while people (of all ages!) stand on the ice
and fish through a hole into the water below the ice. If you fish through a hole
in the ice outside without a house around you, the hole often freezes over. The fish
are swimming way under the ice, so you can catch any fish in winter that you can
catch in summer for good fresh eating. Sometimes you win big contest prizes too!
Ice houses vary in size, but most hold two to four people The usual size is probably
8 by 10 feet. Some are 10 by 24 feet, and some really big ones could be 12 by 36
feet. Some smaller portable houses are made of canvas and look like a little sled
that unfolds to make the house. Some are wood, like a regular house, with windows
and insulated walls. Plywood or corrugated aluminum with insulation behind it are
Many of the houses have little gas heaters and gas lights, and some kind of chair
to sit on. Some even have televisions or microwaves or little refrigerators. But
some only have a folding chair and a little stove to keep the person warm. Lots of
people bring a cooler with food when they go out to their fish house to spend the
day. They dress warmly, play cards, listen to the radio, talk to friends, or maybe
read while they wait for their bobber to go down, showing there's a fish on the line.
And when the fish bite, you pull them in and take them off the hook right in your
little house. Sometimes they leave their fish pole and go outside on the ice to visit
other people who are fishing. Some people DO sleep overnight. On really big lakes,
resorts will bring people out to fish houses and leave them there, and maybe check
on them the next day. On Lake of the Woods in northern Minnesota, people stay for
2 - 3 days before the resort picks them up.
Getting the houses on and off the ice isn't easy. The whole house is built on runners
(like a pair of skis) so it's up 6-8 inches off the ice. That makes it easier to
pull the house on ice. People pull the bigger houses on and off the ice with trucks
that have chains on their tires for traction. The ice can be 3 feet thick in a good
winter, so that's plenty strong for trucks. Sometimes the smaller houses are little
sleds with fold out parts that make into a 6 by 6 foot fish house a person usually
pulls onto the ice with a snowmobile.
The houses have wood floors but the floor has two square holes (or several more,
depending on the size of the house) through which you then dig a round hole through
the ice to put your fishing line in the water. An electric or gas auger is necessary
to dig holes in thick ice. By law, a minimum of 4 inches of ice is necessary for
ice fishing; 5 inches for snowmobiling or all-terrain vehicle activity; 8 to 12 inches
for a car or small pickup; and 12 to 15 inches for a medium truck.
The same laws that apply for summer fishing also apply for winter fishing. Houses
have to be off the ice on state waterways by a certain date for the safety of the
people who ice fish. Depending on location, it's Feb. 28 or no later than midnight,
March 15 (Lake Minnetonka's deadline). Exceptions are Minnesota-Canada border waters
(March 31), Minnesota-Iowa border waters (Feb. 20), Minnesota-South Dakota and North
Dakota border waters (March 5), and Minnesota-Wisconsin border waters (March 1).
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