Drive onto a frozen lake to a village of tiny houses that materializes in the dead of winter, drop a line through a hole drilled in the ice, and wait for a fish to bite. To the uninitiated, this odd ritual is evidence that those who live in the land known as The North engage in truly inexplicable winter amusements. But for Minnesotans dedicated to outdoors sports, ice fishing is just one more way to enjoy winter. Jerrid Voss (right) is one of them: He’s been open-water and ice fishing since he was a kid in a small town in southern Minnesota.Though he now lives in Minneapolis with wife Brooke, chocolate lab, Miss Kato, and black lab, Birdie, he remains an active sportsman. Fortunately, it’s a scant 20 minutes from the Vosses’ North Loop condo to Lake Minnetonka, where they spend many of their January and February weekends since they completed their comfy fish house two years ago.
The 6.5-foot-by-15-foot, 2,800-pound structure, custom built by the late Dick Sawatzke and Jerrid, is large enough to hold several anglers, yet small enough to be hauled out on Wayzata Bay by an ATV. Size and weight are important considerations when you’re waiting for the ice to thicken, says Jerrid.
“No ice is safe ice,” he cautions, “especially on Minnetonka early in the season.” The lake is notorious for currents and channels that weaken the ice and endanger the careless or the ignorant. Jerrid is neither: The ice must be 1-foot thick before he takes out his fish house.
For Jerrid, an avid fisherman, the house is home most January and February weekends and even—when there’s a change in the barometer and fish are more likely biting—during the week from 3:30 a.m. to 6:30 a.m., until he heads to work at 8:30 a.m. Brooke, a Minneapolis interior designer known for her vibrant, distinctive work, is not quite as enthusiastic. But she’s out there most weekends, with dogs, magazines, and blankets in tow.
She enjoys the community that forms on the ice. “You’re totally injected into the culture of being out there on the lake,” she says. “If we make big pot of chili or something, we always bring a mug to people fishing in one of those little tents [a step up from the hard-core practice of sitting on a bucket out in the open]. It’s so fun being out there.”
And, of course, Brooke has made, ahem, a few adjustments to Jerrid’s fish house. “As he was building it, he would ask me for little pieces of advice as he picked the countertop material and finishes for the cabinetry,” she recalls. After it was built, “we were sitting out there one day, and I said, ‘You know, we could make this look really cute.’ He just looked at me and said, ‘No way.’”
Realizing her mistake, she quickly backtracked: “It could be really cool—we could make it look like a little Ralph Lauren cabin,” she said. Slowly she sold Jerrid on the idea. She put together a presentation board for the project, and, as the client, he scrutinized every item carefully. The Sanborn paddle and antlers convinced him to give Brooke a little more leeway, especially after his fishing buddies gave a hearty thumbs-up as the finishes were installed. His one special request: the fox pelt that hangs by the bunk, which she found at Game Fair in Anoka.
‘We could make it look like a little Ralph Lauren cabin.’
Now complete, the rustic-but-chic interior sports benches covered in Ralph Lauren Home’s Munnings hound’s tooth tweed, hair-on-hide for the cushion and insets in the pine cabinet, fur blankets, and buffalo-plaid wallpaper. Two bunks, a table, a rug, a stool, and plenty of pillows round out the furnishings.
Contrary to what you might expect, they don’t spend their time on the ice freezing or immobilized under layers of down. The propane-powered, forced-air 16,000 BTU heater keeps the place comfy, no matter how frigid it is outside, and a 2000-watt generator provides additional creature comforts—lights, a hot plate, satellite TV, and a stereo system. “We can stream Netflix and movies through our phones out there, and hook up to the TV,” says Jerrid.
They also take in the sights of the frozen landscape. Riding their Fatback bikes, snow bikes designed in Alaska with 4-inch wide tires, they see Minnetonka’s shoreline and its impressive residences from a lakeside perspective. Then there are the winter sunsets with the sweet, golden light that fades into crystal-clear nights. All in all, not a bad way to pass January.