Long a sport for the winter-hardy, ice fishing — which just now is beginning for the season in far northern Minnesota — might soon also attract those who insist on warmth and (relative) luxury with their cold-weather walleyes, crappies and sunnies.
The Grand Forks (Iowa) Herald reported that what began not many years ago as an experiment in mobile fishing houses built on retractable wheels has blossomed into a business with many competing manufacturers. Many were on display at the St. Paul Ice Fishing and Winter Sports Show last weekend.
Sarah Coates Lange, general manager of Coates RV Center near Forest Lake, which sells Salem ice cabins, said winter anglers have provided a big boost to her recreational vehicle trade, which slows in winter.
“The ice cabins have been very, very popular,” Lange said. “They’re made to RV specifications, and we outfit about half the units we sell with air conditioners, so they can be used in summer as travel trailers.”
Manufactured by Elkhart, Ind.-based Forest River Inc., a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Co., Salem ice cabins range from 14 to 20 feet, with show prices from $11,000 to $16,500.
Other mobile winter-fishing house builders also were at the show, including Ice Castle of Montevideo, Minn., the largest manufacturer of ice “homes,” with sizes ranging to 24 feet and Custom Cottages, which builds “hunting, fishing, camping mobile shelters” of aluminum alloy frames and shells, also displayed at the show.
Lighter, less expensive and more portable fabric fishing shelters manufactured by Clam, Eskimo and Frabill (plenty of each were at the show) offer winter anglers more flexibility in their hunts for fish through the ice.
And Canvas Craft, headquartered in the northwest Twin Cities suburbs, was exhibiting fabric fishing shelters whose walls and ceiling include Thinsulate insulation. Noteworthy is its Northlander all-terrain trailer ($2,795), which converts from ATV hauler to ice fishing shelter, hunting blind or utility trailer.