State supreme court upholds fish house ruling
By Ashley H Grant
ST. PAUL -- Arguments that fishing is a regulated activity didn't hold water with the Minnesota Supreme Court, which Thursday upheld a decision that forces conservation officers to get permission before entering ice-fishing houses to check for violations.
"The occupant of a fish house is entitled to the protections against unreasonable search and seizure afforded by our federal and state constitutions," Justice Edward Stringer wrote in the court's unanimous opinion.
The ruling stemmed from a Rice County case in which a conservation officer, doing a routine spot check, entered an ice-fishing house and eventually charged an angler with fishing with an extra line and possession of marijuana.
Those charges were dismissed in district court on the grounds that the officer violated the defendant's right to privacy.
Since then, the Department of Natural Resources' conservation officers have needed probable cause or permission to enter ice-fishing houses. And as the word spread about the court rulings, anglers have begun to refuse.
"Late winter, we were getting turned away," said Scott Fritz, the officer involved in the Rice County case.
It's only a few people who blatantly abuse the regulations, Fritz said. The rest of the population is relatively honest and easily deterred from breaking game and fish laws by the thought of getting caught.
"What this decision does is to put temptation in front of the honest person," Fritz said.