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'I ask myself every winter why I do this'

Sitting in Ben Harris' warmed, worn fish house, you can almost forget you are on the frozen Mississippi River - except for the fact that you can watch the river calmly flow by 300 feet ahead.

"I ask myself every winter why I do this," Harris said with laugh.

Still, he said a 20-year fascination with ice fishing has given him something to do during the cold months. He's a regular in the Upper Harbor, which freezes while the main channel stays fluid courtesy of current combined with warmed water released from the Prairie Island nuclear plant upstream.

The Red Wing native shares his fish house with a friend. They built the shanty about seven years ago, dragging it onto the ice around New Year's every season.

Harris said he usually spends four to five nights a week enjoying quiet time with fish-crazed black Labrador, Star, and, on this particular day Jan. 13, three crappies.

Although he prefers summer fishing to the winter sport, the weather extremes aren't an issue, he said. Harris works outdoors as a lineman for Xcel Energy during the day.

"It is either this or sitting at home," he said.

Stacy Bengs-Silverberg

Stacy Bengs has been a photojournalist at the Red Wing Republican Eagle since 2010. She holds a bachelors degree in journalism and art from the University of Minnesota.

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