Spear fishing: It's like 'nature on big-screen TV'

  • Article by: BILL MARCHEL , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 29, 2012 - 11:26 PM

Darkhouse offers a perfect view of northern pike and other underwater goings-on.


Here is a spear fisherman's view of the underwater world through a two feet by four feet hole in the ice. A pike is lured into spear range using a decoy.

Photo: Bill Marchel, Bill Marchel

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

BRAINERD, MINN. - Barack Obama was not our president the last time I had been darkhouse spear fishing. Neither was a man named Bush. Nor Clinton. Nor another guy named Bush.

"I can't remember when I last looked at a lake bottom through a 2-feet-by-4-feet hole in the ice," I said to Trent Baumann during a recent spear-fishing outing.

Trent, 40, of Brainerd, had invited me to join him for a morning of spearing northern pike in his small darkhouse. A week or so prior he had placed his shanty on a little lake not far from town, 8 inches of clear ice supporting it.

Actually, on that day, I chose to be a spectator. I figured should a pike appear, handling a spear and a camera while hunkered over a huge hole in the ice might lead to the wrong equipment going into the lake. Also, I was without the necessary license in my pocket.

It had been a few days since Trent had used the darkhouse, so an inch or two of ice needed to be removed from the large rectangular hole. With that chore complete, Trent lowered two decoys. One was an old standby that even I recognized. It was a red-and-white affair, carved in the shape of a small pike. The other decoy was a more modern version. It was made of soft plastic molded to resemble a sucker minnow.

Trent positioned the decoys about 6 feet down. The lake bottom, barely visible in the green-stained water, was 12 feet below us. A few dozen feet to our left was deeper water, roughly 18 feet, and to our right was a shallow flat about 4 feet deep. Our hope was that hungry pike would be cruising the breakline and would find our decoys to their liking.

Just a few minutes passed before the first northern appeared. It swam in slowly, eyeing the red-and-white decoy.

"Just too small," said Trent. The fish eventually moved off.

During a lull in the action, Trent told me he had been a spear fisherman most of his adult life. "I actually got started when I was in college," he said. "We speared and ate pike all winter.

"I really enjoy time spent in the darkhouse. It's like watching nature on a big-screen TV. It's fun to observe how minnows scatter when a pike is nearby. It's sort of like bow hunting for deer. I often let does and small bucks pass by when I'm bow hunting, just like I usually let small pike swim away. I can throw the spear, or not."

The next pike to swim into view was a bit larger. Trent slowly grabbed the spear in one hand and maneuvered the decoy with the other. When the northern was positioned directly below, Trent eased the spear into the water. Then with a quick motion, he flung the lance downward. The spear pierced the pike just behind the head. A perfect hit.

I'd like to say it took some maneuvering to get the pike out of the hole, but that was not the case. The fish weighed about 3 pounds.

"Fish for supper tonight," Trent said.

Trent usually fillets the northerns he spears, removes the Y-bones, and cuts the meat into 1-inch chunks. Then he boils them and dips the pieces into butter -- his version of poor man's lobster.

About noon the action slowed. We had seen 11 pike, but just one lay on ice outside the darkhouse.

"There's a lot of spearing left this winter," Trent said as we packed up. "Maybe next time a monster will appear."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.


San Francisco - M. Bumgarner 7:07 PM
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington 6:00 PM
Carolina 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh 6:30 PM
Montreal 7:30 PM
Arizona 8:00 PM
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question