Fish house safety planning; thinking
about it now can prevent hazards and injuries

By Maj. Roger Tietz
DNR Enforcement Division

I’ve had the privilege of working the Minnesota ice fishing seasons for more than 30 years and during this time I’ve had a chance to think about fish houses and fish house safety. Here are few things I would like to share as we approach the 2013-14 ice fishing season.

Simply put, now is the time to start thinking about ice fishing safety. Yes, you heard me right, ice fishing safety. And while most of you will think I’m going to focus on the standard DNR safety messaging regarding ice thickness, stay off the ice until, or other safety messages….my experience is leading me in a slightly different direction. You see, I need you to understand that not only do I spend time on the ice out on patrol as a conservation officer, I also spend a fair amount of personal time ice fishing, which happens to be my favorite winter pastime.

What I’ve noticed through the years is no one ever really tackles the topic of managing safety efforts related to actually placing a wheeled fish house on a Minnesota lake, and the rules of the road in getting it there. Here is what I offer as reasonable advice to wheeled fish house owners so they enjoy a safe ice fishing season.

Ice fishing is a booming industry: It’s no secret that Minnesota has a growing ice fishing industry, driven by the advancement in wheel-house design and technology. If you subscribe to any of the outdoor newspapers, you will see plenty of wheeled ice fishing houses for sale, anywhere from
6.5 by 12 feet up to models that are 8.5 by 26 feet or larger. These trailers mirror the design of your basic travel trailer, but with one noticeable difference, they have holes in the floor and can be lowered on the ice and serve as a winter ice fishing getaway. Where is this industry/sport headed? For a moment, let’s look at Red Lake.

Red Lake, after the walleye recovery, has become recognized as a premier winter ice fishing destination. New industry that caters to those of us who have invested into a wheeled ice fishing house is starting to emerge. Simply put, it’s camping on the ice and fishing at the same time. Resorts provide the service of plowing roads and a fishing spot, in return for the purchase of a road pass or an access fee. In essence, a winter campground emerges on the lake. And Red Lake isn’t the only one; Lake of the Woods, Leech Lake, and many others are marketing themselves as ice fishing destination, for wheeled fish house owners. And let’s not forget about lakes like Mille Lacs, that for years enjoyed an ice fishing industry driven by resorts dragging hundreds of permanent rental houses out on to the lake. The resorts around Mille Lacs are also adapting and catering to winter ice fishing. This activity is providing hours of enjoyment during our cold Minnesota winters.

As this industry expands, there has been steady growth in the companies manufacturing multi-purpose trailers designed as ice fishing shelters, as well as ice fishermen who have built their own. Looking at the online fish house sales sites, it’s no secret that wheeled ice fishing houses are being offered for sale around the state and the citizens of Minnesota are starting to discover this winter pastime. While it’s no secret that a well-equipped fish house can include cooking facilities, comfortable sleeping accommodations, as well as satellite TV, have you ever taken the time to think about the safety considerations that are connected to this activity? As this winter sport continues to grow in popularity I’m going to challenge you for a moment to think “safety” as we move toward this year’s ice fishing season.

Laws of the Road

Fish House Safety – DNR Commentary

Fish Houses – DNR Commentary