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GRAVY: DNR fish house survey shows fewer ice anglers

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fisheries station in Park Rapids annually conducts a fish house count on selected lakes the first week of January.

The past few years Enterprise outdoor columnist Jason Durham has covered the story. However, he is MIA at this time due to having shoulder surgery and is healing so he can spend the summer jerking fish out of area waters. His column will return in the near future.

The DNR has been counting the fish houses on selected lakes since 1983 as a means of gauging winter fishing pressure. The count varies from year to year and from what I have noticed, the number of houses on the lakes is determined by the weather as much as anything. Shifts from lake to lake do vary with the fish bite, but for the most part weather cutting down on access is the big variable.

Fish house numbers were down this year when the DNR flew the survey and that is no surprise. The snowstorm late in December likely prevented many from putting out fish houses over the New Year weekend. There was 20" of snow on the ice the first week of January and as a result there was flooding on most lakes.

This year a total of 574 houses were observed compared to 764 last year at the same time. The average per year over the life of the survey is 684. The highest number observed in any one year was 1,038 and the least number was 318.

There were a number of lakes that had sizeable shifts in house numbers. Blueberry Lake was one of the obvious ones. Last year there were 28 houses on the lake and this year there were only four. Fish Hook Lake also saw a drastic drop in numbers. Last year there were 106 on the lake, but this year it dropped to 60. Straight Lake was down considerably as well with 28 houses this year compared to 46 in 2010. The same with Potato with 35 last year and 19 this year. Duck Lake had 32 houses last year compared to 19 this year.

Portage Lake saw an increase this year. Last year there were 29 houses on the lake but this year there were 37.

To see the complete list of fish houses on area lakes, go to www.parkrapids

It is only two weeks until the 13th annual Park Rapids American Legion Community Fishing Contest on Fish Hook Lake.

Even if you don't plan to fish the day of the contest, pick up a ticket. There are a pile of prizes that can be won without wetting a line including a pickup and a car. Beyond that, the community benefits from money generated from the contest through donations by the American Legion.

If you do fish, there are additional prizes to be had. There are four fishing divisions including Division I (bluegill and crappie), Division II (northern pike, walleye and bass), Perch and Rock Bass. Top fish in each division will win the angler catching it a four-wheeler and the tenth largest fish overall will win an Ice Castle fish house.

There are vendors selling tickets, however, they are always available at the American Legion Club.