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The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is seeking cooperation from anglers who need to act now to remove their fish shelters in the southern two-thirds of the state by 11:59 p.m. Monday, March 3.
For structures on lakes in the northern third of the state, the deadline is 11:59 p.m. Monday, March 17.
Shelters are required to be removed by the deadline and conservation officers will enforce that deadline except where shelter owners have made all reasonable efforts to remove the shelter but are not successful because of inaccessible travel conditions.
"We hope anglers understand they are going to face difficult conditions when they remove their fish houses this year," said Col. Ken Soring, director of the DNR's Enforcement Division. "We'll work with anglers who show due diligence to get their shelters off the lakes but we are urging everyone to take responsibility."
According to the DNR, there are some responsible options for removing shelters like enlisting the help of friends and locating equipment to make the job easier. This requires hard work and tenacity to remove or dismantle a stubbornly frozen fish shelter. Some people are also offering shelter removal for a fee.
At a minimum, shelter owners must ensure that unretrievable shelters are prepared for removal by raising and blocking the shelter up to prevent the bottom portion from becoming frozen in the ice. Once lake travel is possible, the entire structure and all other materials must be cleaned up to prevent littering and potentially ending up on someone's beach when the ice melts.
DNR conservation officers see everything from furniture and appliances, to tires and auto parts discarded on lakes at the end of the ice fishing season. Failure to remove the house may result in a fine of $125 plus court costs.
If shelters are not removed, owners will be prosecuted and structures may be confiscated or destroyed by a conservation officer. If the shelter is left on the ice for an extended period, a mandatory court appearance is required. The DNR is diligent about ticketing owners who fail to remove shelters or debris, and officers use GPS and photos to mark fish house locations.