Bar on the rocksPublished 11:40am Tuesday, February 5, 2013 Updated 11:41am Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Combining two favorite Minnesota winter activities, Hillbilies Ice Hole Bar gives patrons a chance to fish on a frozen lake while being served a beer or cocktail.
A wide ice road leads from a public access parking lot to the Ice Hole Bar, a few hundred yards off the northeastern shore of Lake Lida, just a few miles past Pelican Rapids. And while the location and the fishing might be unique, the B.S. is just about the same as you’d find in any good-time pub.
“Oh shoot, you’re from the paper, don’t tell my wife I’m here — I’m supposed to be fishing,” jokes one patron, providing a variety of names, none of which seemed to be his own.
While the bar is surrounded by about 100 fish houses, many coming in the door Friday evening were there for the novelty. Mark Jacobs said to tell his boss he was just taking a break after a long afternoon of plowing snow. He’s actually the owner of North Country Lawns in Fergus Falls, and his buddy Brice had brought him up to the Ice Hole Bar for a birthday drink.
Looking for something different to do on a romantic evening? John Mansager brought his date, Katie Tillisch, to the Ice Hole before heading out to his fish house on Lake Lida.
“We stopped by for a couple of cocktails because it’s something fun to do,” said Tillisch, who is new to ice fishing this year. “So far I’ve only caught a little walleye, nothing big enough to keep.”
Chris Haugen, a businessman from Fargo, co-owns the establishment with Josie Norgren, owner of Hillbilies Vittles and Brew in Erhard. Norgren had the liquor license needed to open the Ice Hole. The restaurant in Erhard is also benefiting from the Ice Hole Bar.
“We’ve seen a few more people from out of town come in the restaurant,” said Norgren. “There’s really nothing like it (the Ice Hole) around.”
The structure itself is quite a feat. Custom built by Environmental Control Systems Incorporated in Pelican Rapids, the spacious ice angling bar can accommodate over 20 patrons, and has Direct TV for the latest games and scores. The bar name spans the interior in custom metal work.
“We normally build side-gated trailers for dump trucks,” said Darvin Nehk of ECSI. “But we can build just about anything.”
An outside generator provides electricity for lights and heat, keeping the bar toasty and the frost off the ice holes, which are cleared for fishing each day before opening. While there wasn’t a lot of fishing going on Friday evening, there was a lot good-natured jokes among friends old and new.
Hillbillies Ice Hole Bar, which usually has a crock pot of chili or soup, pre-made sandwhiches, canned beer and an assortment of hard liquor for cocktails, is open 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday through the end of February.