OK, here it goes. You and your buddies plan a ice fishing trip somewhere and call ahead and reserve a fish house for the day. With anticipation, your group arrives on time to meet the guide at the bait shop and it is learned the house isn't ready for 15 more minutes--one of the guys grumbles being a little upset--"should've been ready". After a short wait and a hot cup of coffee, you are instructed by the guide or "resort helper" to "follow me" out to the house somewhere on the lake. After a short 10 minute ride---you see it in all its glory (it even has those heavenly lights around it)--your home away from home. You and your buddies get out of the truck and say "boy that was easy--lets fish!". That's far from the truth for the guys(s) running those fish houses.
Before you arrrived at you on-ice home, the preperation started in October while you were watching the Vikings lose. The rental houses are repaired, heaters checked, the heater fuel supplier is contacted, seals tightened, frames beefed up and any other welding is accomplished. Oh yeh, rattle reels spooled up, all the bait buckets checked for leaks, ice scoops counted, rods/reels spooled with new line, client tackle boxes filled with supplies, fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors checked--(any houses you ever rent have this stuff?--probably not). Even take the Hoover to the carpeted floor! Now its time to go down to the bait shop and get 10 ice house rental tags--ouch! The houses are not even out on the lake yet--but close.
Now comes the fun part--pre- fishing. Before any houses can be put out or clients even think about reserving a house, 20 good fishing spots need to be found for the 10 houses. These spots are not the same each year (although as most of you have found, most rental units are on the same spot each year). After a few hundred hours of "checking around" a "milk run" is set up--atleast for now. With 12" of good ice on the lake the houses are placed in various locations and depths. All of the houses are different shapes and colors so that "fish house leeches" cant benefit from all the hard work by identifying a rental service or resort. Infact, there will be no 4 lane highway plowed to the house-- to again keep "the leeches" from drilling holes in a perfectly good road, blocking the road with their new fish house, or driving to your front door and running a generator all day 10 ft from the rental house--fish love that--NOT. You see, there are reasons for everything if the clients are to actualy catch fish and not just sit out there and rot. --sound familiar? The frustration of providing good service to rental clients begins with the other ice anglers "mooching" your plan. Its no different than the guy who demands to drop anchor 20ft from your boat ruining the fishing for everyone.
So far, many many hours have been spent just getting that rental house to where it is. Some of the other beind the scenes are weather related. Just being able to access the house can be a trick. Keeping them full of fuel and warm can be a trick. What happenes when it snows 18" on 12" of ice and the wind is blowing 40 mph?--no good, that's what. Roads are almost impassible to the "good spots". Many times the houses will have to be brought in closer or "rescued" before they are drifted/iced/frozen in due to the water seeping up under the house. You may have experienced that issue with your own house on a litle lake, but imagine the nightmare of 10 houses 3-4 miles from shore. Yep, that's what happens--24 hours a day. So here comes the other fun part--house search and rescue during a whiteout / blizzard at midnight in the middle of nowhere. Oh yeh, than you get stuck--really stuck. Due to zero visibility and no hope of walking to shore without dying. A call is made via cell phone to a friend for help. With the help of GPS, you are rescued but the truck must stay over night frozen up to the axles in ice/water and slush. After hours pf peril and pain, all of the houses are sitting high and dry on shore--along with a 2 yr old frozen solid truck that will not move. Doesn't matter, the clients are on the way and cant wait to get into the fish house to catch some fish. Why wouldn't they, it was a beautiful day in the Twin Cities.
After a couple of "Hail Marys" and a little hot coffee, your rental house is back in action--only 15 minutes late! Little did you know what had happened getting the house to where it was placed. This situation was real as of the New Years blizzard in which my brother runs a very successful and fish catching rental/guide service in the Battle Lake area. Next time you rent a fish house think about all of the effort that goes into making your day fun and comfortable--and most off all-- try to apprectiate all of the behind the scenes effort that goes into helping you catch a walleye or perch with ease. Good luck! Capt. Josh.www.minnesotaguideservice.com