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Finding Minnesota: Busy Bar On Frozen Lake

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77654_Mike Binkley WEB Mike Binkley
Mike Binkley has been covering Minnesota news for more than 25 ye...
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PELICAN RAPIDS, Minn. (WCCO) — With more than 10,000 lakes, Minnesota has thousands of lakeside bars and restaurants. This time of year, though, there’s a bar in west-central Minnesota that’s actually on a lake.

It’s known as Hillbillies Ice Hole, and it’s on the northern end of Lake Lida, about 300 yards from the public access point.

Minnesotans have never let a couple feet of ice get between them and their fish, which is why fish house “neighborhoods” sprout up on frozen lakes. They’re makeshift towns, in a way, that may not have a town hall, but on Lake Lida, at least, there’s a fully stocked bar.

Bryce Heaton of Pelican Rapids has visited several times.

“Well, I think you’ve got to have one drink per fish you catch,” he said.

It’s a handy escape for those who’ve been holed up, trying to snag a walleye. And no one needs to stop fishing while they’re there.

There are several holes in the bar’s floor. No extra charge if you pull something up.

“Oh we’ve caught walleyes in here,” Richard Milbeck said, “northern, panfish, sunnies and crappies.”

Josie Norgren is the owner. She grew up in the hills of west central Minnesota, where her family sells bait.

She owns Hillbillies Vittles and Brew, a bar in the small town of Erhard, and that’s what led to the smaller scale version on Lake Lida.

“We live in the sticks up here, up north,” she said. “We do crazy things like this.”

It’s open only in January and February and only on Fridays and Saturdays.

Everything is hauled in, in the morning, and hauled away at night.

“We can’t leave anything here,” Norgren said. “We totally empty this place out at the end of the night.”

In its first two-and-a half years, word of the Ice Hole has spread to the point that some people who don’t even fish, still turn out.

“We’ve snowmobiled out here plenty of times,” said Jordin Borders of Erhard.

“It’s not that far from town,” said Darin Dillon of Erhard, “and it’s not far from the trails, swing right out.”

And they can catch some pretty tall tales here, of what’s happening on the ice.

People elsewhere might not believe this is real, but it was an idea — a big one — that didn’t get away.

If you have a Finding Minnesota idea, let us know here.

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