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Taking an icy stab at what nature offers

Laurie Richardson has always been an outdoors person so when the opportunity came to try her hand at dark house spear fishing, she jumped at the chance.

1/13/15 (Tue)

Spear chucking . . . One of 19 women taking part in this year’s Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW), Laurie Richardson of Kenmare spears a northern pike Saturday on Lake Darling. This year’s theme was dark house spear fishing with a portion of the day devoted to cleaning the fish and preparing it. 

By Marvin Baker

Laurie Richardson has always been an outdoors person so when the opportunity came to try her hand at dark house spear fishing, she jumped  at the chance.

Richardson was one of 19 women from across North Dakota taking part Saturday in the Becoming an Outdoors Woman program sponsored by the North Dakota Game & Fish Department.

With the assistance of 14 volunteers, the women from Bismarck, Minot, Kenmare, Stanley, Velva, Rolette and Watford City, cut holes in the ice much larger than you would for normal ice fishing, set up shelter, get it heated, have decoys and spears ready and wait for the fish.

“We’re looking for northerns,” Richardson said. “I’ve had bullheads come up. This is entertaining.”

The exact theme of the day was dark house spear fishing. The day started out with a class on how to fish with a spear, then it was out on Lake Darling for most of the day, for those lucky enough to catch a fish, they were taken back to the Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge and cleaned, then eaten after demonstrations on preparing the fish.

“I’ve never done this before. It’s fun,” Richardson said. “The anticipation is fun.”

After what appeared to be a long day for Richardson and her guide Shae Magstadt, she speared a northern just as Game & Fish officials were calling the day to an end.

“My first northern with a spear wasn’t a monster, but it sure got me addicted,” Richardson said. “It’s kind of cool. You never know what you’re going to see.”

About an hour before Richardson got the day’s catch, a northern pike swam right into the decoy she had dangling in water below the 18 inches of ice.

But that one got away.

As Magstadt explained it, when the fish swam into the decoy, it knew the decoy wasn’t a real fish and quickly exited the vicinity.

Richardson’s hopes were dashed until late in the game when she landed her prize.

The method in which to catch a fish in this manner, according to Magstadt, is to keep the decoy as close to the ice level as possible to make it easier to navigate the spear in the water.

That gives the angler a closer target and besides, according to Magstadt, the deeper the spear goes into the water, the more it will plane away from its intended route.

The fish house also remains dark and something that is an off color is dropped to the bottom of the lake for better visibility. For Richardson and Magstadt, it was yellow corn.

The water beneath the ice looked incredible and in the dark fish house, appeared to be lit, such as in an aquarium, but it was just bright sunshine providing nature’s electricity.

“It’s fun to see the bottom,” Richardson said. “Most of the time (in ice fishing) you’re looking at a bobber and can’t see in the water, but this way you can see all the way to the bottom.”

Magstadt said dark house spear fishing has been popular in Minnesota and Michigan a long time, but has only come into its own in North Dakota in the past 10 years.

And to be out on the ice on a cold, winter day, Magstadt said it’s not a bad day of work.

“I’m volunteering for fun,” he said. “When you can go out and enjoy the outdoors, there’s nothing else like it.”

He said northern pike are an aggressive fish and the anglers need to be alert in order to spear one as opposed to catching it with a line.

For Richardson who also likes to bow hunt carp, this is an opportunity to hone the skills of a new hobby.

“I like to try something new,” Richardson said. “I like to do something fun and since I’m an outdoors person, this is a lot of fun.” ... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!