Forget about sitting on an overturned bucket over a small, round hole in the lake ice.
Instead think about cathedral ceilings, faux log siding, decorative window dressings and wallpaper borders, front porches and carpeted interiors.
In fact, after viewing a row of not-so-ordinary fish houses, that bucket will pale in comparison. But the chance of ice fishing in style can be had for a $2 raffle ticket.
The Mid-Minnesota Builders Association and Brainerd Area Sertoma are offering the Ultimate Fish House Contest Raffle. Proceeds will benefit the MMBA Scholarship Fund and the Sertoma Foundation.
Fish net accented windows and wallpaper border completed the theme in the Energy Star Builder's Inc. fish house. The house is light weight with insulated paneling.
For organizers it was a way to blend MMBA builders' talents with fund-raising abilities of Sertoma members in a new project.
Laura Beilke, MMBA, said raffle ticket sales have been going well and it was a new way for the two groups to work together. Five homes will be raffled. One will be held for the MMBA Home and Patio Show. The houses are parked in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Baxter through this weekend.
Contest judge Jerry Walseth, Brainerd School District superintendent, toured the houses on a warm, sunny Wednesday morning.
"They were absolutely incredible," Walseth said. Even thin ice is not too much of a concern for one house with structural insulated paneling, foam insulation and an ability to float on water.
Ice fishing could be done from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. or at least a mock-up of the White House built by the Mid-Minnesota Builders Association past presidents.
Contest judge Ted Takasaki, president and chief executive officer of Lindy Little Joe, said judging for the contest will be close.
"Those were some incredible fish houses," Takasaki said. As CEO of a business known for its fishing tackle, Takasaki has been in his share of fish houses.
Takasaki grew up in central Illinois and said he had never seen anything like the Minnesota ice fishing experience with snow-plowed roads on lakes and heated fish houses.
"That is a sight to behold," he said. "I think people in Minnesota are just used to it. It's just second nature. Three years ago I had never seen anything like what goes on here on a regular basis. That in itself is just unique and interesting in itself."
The Brainerd Noon Sertoma Club constructed a fish house to mimic the prow of upturned canoe. The curving wood posed a challenge for builders but created a striking appearance.
Takasaki said he's fished in houses that were four sheets of plywood with a propane heater, portable houses and large ones complete with bunk beds and generators for TVs.
"It's very unique to Minnesota from what I've seen," Takasaki said.
Takasaki said he appreciated the complete finish on the houses and would not mind owning any of them.
Companies provided labor while sponsors either donated materials or money to buy needed items. Participants could be members of Sertoma or the MMBA. Raffle proceeds will be split in half between both groups.
ABC Seamless' fish house resembles a tiny log home complete with front porch. The fish house will be raffled later at the Mid-Minnesota Builders Association Home and Patio Show.
Builders were given a general rule to follow. Fish houses could not be bigger than 8 feet by 10 feet. Completed fish houses needed to be transportable by a half-ton pickup truck.
Contest judges included Colin MacDonald, Power Loon radio; Mary Gottsch, Brainerd Lakes Area Chambers of Commerce; and Pam Swanson, city of Baxter. Judges awarded points for creativity, workmanship, resource materials, design functionality and uniqueness.
The first-place winner gains a 20-foot by 20-foot MMBA Home and Patio Show booth. Raffle winners will be announced Feb. 26 at the MMBA general membership meeting.
The fish houses will be moved to area sponsor banks and the Ace Hardware parking lot. Raffle tickets are available at The Light Depot, Ace Hardware, Koep's Pro Shop, the MMBA office and on the ice the day of the Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza.
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