FOXHOLM - Darkhouse spearfishing seems to increase in popularity each winter. One reason why may be the abundance of northern pike in the state. Pike are a favorite target for spearfishing.
Spearing requires the cutting of a large hole in the ice, usually about 2 feet by 4 feet. With a shelter over the top to cut the glare of the sun, darkhouse spear fishermen can easily see into the clear water below. A wooden fish decoy is used to attract northern pike.
It can be an exhilarating experience watching a pike approach the decoy. Overhead, an anxious spear fisherman must wait until the right moment to release a heavy trident. If all goes well a northern pike will be brought to the surface.
"It is fun and kinda cool," said Ryan Ross, Berthold, with trident in hand. "You get to watch the fish. I like it better than ice fishing because of that. There's a lot of action."
Ross and two fishing partners were seated inside a portable ice shelter this past Thursday on the Souris River below Lake Darling Dam. They had only been there a few minutes but had already seen one pike swimming in the clear water below.
"It's fun and there's really nothing better to do today," said Adam Knudsvig, Berthold. "We had been doing pretty good at our other spot but just decided to see if it's any better here at the dam."
Knudsvig was handling the movement of the decoy. Darkhouse spearfishing generally requires some teamwork. When more than one fisherman is involved, a rotation system is the norm so that each fisherman will get a chance with the spear and the decoy.
"This is my first time spearfishing. I'm just seeing how it's done," said Tyler Kolden, Williston, while seated inside the spearfishing shelter with Ross and Knudsvig. "It is pretty cool. We saw one fish but had no chances."
"It's very clear. Some days we just sit, some days you have to move the decoy to get them to come," said Ross.
The trio of fishermen were trying their luck in about 5 feet of water. The bottom was easily visible even though about 100 cubic feet per second of water was being released from Lake Darling Dam about 200 yards upstream.
On the river, and above on Lake Darling, many markers were visible on the ice. The markers are required to mark locations where darkhouse spearfishing holes had been previously cut. The North Dakota Fishing Guide states that such holes "must be adequately marked by the spearer with a natural object or a brightly painted or colored wooden lath. Markers must be visible from a minimum of 150 feet."
Darkhouse spearfishing is allowed in North Dakota from Dec. 1 through March 15 of each fishing year. Only northern pike and non-game fish may be taken. Not all waters are open to spearfishing. Fishermen should consult the 2012-2014 N.D. Fishing Guide for a complete list of regulations.