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Residents of Ice City Have Different Angle

January 29, 1989

WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minn. (AP) _ Neighbors play touch football, the pizza delivery van makes its rounds and people who drive too fast get tickets - from sheriff’s deputies aboard snowmobiles.

For three months each year, just 10 miles from downtown St. Paul, hundreds of people sit on the frozen White Bear Lake for hours, even days at a time. Some are outside, others are snug in fish houses, makeshift structures to protect anglers from the wind, warmed by wood stoves or propane heaters.

By mid-January, nearly 350 plywood shacks are scattered across the lake, most clumped into several small villages. Rutted roads lead to populated points on the ice, fanning out from about six points on the shore. A speed limit of 35 mph is enforced by sheriff’s deputies on their snowmobiles.

The shacks are grouped into villages for several reasons: safety from vandalism, easy access from the main roads and the belief that if everyone else is fishing at a certain spot, it must be good.

But the community disappears each spring when the nearly two feet of ice underneath it melts.

Brad Stanius, a legislator from White Bear Lake and a well-known angler, said he can’t set up a permanent house on the lake or hundreds of people would drill their fishing holes nearby.

″They’d assume I know the right spots,″ he said. He uses a portable house instead that can be set up in minutes.

In one corner of Steve Bruski’s house near shore are his provisions: doughnuts, chocolate milk and a couple of cans of Pepsi. An 18-by-24-inch fishing hole is in another corner.

Bruski, of St. Paul, and his friends keep two snowmobiles nearby so they can dash around the lake when the fishing is slow. On White Bear, there’s always a flurry of non-fishing social activity.

Four-wheel-drive vehicles and snowmobiles race by at all hours. Cross- country skiers glide past silently. Planes fly low over the lake to check out the action.

Domino’s delivers pizzas on the ice during the day, but won’t go out at night because drivers have trouble identifying specific dwellings.

Rich VonDeLinde and Jim Fincel like to come out on New Year’s Day and Super Bowl Sunday, hook a television set to a battery and watch the games.

VonDeLinde built his house several years ago, using discarded office partitions. There’s a propane heater against one wall, a coat rack and a shelf near the door, light green carpeting on the wooden floor. It’s larger than most shacks, about 12 by 6 feet.

A skylight in the ceiling is the latest improvement. There are plans for two electric lights next year, to be powered by a marine battery.

When they’re waiting for the fish to bite, VonDeLinde and Fincel play cribbage atop a plywood sheet over a plastic bucket.

Last week, the news spread quickly when someone pulled a big northern pike out of the lake.

Ken Matheson at the bait shop heard it was a 28-pounder. Twenty-six, said an angler in the village of icehouses just north of Manitou Island. ″About 20 pounds is what I heard,″ said a spear fisherman near Bellaire Beach.

Maybe it was actually a 15-pounder that grew and grew in the telling. It doesn’t really matter to the citizenry on the lake.

″Legends - that’s what’s fishing’s all about,″ said Matheson. ″It’s 10 percent fishing and 90 percent talking.″

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