Ice house etiquette

Take a ride down the ice road out of Kenora and it quickly will become apparent how popular permanent fish houses or shacks are becoming for area anglers.
Shacks litter the ice around nearly every island and reveal everyone’s favourite walleye spots. The same scene can be found in Nestor Falls, with shacks present over most of the best crappie holes.
Head across to the U.S. side of Lake of the Woods and it will blow your mind how many fish houses there are on the ice. Estimates come in at around the 5,000 mark—stretching from Baudette to Warroad—and most of the resort owners claim their winter business is better than the summer business.
Permanent fish houses come in many shapes, sizes, and forms. Some are high-end versions that anglers actually can spend the night in with amenities like a TV, stove, oven, and bunk beds. Others simply are plywood boxed up with a chair in the middle for anglers to sit and fish.
I spend a lot of time moving around when I’m fishing, and seldom camp on one spot for very long, so a permanent fish house is not for me most of the time. Instead, I spend most of my time totting around an Otter portable fish house.
It is a sled with a tent mounted to it that I can carry all my gear in and pop up to hide from the elements while I fish.
A small propane heater can heat my Otter up to a comfortable temperature.
But as fish houses become more popular, a larger human footprint is left on the environment. Most of the folks on Lake of the Woods are really good about cleaning up their mess, but some need a lesson in etiquette on the ice.
Garbage left on the ice is highly unsightly, not to mention illegal. A small garbage can is the first item that should be put inside one of these units if you are going to use one.
Some people think that small things like fishing line, cigarette butts, and fish guts belong on the ice, but they don’t—take them with you when you go.
In this part of Ontario, anglers do not need to license their fish houses, but I think they should so there is more accountability for garbage left on the ice.
In parts of southern Ontario and all of Minnesota, ice houses need to be licensed and removed by a certain date to ensure they are all gone before the ice begins to really deteriorate.
Fish houses are fun, no doubt about it, and they are a good option when the weather is cold, like it has been in Sunset Country for the past few weeks.
If you’re are going to fish in one, there are a few tricks to catch more fish than your buddies. If your fishing partner looks the other way, change his lure to that one bait in your tackle box that you know no fish in its right mind will ever bite.
They will use it for at least a little while before they check it—after you get up a couple fish.
Or you could turn their flasher to simulator mode, so it constantly will look like there are fish on the screen chasing a bait when, in fact, they are looking at a staged image.
Or you could tie a pair of pliers or something heavy to their lure so when they pick their rod up, they will think they are reeling in dinner—only to find they are being “punked.”

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