Anderson: Removing fish houses an adventure this winter

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 3, 2014 - 3:42 PM

New best friends are easy to make on the river this harsh winter. They’re whoever can help you get to your fish house or get you unstuck.

Friday afternoon on the St. Croix River, tension rumbled across the ice. Steve Woodbeck certainly felt it: His SUV was stuck halfway between Minnesota and Wisconsin, buried in snow. And his transmission was kaput.

“He’s an unlucky guy,” Woodbeck’s pal, Brent Delougherty said. “He’s gone through the ice on Mille Lacs, too.”

“Gone through the ice” is about the only dire circumstance that hasn’t reared its ugly head in recent days on the St. Croix as anglers have attempted to free fish houses from ice and deep snow in advance of looming deadlines for the shanties’ removal.

Similar dilemmas are affecting, or have affected, shanty owners on lakes and rivers statewide, during this, one of the worst winters in memory for fish house management.

Until a few days ago, I was as nervous as a fish-house owner can be. The shack owned by my son, Cole, and to a lesser degree by me (I’m the chief financial officer) was stuck on the St. Croix far from the madding crowd.

The plowed path we used as recently as 10 days ago to reach the shack was buried beneath hard-packed snowdrifts. And despite my best efforts to find a plow man willing to tackle the job — to smash a new road through a half-mile of deep snow — I got no takers.

One guy with a Chevy dually and a V plow summed things up for all of his plowing brethren when he said, “I don’t go on the river, no way.”

Cole and I weren’t alone in our predicament. From Upper Red Lake in the far north, where some anglers were stranded in their shacks for two days following a big storm a couple weeks back, and where entire pickups were buried in drifts, to Mille Lacs, where shanties never were pulled onto the flats this winter due to deep slush, fish house ownership rarely has seemed so much like work.

A week ago Saturday, with few other options, Cole and I descended on the St. Croix to mill around with other flummoxed shack owners.

“Perhaps,” I said, “something good will happen.”

Instead we found only stuck trucks, bent shovels and a guy in a four-wheel-drive pickup racing backward across the river, towing a Chrysler minivan.

Reaching the Wisconsin side, and emerging from the minivan, a dad and his son plodded north, mimicking as they did the fabled “final hikes” of aging natives into the Arctic oblivion.

“Our shack is up there,” the guy motioned, “about a mile.”

“Good luck with that,” I said.

Time passed, and Cole and I were left to contemplate the country crooners who warbled from our truck’s speakers their fascination with tight jeans, beer and dropped tailgates. Less frequently mentioned were cheatin’ hearts, honky tonks and prison, the rightful home turf of Hag, Old Hank and David Allen Coe. Then again, nowadays it’s all-hat radio. No cattle. No mama gettin’ run over by a train. You want pain, I thought, sing about snow.

Then, as if by divine intervention, a V plow materialized from across the river, tossing snow like confetti. Spinning big rubber and taking no prisoners, a 1-ton Ford Excursion was bolted to the steel dagger, the whole rig a real moon walker.

“It’s a miracle!” I shouted, and leaped from our truck, waving my arms.

Skidding his rig to a stop, Dean Welk rolled down his window.

  • related content

  • March 1: Legacy Council needs to find successor for its executive director

    Tuesday August 5, 2014

    Executive Director Bill Becker is retiring from Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

  • Saved by a big plow truck: The ice fishing house owned by Dennis Anderson and his son, Cole, was reached, finally, on the St. Croix River after Dean Welk of North St. Paul blasted through about a half-mile of drifted, hard-packed snow with a 1-ton Ford rigged with a V plow. Fish houses were due off the river at midnight Saturday. Doubtless, given snow conditions on the river, some are still there.

  • Sufficient ice has formed on most Minnesota and Wisconsin lakes to support vehicle travel. But deep, hard-packed snow is widespread, and often must be cleared by plows.

  • Many fish houses are built on skids that are designed to allow the shanty to be pulled across the ice. But the skids often don't work well in deep snow, requiring trailers for house removal

  • Plows have been required statewide in recent days to remove fish houses. On Upper Red Lake in northwest Minnesota, houses freed from the ice sometimes were pulled through as much as 2 feet of slush to reach land

  • Kyle Thompson of Cottage Grove shoveled his way through slush Friday on the St. Croix.

  • Anderson became stuck on the river in his four-wheeler and welcomed help from anglers.

  • 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

Tampa 6 FINAL
Philadelphia 2
LA Clippers 96 FINAL
Chicago 86
Cleveland 100 1st OT 2:49
Houston 102
Golden State 16 1st Qtr 3:55
Boston 26
Philadelphia 7 1st Qtr 5:46
Indiana 15
Portland 22 1st Qtr 4:49
Sacramento 11
Charlotte 18 1st Qtr 4:11
Orlando 15
Oklahoma City 5:30 PM
LA Lakers
New Orleans 7:00 PM
Denver
Los Angeles 1 3rd Prd 8:38
Winnipeg 4
Tampa Bay 1 2nd Prd 8:30
Florida 2
Columbus 1 2nd Prd 12:27
Pittsburgh 3
Toronto 6:00 PM
Washington
Anaheim 7:00 PM
Dallas
St. Louis 8:30 PM
Vancouver
SMU 73 FINAL
Connecticut 81
Quinnipiac 65 FINAL
Manhattan 69
Fairfield 56 FINAL
Niagara 57
Marist 49 FINAL
Rider 59
Iona 60 FINAL
Saint Peters 68
Oregon State 56 FINAL
California 73
South Florida 55 FINAL
Houston 72
Marquette 66 FINAL
Providence 77
Michigan State 61 FINAL
Wisconsin 68
Siena 55 2nd Half 0:45
Monmouth 56
Pittsburgh 5:30 PM
Wake Forest
Oregon 6:00 PM
Stanford
Purdue 6:30 PM
Ohio State
Arizona State 7:30 PM
Colorado
Washington St 8:30 PM
UCLA
Georgetown 66 FINAL
Providence 81
Binghamton 50 FINAL
UMBC 73
Elon 65 FINAL
Hofstra 58
Virginia Tech 47 FINAL
Boston College 49
(8) Louisville 59 FINAL
Virginia 75
Texas 69 FINAL
West Virginia 76
Creighton 53 FINAL
Villanova 61
Seton Hall 85 FINAL
Butler 76
UNC-Wilmington 76 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 65
(5) Maryland 69 FINAL
(25) Northwestern 48
Saint Josephs 67 FINAL
La Salle 55
Louisiana Tech 53 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 60
Rhode Island 70 FINAL
Massachusetts 78
Richmond 55 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 49
Davidson 46 FINAL
Fordham 54
St Bonaventure 43 FINAL
Duquesne 51
George Mason 45 FINAL
(22) George Washington 80
Indiana 60 FINAL
(20) Rutgers 71
(12) Texas A&M 63 FINAL
LSU 80
Ole Miss 47 FINAL
(11) Miss State 55
Clemson 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 61
Maine 47 FINAL
New Hampshire 61
Vermont 48 FINAL
Albany 76
Quinnipiac 87 FINAL
Monmouth 48
Saint Peters 47 FINAL
Siena 64
(4) Notre Dame 67 FINAL
NC State 60
Wisconsin 62 FINAL
Penn State 56
Stony Brook 49 FINAL
Hartford 56
Northeastern 47 FINAL
William & Mary 62
St Johns 61 FINAL
Xavier 74
James Madison 74 FINAL
Delaware 71
Towson 45 FINAL
Drexel 50
Illinois State 50 FINAL
Bradley 60
Southern Ill 74 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 70
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Wichita State 66
Minnesota 76 FINAL
(17) Iowa 92
(15) North Carolina 80 FINAL
(16) Duke 81
Alabama 73 FINAL
Auburn 80
(9) Florida State 69 FINAL
Miami-Florida 55
Arkansas 41 FINAL
Missouri 57
Georgia 52 FINAL
Florida 45
Dayton 95 FINAL
Saint Louis 68
Drake 57 FINAL
Missouri State 86
Colorado 46 FINAL
(10) Arizona State 59
(19) Stanford 55 FINAL
Oregon 62
Marquette 82 FINAL
DePaul 99
Southern Miss 66 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 60
Vanderbilt 34 2nd Half 12:10
(6) Tennessee 53
(2) South Carolina 22 2nd Half 18:24
(13) Kentucky 29
Utah 33 2nd Half 13:00
Arizona 44
Ohio State 58 2nd Half 13:40
Nebraska 42
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

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

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close