Like the bartender said: You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.
Minnesota conservation officers have been out delivering that message in recent weeks on lakes across the state.
On Thursday, as the sun shone brightly and the temperature climbed into the 40s, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officers Brent Grewe and Leah Weyandt headed out onto the ice at Carson’s Bay on Lake Minnetonka to remind anglers that their icehouses have to be off the lake by the end of the day Monday.
That’s the deadline for removing icehouses in the southern two-thirds of the state, defined roughly by a line that runs east from Fargo to Duluth. Anglers north of that line can keep their icehouses on the ice for two more weeks — until March 19.
Anglers violating those deadlines risk a range of fines that could total several hundred dollars, not to mention that their shack, which cost thousands more, might wind up in the drink.
Weyandt said she tried repeatedly last year to get an icehouse owner to move his house off a lake she patrols.
“We got a call a few days later from a homeowner who said, ‘Hey, an icehouse just floated by,’ ” Weyandt said.
That owner “called me last night and checked in,” she said with a laugh. “He said, ‘Leah, you don’t have to worry about me this year.’ ”
The typical DNR conservation officer patrols about 600 square miles and may have thousands of icehouses in their area. As conservation officers make their rounds, they’re also looking for trash and reminding anglers that they’re expected to clean it up.
On Thursday, Weyandt and Grewe found a few houses occupied among the 40 or so remaining on the small bay. They gave one icehouse inhabitant a citation for having too many lines in the water.
Anglers still can fish from their icehouses after the deadline from midnight until one hour before sunrise, as long as the ice is safe. But they can’t leave the structures unoccupied at night or leave them on the ice during the day. And they fish at their own risk. The DNR advises anglers to check with their county sheriff’s office for information on ice conditions.