This is Far Guy, his Mother wrote on this photo. It was indeed the day before we got married. Some couples may go out for romantic walks, we went to the fish/dark house together. As I recall it was fairly cold, well below zero. We just got the stove nicely started when I saw a huge Northern come in and tapped Far Guy on the knee..he waited..the spear sliced through the water..we had a monster Northern.. we guessed just about twenty pounds. ( I believe it officially weighed 19 pounds and 6 ounces) ..it was thrown outside to stay cool. (Ha!) A few minutes later another fish came in, this one was smaller, only about six pounds it joined it’s larger relative outside on the ice. We continued to fish..I was a good decoy runner..we both kind of looked at each other and said "Suppose that big fish will cause some excitement, maybe we should high tail it out of here." It was common for other fisherman to make the rounds on the lake to see who was getting some action. It was also common for the Game Warden to come around if you had fish outside the fish house..and wouldn’t you know it, neither of us had a fishing license. Just imagine the ruckus if we had been caught and thrown in jail!
We always enjoyed fishing in the winter. We usually had a dark house for spearing. For those of you who have never been in a dark house. A dark house is about 6×8 feet..it has a wooden floor with a square cut out that is about 2×3.. all the ice is removed from this hole…so that you can see down into the water. You sit in chairs or on wooden boxes and run the wooden decoy that is on fishing line that is held directly above the hole and attached to a stick. You move the decoy up and down to simulate swimming little fish to attract larger fish, which you spear!! The ice is fairly deep..some years when it is really cold it can appear to tunnel downward. There is always a little stove, either wood fired or propane to keep you toasty warm. The ice strainer hangs on a nail near the door and the spear is attached to a line that is tied to a hook in the wall. You can only spear Northern Pike..not Walleye Pike. Northerns are easily identified in the water..their snout is very distinctive and their coloring and body shape is different from Walleye. We used to take the girls with us spearing ..we tied ropes around their waists just in case they accidentally fell into the water. Spearing in a dark house takes patience..sometimes you sit there all day long and see only perch. We always took lunch with us..and coffee. The hardest part of having a dark house is keeping the hole open..you have to fish just about everyday in order to keep it from freezing solid again. Far Guy and I have been inside the dark house and fought over who was making it out the door first when muskrats came right up the hole into the house to visit. It isn’t very funny at the time..but years later the thought is. Far Guy says "Those muskrats can scare the crap out of you." I agree especially if fishing is boring, and you start to relax and get sleepy. All of a sudden a very large dark wet creature wants your space. That one little door to the outside seems so small especially when two people try to exit at the same time. There is no "ladies first rule" who ever is closest to the door better bail out first or be flattened.
Dark house fishing in Minnesota is an adventure. A skill I learned as a child tagging along with my Father. Far Guy also learned the ropes from his Father and his Uncles. We still have lots of old decoys and the spear..and we even have a little propane fish house stove. Sometimes we talk about dark house fishing again..it is lots of work..dragging the house out onto the lake..fishing everyday. We both like to eat Northern that comes out of the cold water of winter..it has a flavor all it’s own..summer fish taste nothing like winter fish:)