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Ice-fishing bar returns to Lake Lida for a second year

Angie Spilde, the manager of Hillbillies Ice Hole Bar on the ice of North Lida Lake, stands in the bar Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, east of Pelican Rapids, Minn. The building splits in half for transportation on and off the ice and sports eight fishing holes. The bar is open from 3 p.m to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays and noon-6 Sundays.Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

NORTH LAKE LIDA, Minn. - A novelty nightspot that made a splashy debut on North Lake Lida last winter is back and bigger than before.

Hillbillies Ice Hole opened last weekend on the frozen expanse of North Lake Lida and despite frigid temperatures, it drew crowds, owner Josie Norgren said.

"It went great," Norgren said. "Even with the cold weather, we had a good turnout."

This year's incarnation of the Ice Hole is about twice as big as the oversized ice house that went up last year, and it is a little bit farther from shore, Norgren said.

But, she added, it's still a safe place to be, as lake ice was 18 inches deep when they set things up.

Like last year, the bar features working fishing holes (there are eight this year) and a menu that varies from chili and cornbread to soup.

Norgren opened the bar last year with a business partner, Chris Haugen.

Haugen provided the building and Norgren, who operates Hillbillies Vittles and Brew in Erhard, Minn., supplied the liquor license.

Norgren said this year she decided to go it on her own. As far as staffing goes, she said patrons of the Ice Hole will probably recognize workers from the bar in Erhard.

While business at the Ice Hole has been good, the fishing could be better, Norgren said.

"We have caught three fish out of the house," Norgren said Monday, adding that the only problem to crop up over the weekend had to do with the generator that provides the building with power.

She said that has been fixed and things should run smoother when it opens for the weekend this afternoon.

The business uses a propane heater for warmth.

One thing Norgren would like to see more of is snow, so they can pile it around the building.

Extra insulation, she said, would help prevent the fishing holes from icing up.

"Overnight they freeze up," she said.

The bar is open Fridays and Saturdays from 3 p.m. to closing, which can be as late as 2 a.m. Sunday hours are from noon to 6 p.m.

Finding the bar isn't difficult.

Just head for the public access on the north side of North Lida Lake (located just off County Highway 4), and follow the tire tracks heading out on the ice.

Ice depth on the lake is checked regularly to make sure travel remains safe, Norgren said.

And the bar itself has posed no specific enforcement problems for the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Office, said Sgt. Jim Stewart, who said that goes for both this year and last year.

Similar to last year, the bar will have to be dismantled and removed from the lake by Feb. 28, which is the deadline for all fish houses to be off the lake.