Ice spearing is still a fairly controversial subject. Some feel it takes too many large fish from a body of water, and that it isn't sporting. Proponents point out the long history and tradition of spearing. The following commentary, from Genio Scott's Fishing in American Waters (1869), is one of the early attacks against this practice.
Throughout the interior of our vast territory there is an ornamental tracery of running, sweet, and healthful waters, well supplied with food-fishes. The working of these waters is free to all fishermen, with the unimportant exception of a few depleted rivers, consequent on their having been overworked, but which are now being restocked and protected by legislative enactments during the process of recuperation. These are all near the sea-board. The lakes and lengthy rivers of the interior are still free; and where no regular fisheries are established,the inhabitants take what fresh fish they want, either with the angle, net, or spear. The poaching proclivity of some indolent persons has induced them to use the spear too freely in our small lakes during winter. In the State of New York there is a law against it, with fine and penalty attached, but it is still done in defiance of law. These poachers erect a board shanty on sleigh-runners, furnished with a foot-stove, and a hole in the ridge of the roof for the spear-handle. This shanty they draw out on the lake, cut a hole through the ice under it, lock the door, and commence spearing all the fish that come near their hole. If the constable raps at the door, no reply is meant to signify that the occupant is absent. Thus poachers squat in villages on our lakes in winter when the ice is thick, and spear the fish at a season when they are unwholesome for food. In Canada, for attracting the maskinonge to the spear, in one hand the poacher holds a line attached to an artificial minnow, which he keeps playing in the water, while with the other hand he holds the spear. The maskinonge darts to within a foot of the minnow, and, while hesitating there, the spear takes him.
-- Dr. Todd