After talking up darkhouse angling for months, the time was finally right for Spartan Angling to take it to the ice on O’brien Reservoir. Spartan Angling is a class at Nashwauk High School that teaches the art and science of Minnesota angling. Originally started on an R3 (Angler Recruitment, Retention, and Re-activation) from the MN DNR, the class has exploded in popularity among students at Nashwauk High School. Students learn fish behavior, fish species and biology, seasonal migration, reading contour maps, interpreting gill net surveys, conservation, rod building, invasive species, shoreline management, and much more! The class aims to create stewards of waterways for generations to come and instill a lifelong bug to fish.
Originally partnered with the Grand Rapids MDAA Chapter (Rick Guertin), it has been a while since the class has speared thanks to Covid-19. Rick originally met with our class a few years back, and showed kids the ropes on Jay Gould Lake. Ever since then, students have seen the pictures, watched the videos, and have been begging to go try their luck at dark house angling. Finally the day was scheduled for mid December prior to students’ holiday vacation.
O’Brien Reservoir lies between Keewatin and Nashwauk on Minnesota’s famous Iron Range. The reservoir was created by damming up the historical O’Brien Brook, when the new double lane Highway 169 was created in the 1970’s. O’Brien Reservoir holds northern pike, walleye, bass, panfish, crappies, and surprisingly nice perch. It also acts as a flowage for dewatering of the U.S. Steel’s Keetac’s mine pits, so the water stays very clear, perfect for spearing.
We set up near the public beach over a weed bed in 8 feet of water. Great clarity for viewing and an oncoming weather front hopefully will send the pike into a frenzy for the day. We were equipped with spears from Dream Outdoors (Rod Havens out of Michigan) and ice saws to cut out underwater television screens. Kids were eager to ice saw like crazy, but soon were handing off the saws to each other after feeling the burns in their biceps. Upon cutting the holes, our Clam Spearfishers were erected and students deployed the decoys and live suckers. Students were prepared in the class prior to arriving and knew where to aim and how to send the spear into the water. As I was outside banking in the house, screams of excitement were coming out of one house, as the first pike entered the hole. Carter drew the first try, and struck the pike. He was immediately an Instragam hero as the video of the event was uploaded as the fish was still breathing. More fish entered the hole and more first fish were speared by the anglers. The thrill of the hunt was on as the pike took center stage for the underwater circus.
All in all, it was a great experience for the students. Many first fish were speared and anglers learned how to properly pick a location, cut a hole, set up a house, deploy lines, and spear fish. Lifelong spear fishermen were made on this day! Spartan Angling is always in need of angler gear, especially spearing equipment. Please see our website for more of what we do and how to donate to the program. Our website is www.spartanangling.com and the contact is Luke Adam: firstname.lastname@example.org or 218.969.5517. We make slimy memories for kids!