Norway Lake resort brings northern Minnesota ice fishing amenities closer to home (video)
NEW LONDON — When the Good Lord gives you ice, a good Minnesotan goes ice fishing.
A rural New London resort is making it easy to keep that commandment by offering winter ice fishing amenities usually only found on northern Minnesota lakes.
Sunset Shores Resort on Norway Lake augments their business by renting out three large ice houses to die-hard anglers or first-timers who want to give the sport a try.
It’s common for northern Minnesota resorts to rent heated ice houses but it’s rare in the southern half of the state, said Bob Schimerowski, who owns and operates the family business with his wife, Chris, and their five children.
“Around here, I don’t think anybody else is doing it,” Schimerowski said, adding that out-of-state anglers like having a closer option that lets them spend more time fishing and less time driving further north.
The heated ice houses at Sunset Shores include beds for optional overnight stays, indoor cook stoves and outdoor grills.
The largest, 10-feet-by-24-feet structure, has 12 fishing holes, six bunk beds and a bathroom.
Each of the two smaller units has eight fish holes and four bunks.
When anglers arrive the houses are warmed up and the holes are drilled out.
“You can have it 85 degrees in there if you want,” Schimerowski said.
Customers bring their own sleeping bags, fishing poles and bait. The resort has depth finders and fish finders with underwater cameras to rent out and TVs are provided if requested.
The ice houses have attracted large and small groups, he said.
Earlier this month nine Iowans who belong to the 200-member “Ames Anglers” fishing club spent the weekend fishing in the ice houses.
It was their second winter weekend here.
“Beautiful accommodations,” said Rodney Flickinger, who organized the Iowa trip to Minnesota. “I think the guys really want to go back again.”
Flickinger said he looked at similar ice fishing packages around Mille Lacs Lake but said the higher cost and the extra 2½ hours in the vehicle put it out of reach for his group.
Sunset Shores charges $35 a person for a 24-hour period for the ice houses.
Customers have the option of sleeping in one of the resort’s winterized cabins rather than the fish houses. That combo package is $59 a person a day for a minimum of four people.
“It’s a great deal,” said Flickinger. “Our host was very accommodating.”
Schimerowski, who is also the U.S. Research Seed Manager for Pannar Seed that’s based in South Africa but has an office in Olivia, purchased the resort in 2005 and began turning the seasonal business into a year-round resort.
He began offering the ice houses primarily because he “likes ice fishing so much” with his kids and he wanted to make that opportunity available to others.
He refurbished cold seed storage units into the fish houses.
Schimerowski said he gets groups from Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Minneapolis, as well as people from South African or Europe, in Minnesota on business with the seed company he works for.
“You meet a lot of neat people and have a lot of fun,” he said.
For most of the world travelers it’s the first time they’ve been on a frozen lake.
“They’ve heard about people driving on the ice and they want to go out and experience that and fish through 20 inches of ice is really a nice experience,” he said.
The recent cold weather has resulted in a thick layer of ice on Norway Lake and has made heated ice houses very attractive.
Schimerowski said Norway Lake has been pretty consistent in giving up some walleye and crappies this winter.
That doesn’t mean fish are caught every time.
Flickinger said the “fishing was great” when his group was here this month. “But the catching left a little to be desired,” he said, with a laugh.