Great Outdoors: Spearing on Grand Lake

TWIG, Minn. – Thousands of Minnesotans are hitting the ice this winter for fishing.

Many anglers enjoy the traditional form of the sport, but a lot of people prefer spearing.

Spearing is a niche sport. Only about 21,000 licenses were sold in Minnesota in 2018. It’s something avid spearers love, saying it’s more of a thrill than traditional angling.

Jim Perkins has been spearing since he was a kid.

“I think it’s like hunting fish,” described Perkins.

His ice house is on Grand Lake near Twig.

“I have friends that are avid sportsmen and they’ve ice fished a lot but they’ve rarely have ever had the experience of spearing, so it’s kind of fun to expose somebody to something new,” said Perkins.

He creates and sells his own fish decoys. He likes spearing with artificial bait, some of which he makes himself, and some he gets from other places.

“I have a tradition, I always start out with this little guy, or one very similar to him. This is from Bear Creek and pike is seems like this traditional red head with a white body,” said Perkins while showing off one of his decoys.

He cuts a rectangular hole in the ice, attaches a decoy to his line, and shuts the door of his dark house, removing all unnecessary light.

“If we had a house with windows, our eyes wouldn’t adjust and see down into the water,” he explains.

Perkins carefully watches the hole. When he sees a fish come to inspect his bait, he jumps into action.

“We want the tines to go in this way, perpendicular, and we want to aim for about where the swivel is, right behind the back of the head. That way if the fish sees in coming and scoots ahead a little big, we’ll try and get him mid-body,” described Perkins.

Northern pike are the only game fish that can be speared in Minnesota.

“A great way to utilize the fish is by pickling them. The little Y bones dissolve in the vinegar process and so it’s a great way to utilize tiny little pike that most people think are kind of a nuisance,” said Perkins.

The pike weren’t biting this February afternoon. Perkins says the fish tend to get more lethargic as the winter goes on.

To spear, Minnesota residents need a regular fishing license and a ‘Spearing from a Dark House’ add-on, which can be purchased for $6.

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