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The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

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Spearfishers take a stab at sport with limits, detractors

Some participants say state restrictions are diminishing the sport’s popularity.

Sporting long underwear, wool socks, a fishing decoy and a bait bucket is all one needs to enter the world of spearfishing. That and a seven-pronged fishing spear.

Spearfishing, also known as darkhouse fishing, consists of cutting a rectangular hole in a frozen-over lake, and using decoys on two lines attached to the roof of an icehouse and a 4-foot spear to catch the fish.

Daniel Rudolph, retail and merchandise sophomore, said his father introduced him to the sport.

“It’s a really different sport, where you rely on natural sunlight to see fish below the ice and your own ability to spear them,” he said.

Rudolph said he goes spearfishing with his family and friends to various lakes in Minnesota from sunrise to sunset.

“It’s usually a good day if you can go home with four fish,” he said. “After we catch the fish, we clean them and eat them; it’s pretty simple.”

Jason Abraham of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said there are several restrictions regarding the sport of spearfishing.

He said most of the regulations focus on where you can spear and what you can spear.

The Minnesota spearfishing season runs from December to February.

“In Minnesota you can only fish for northern pike, catfish and whitefish and need a fishing and angling license to do any spearing,” Abraham said.

Jerry Rudolph, Daniel Rudolph’s father and an avid spearfisher, said his favorite part of the sport is the accompanying adrenaline rush.

“You’re sitting there waiting, and a fish comes out of nowhere; it’s such a rush,” he said.

He said the sport is a fun social activity that brings him close to his roots.

“With so many cutting-edge technologies out there, like the Internet and MP3 players, it’s nice to have something that works the same way as it did a hundred years ago,” he said. “To me it’s appealing in that sense.”

In the past, Jerry Rudolph said, he has posed appeals to the Minnesota DNR regarding the state restrictions, which if broken, can result in equipment confiscation, as much as $100,000 in fines and possible jail time.

“Spearfishing is a cult sport, and there really are not a lot of us out there,” he said. “We’re not having a huge negative impact on the fish or the lakes.”

The number of incoming spearfishers is dwindling, Jerry Rudolph said.

“There aren’t a lot of young people picking it up,” he said. “I’d rather let it die a natural death versus having the state legislating us out of it.”

Mike Mesch, University Archery Club president and member of the University Hunting and Fishing Club, said that as an avid ice fisher, he sees spearfishing as a dying sport.

“It’s too bad, but there are just too many restrictions and with that a loss of interest in the sport,” he said.

Gil Schwartz, campaign coordinator for Compassionate Action for Animals, said there has been scientific research showing that most fish can feel pain, emotions and suffering.

“Spearfishers should consider the interest of the fish,” he said. “In Minnesota, there are so many fun activities besides putting a spear through a fish’s body.”

Schwartz said it is one thing to spear fish for survival tactics, but today’s outdoors enthusiast spear simply for entertainment.

He said that besides the animal welfare, human health concerns are also an issue.

“Most of the lakes in the metro area contain various pollutants and mercury which affect the fish,” he said.

Schwartz said People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society of the United States have Web sites dedicated to informing the public about fishing and the health and welfare issues.

Jerry Rudolph said he would like to be able to see the sport continue along with the traditions that go with it.

“I have had a lot of fun times with my buddies spearing and have many good stories to tell,” he said. “You just have to be there on the ice to appreciate it all.”

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