Mantrap spearing starts Dec. 2
By Jason Durham / For the Enterprise
Ice conditions are improving rapidly and anglers are beginning to set foot on frozen water across Minnesota.
People are still advised to utilize caution, since not all lakes freeze at the same time or to the same degree. Minimum standards suggested by the Department of Natural Resources are just that - minimums.
Most anglers who have already skated out to their favorite ice fishing areas are angling. Using a rod and reel, they’re primarily chasing panfish, perch, walleye and northern pike.
An effective method for harvesting northern pike is by spearing. It’s a centuries old tradition and can be both challenging and rewarding. Most people who spear haven’t been out recently since placing a darkhouse on the ice is imperative to seeing into the water. Right now few lakes have enough ice to support structures that permit the visual acuity to spear.
This year spear-fishermen and women will have an opportunity to harvest northern pike on Big Mantrap Lake, a body of water that’s recently been off-limits to spear fishing.
Mantrap is unique, not only for its beauty, but because it’s the area’s muskie hub. However, Mantrap additionally has a special regulation; a 24”-36” release slot for northern pike.
Anglers can begin spear fishing for northern pike on Mantrap Lake beginning this Monday, Dec. 2.
Special regulations are still in effect and since those regulations have no “sunset,” meaning they will not expire, those wishing to spear need to think about two things.
First, being able to identify the difference between a muskie and northern pike from a perched position above the ice hole is imperative.
Yet the angler will also need to discriminate size, which is an even more difficult task.
While angling with a rod and reel or tip-up, accidental catches of a pike within the protective slot or a rogue muskie can be quickly remedied by a quick release.
When spearing, what you harvest is what you harvest.
Doug Kingsley, Park Rapids Area Fisheries Supervisor, didn’t have a rule of how you could determine the exact size of a fish while making a decision to drop the spear or not, but offered some sage advice.
“You should be dead certain of what species the fish is and its size, otherwise you have no business spearing on bodies of water with muskies, special regulations or both.”
Even though Mantrap is open to spearing this season, some people may be reluctant to participate given the variables involved. If smaller pike are the goal for a dinner, then there are many more lakes in the area that have higher populations of northerns below 24”. On most of our lakes, keeping a pike larger than 24” is acceptable.
Many anglers can identify the characteristics of a muskie versus a northern pike through clear water in a darkhouse, but side-stepping each end of the 24”-36” slot could prove tricky. Those who avidly spear wouldn’t want a few people’s errors to mar the practice of what many consider our roots and heritage of ice fishing in Minnesota.
Potential fines for protected muskie and pike:
Spearing a muskie - $175+ law library fee and restitution*
Taking illegal sized pike - $125+ law library fee and restitution**
*Restitution for muskie:
-$40 per fish under 30”
-$200 per fish between 30”- 40”
-$500 per fish between 40”- 50”
-$1,000 per fish if over 50” plus an extra $100 per inch over 50”
**Restitution for northern pike:
-$30 per fish up to 32”
-$60 per fish over 32”