FAIRMONT - Fishing enthusiasts must remove their ice houses soon or face losing the shelter, said Eric Schettler, Fairmont conservation officer for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
"Shelters must be off inland waters by midnight March 3," he said.
That deadline is effective for most of Minnesota; Schettler said that north of a line from Moorhead to Duluth the deadline is March 17.
The date changes a little each year, but usually coincides with a weekend to give people time to move the shelters, he said.
The deadline does not mean an end to ice fishing, Schettler said.
Fishermen can still set up their ice houses on the lake during the day, as long as they remove them that night.
"It can remain on the ice between midnight and sunrise if somebody's in it," Schettler said. "That's the only exception."
If a shelter is left out with no one in it, it could get costly for the fisherman.
"We'll seize them and they are forfeited, including all contents," Schettler said, adding the DNR can destroy the houses. "They're on public waters and they are in violation of the law."
The owners can also be ticketed and fined, but Schettler figured the loss of the houses and gear would be more expensive.
Safety is the reason the ice houses must be removed, and it's governed by state law and by order of the commissioner of the DNR, Schettler said. The deadline stays in place regardless of what kind of winter it's been, so the fact this winter has been very cold doesn't make a difference.
He's not worried at all about compliance.
"Normally, we don't have an issue," Schettler said. "I've been warden since 2005 and I've never had an issue. People have been really good about it."
For more information, people can visit the DNR website at mndnr.gov and click on fishing, then click on regulations to access the entire 2013 Fishing Regulations book, which has the latest updates.