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Spearfishing: The mother of invention

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You get a lot of time to think, hunched for hours in a chair over a spearfishing hole in a darkhouse.

Time to think about that spear — or that chair.

Yes, gazing into the underwater world of a Minnesota winter, it turns out, is the mother of invention. So it was with Loren Hjelle and Myron Isaacson.

Hjelle and Isaacson were among a dozen or so vendors on hand March 17 at Jack’s House in Brainerd for the ninth annual Brainerd Antique Sporting Collectibles and Fish Decoys Show.

Hjelle is owner of Hjelle Arc Custom Spears and Chisels out of New London. A director of the Minnesota Darkhouse & Anglers Association (MDAA) chapter in New London, he’s a lifelong spearer and a welding instructor at the Willmar campus of Ridgewater College, so making spears and chisels was a natural and he says he’s been doing it for as long as he can remember.

He’s always looking for ways to make a better spear and chisel, and ideas for those improvements have come in the darkhouse, he said. But using only the best material is one thing that has remained a constant for Hjelle. He scours the area for old metal pitchforks, fashioning the prongs into classic old-school spear heads. In fact, the spears are classic all the way down to the handcrafted wooden handles, which he “gets from the Amish” and puts the finishing touches on himself.

He said he spends about 40 hours on each spear. A five-pronged spear sells for about $190 and a seven-pronged spear for about $260, he said.

“I made more spears this past year than any other year,” he said of the demand for the hand-forged spears. He said he made about 20 in 2011, selling a few and giving away the rest. He said one spear he gave to the Minnesota Darkhouse Association to raffle for a fund-raiser sold for about $500. And, interestingly, a lot of younger folks — some who appeared to be in their mid- to late teens — showed an interest in the old-school spears at the show. When asked by Hjelle if he speared, one youth said “all the time.”

Like Hjelle, Isaacson is a longtime spearer. The owner of Isaacson Sales and Services, Inc. in Lafayette, which deals in agricultural and garden machinery and equipment, he said he’s also a bit of a tinkerer. That, and hours spent trying to get comfortable in a darkhouse chair, led to My Dream Chair.

Isaacson said he’s spent about six years perfecting the chair, which allows anglers to comfortably lean over the ice hole, providing chest, chin and arm rests. The arm and chin or neck rests can be turned around for use as a regular chair and the chair can also be used as a commode with biodegradeable bags. And, recently, Isaacson adapted it to hunting, creating a rotating base to which the chair attaches, allowing hunters to remain stationary yet turn toward the target.

The chair is simple in design, made mostly of PVC pipe and aluminum supports, and can be converted for its various uses in seconds and is collapsible.

Cost of the chair is about $140; the rotating adaptor for hunting, which is new, is about $190, Isaacson said, adding that he sells about 20 chairs a year, mostly at the handful of darkhouse-related shows across the state. His booth at the Brainerd show was a popular stop for the curious.

“I invented this chair because I wanted a chair to sit in all day and not have a sore back or neck,” said Isaacson, who registered the chair with the Minnesota Inventors Congress in 2009. “I love to spear and this chair enables me to sit right over the hole. And the chair is 22 inches long, so it works great in small houses.”

For more on the chair, go to or call (507) 228-8270. For more on Hjelle’s spears and chisels, call (320) 220-2935.

BRIAN S. PETERSON may be reached at or 855-5864. To follow him on Twitter, go to For his blogs, go to