Spearfishing began as a traditional fishing method in use throughout the world, and has been practiced by many indigenous civilizations for centuries. The sport has grown and changed in our modern world to utilize many tools and a variety of spearfishing techniques, and is practiced in different ways in various environments and seasons.
Spearfishing in shallow waters may be practiced with minimal shore diving gear such as a snorkel, goggles, and an elastic-powered speargun or sling. In shallow water spearfishing, no bait is used, and the stealth and aim of the fisherman decides the fishes’ fate. A number of states allow river and lake spearfishing, but the species of fish that can be caught in this way is often restricted to “rough fish” such as carp, gar, and bullheads. In Minnesota, crappies, bass, catfish and walleyes can be speared.
There is also a winter fishing tradition in Minnesota called darkhouse spearfishing, which is an old ice fishing method. In winter lake spearfishing, a darkhouse spearfisher cuts a large hole in the ice and places a heated, portable ice shelter directly over the hole. He then suspends either live baits or artificial decoys in the water to attract fish – usually northern pike – to within spearing distance, and then spears the catch with a speargun or a polespear. This technique is called darkhouse spearfishing because the shelter (darkhouse) creates low light levels so that the spearfisher can see the fish approaching in the water below before the fish sees him.
Minnesota’s darkhouse spearing season begins in mid-November and ends on the final Sunday in February each year.