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Dock Talk: Community fish house is for all

Earlier this week motorists noticed the Park Rapids Community Fish House parked outside Delaney's Sporting Goods on Highway 34. The fish house will be parked in various locations to raise awareness of the free opportunity for use before the ice is safe enough for placement on Fish Hook Lake. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

The local ice fishing report has varied. Some anglers have actually ventured out onto our local lakes with success, while others are withholding their enthusiasm to chase fish of any species until the ice is a few inches thicker.

First off, if you do go, a partner and personal floatation device is suggested. You don't hear news reports of people drowning while wearing a life jacket. There's rarely a warning "crack" before the ice breaks, you simply submerge.

Second, is a few fish worth it? Although I can't knowledgeably predict the weather or the future, safe ice will arrive, but it's best to wait, especially if lake acreage exploration is on your mind. Keep in mind that the entire lake rarely freezes uniformly, especially on larger bodies of water. Variables like water depth and wind affect consistent ice formation.

Yet once that ice thickens and foot-travel, then ATV and snowmobile travel, and finally vehicle and permanent fish house travel is applicable, we will simultaneously rejoice.

And if you've spent countless days inside a shanty; whether that could be tallied in years or decades; or conversely if you have never been on the ice in your life, the Park Rapids area has one of the hottest attractions on ice: the Park Rapids Community Fish House.

Upon arrival on the frozen tundra of Fish Hook Lake, a member of the Park Rapids Darkhouse and Angling Association will greet you and your guests. The propane heater will be on, the holes will be open, and there might even be some minnows or waxworms already in the 8' by 16' Ice Castle fish house.

If you don't have fishing gear, it's not a problem. The Park Rapids Community Fish House is equipped with rods, reels and innovative ice fishing tackle courtesy of Northland Tackle, a Vexilar Fl-12 flasher, underwater camera and the comfort and space to accommodate several anglers.

You might be asking yourself, in a mock traditional Bob Barker, "Price is Right" voice, "What is this package worth?"

This package includes a fully catered set-up for morning or afternoon angling, the ability to leave your gear at home and show up with nothing but enthusiasm and memories of a great ice fishing adventure.

And in the bid for the Showcase Showdown, the closest answer is $0.00. That's because your cost to use the Park Rapids Community Fish House, including all the set-up and preparation, the vast array of high-tech gear and memories that last a lifetime is nothing. Not a penny.

It's free.

The only pre-requirement is that you simply sign up to use it. Stop in at the Smokey Hills Outdoor Store just north of Park Rapids on highway 71 and get your name on the calendar. Even though there's not enough ice to support the Community Fish House yet, you can reserve a date in advance.

Numerous businesses and individuals have graciously sponsored the Park Rapids Community Fish House, which will greet its second season on the lake.