Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Fish Houses

For the most part, this has been a good winter for ice fishing. There are lakes across the state that got too much snow early on and the ice isn't that great, but overall, things have been good. Here in Glenwood, they're catching fish too, lot's of nice bluegills from what I hear. I've never been a big fan of ice fishing, too much sitting around, so that's a second or third hand report at best. As I sit at my desk at work, eating lunch and looking out over Lake Minnewaska, I can honestly say there are probably more fish houses out on the lake this year than I've ever seen since I've been here. That's covering some 17 winters now.

During that time fish houses have changed considerably. They used to be largely home-made affairs, put together from scrap lumber, a few old windows salvaged from somewhere, and a dangerous LP gas stove to keep things toasty inside. People would spend weekends and beyond out at the fish house, and little communities often arose out on the ice. About 15 years ago, portable shelters came the rage, and are still very popular. Instead of putting a house out on one lake for the entire season and hoping the fish would bit, anglers were able to move around to different lakes - most often to "hot" bite lakes. The portable shacks are small, and don't offer the amenities found in the larger houses though. I'm fairly certain this mobility dramatically changed the landscape of ice fishing. It probably didn't do our fish populations a lot of good either.

The more recent trend as been a combination of portable houses and the more livable houses of the past. These modern houses are usually made of lightweight aluminum, have kitchens, bunks, and can run all kinds of appliances off of a small generator. I can see two from my office window that have satellite dishes! Anglers are trailering these houses from lake to lake, just like the smaller canvas portables. It's rather amazing.

I also find it somewhat disturbing. Not soley for the possible over exploitation of the fish resources either. The least expensive of these fish houses runs about $7000. (Personally, that's a little more money than I'm willing to spend for something I can use for 3 months a year (in a good winter). What concerns me is that we can accept spending that kind of money to catch a couple of meals of fish from what amounts to a home, yet we can't afford to solve the problem of homelessness, or hunger, or underfunded schools. There are probably enough fish houses on Lake Minnewaska alone to house the majority of homeless people in greater Minnesota. I know that sounds socialist, or even Marxist, but where exactly are our priorities?

Seems to me, a good number of them are sitting out in the cold.


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