By Doug Bucha
As the temperatures drop, we start to think of the upcoming ice fishing season.
However, one method of ice fishing that is seldom remembered is spearing fish beneath holes cut in the ice.
Historically, spearing goes back centuries to Native Americans and most of the methods they used would still apply today.
They may have used something as simple as a sharpened stick as their spear and they also used some type of decoy to lure the fish to their hole in the ice.
Today we use multi-pronged, hand-forged, weighted spears that are forged of steel. Smaller, lightweight spears would be used to spear smaller fish, such as perch; heavy spears would be used for Pike and musky, and because of the sturgeon’s armored backs, very heavy spears would be used.
Old hand-forged spears are bringing good prices from collectors today and even higher prices are being paid for spears that have a blacksmith’s mark on them.
Decoys, designed to attract fish to the hole where ice spearers could get them, have become even greater prizes to collectors. Some handmade folk-art decoys, made by famous carvers, can bring thousands of dollars while factory made decoys can bring hundreds.
In the 1920’s and 30’s most major lure manufacturing companies such as Heddon, Paw Paw, Creek Chub and South Bend offered decoys in their catalogs.
Today the South Bend and Creek Chub decoys demand higher prices because of their greater scarcity. Being able to identify these decoys can be a challenge.
Another often overlooked tool used in spearing is the small Jigging Stick.
Hand-carved sticks that have a very “folk art” look to them have also become very collectable.
(If you have any questions about how to identify folk art decoys or any other antique ice fishing gear, write Bucha at firstname.lastname@example.org)