Uncategorized

CREATING THE FISH HOUSE OF OUR DREAMS

Thank you to Camping World for sponsoring this post as well as the fish house you’re about to see and read all about below!

Since becoming first-time fish house RVers, we’ve gone from a family of two plus a dog to a family of four plus a dog. We’ve been busy! 🙂 The Lil Hotdish feels extra cramped these days. Sadly, it’s no longer roadworthy which led us to grand plans in 2021 to convert a new retro RV into a fish house similar to the Lil Hotdish with dropdown axles and ice fishing holes. But after going back and forth on our conversion plans and realizing it’s going to be an incredibly challenging project, we started searching for an actual fish house RV.

For those of you who are new to fish house RVs, fish houses or ice houses are camper trailers made for ice fishing and camping in the winter. It’s insulated for cold weather, has holes on the floor for ice fishing and the RV frame drops down so that the fish house can sit directly on the ice.

Vintage fish house camper at Eelpout Festival
The Lil Hotdish back in its heyday

Here’s a list of must-haves for our dream fish house:

  • Weighs less than 5000 pounds so we can tow it with our Toyota Highlander (although we did end up trading it in for a Chevy Silverado later anyway)
  • Under 20 feet long because that’s what we are comfortable towing
  • Enough beds for the whole family or for hosting friends (3-4 beds depending on the size)
  • At least one bed that’s 7 feet long for my 6’4″ husband
  • Open space for a pack ‘n play or two

We found our dream fish house, almost!

Cue Camping World of Baxter, Minnesota and a used 2015 Glacier Rage’n Ice House. The Glacier Rage’n was nearly perfect as-is. It’s 16 feet long, 8 feet wide, weighs 4200 pounds, has two beds (a jack-knife and a dinette booth bed) that are about 7 feet long, comes with plenty of open space for a couple of pack ‘n plays and even has a microwave, oven and range, plus electric hydraulic axles – a major step up from our manual hand crank axles! However, the beds would fit 2-3 people max and this 7-year-old fish house came with rust, scuffs and scratches. But nearly perfect!

It’s no secret Camping World is known for RVs, but did you know it’s also known for parts and RV services? And luckily for us, Camping World of Baxter (and nearly every Camping World location) has a Service Center that can take on any RV project including electrical work, product installation, collision and damage repairs, renovation updates to cabinetry, flooring, wallpaper, appliances, furniture, mattresses, etc.

So I met with the service director (shoutout and double high-fives to Ben) and explained what I needed:

  • Two additional jack-knife bunk beds for a total of four beds
  • Double check water damage we had noticed inside by one of the windows

Renovations begin at Camping World

After leaving it in the hands of the talented technicians at the Service Center at Camping World of Baxter, I received some good news and bad news. First the bad news: the water damage was from unsealed wheel wells which led to major wood rot over the last six years. The good news, not only can the Service Center build completely new wheel wells and install them, but they can build custom jack-knife beds to fit perfectly in this 16×8 fish house without compromising on space and while they’re at it, they can add an updated facade to the back of the beds to brighten up the space.

While I am all for DIY projects, this is not one of those projects I wish to do myself. We can wallpaper, paint, add shelves and even build-in sinks, but when it comes to structural integrity and custom beds that are attached to walls, we don’t have the time, energy or expertise to do a quality job. That’s why we were so excited to partner with Camping World to get this big renovation project done.

When I visited Camping World a week later, our technician Troy had already removed the old rotten wheel wells and created new ones. He’d then go on to install them, add new black diamond plating, seal it so that the same issue with water damage doesn’t happen again and create a white wood facade countertop inside the fish house where the wheel wells are.

Then come the jack-knife bunk beds. They were custom created to fit against the two walls above the wheel wells. Because of the location of the windows and studs, we settled for beds that were about 66 inches (5.5 feet) long and 30 inches wide. Ideally, they would’ve been at least 6 feet long, but the windows and studs forced us to compromise. Plus, we envisioned our kids typically sleeping in these anyway. The bunks also fold up and down easily and lock in place. Camping World cut out custom foam mattresses to fit these particularly sized beds – something that would’ve been nearly impossible to shop for.

Alright. Now the moment we’ve all been waiting for (mostly me)! Ready for the before and after?!

The big reveal is here!

Can you believe how good and functional this looks?! I firmly believe that this is the most efficient use of space in the fish house for our family of four. Not only is it a great use of space, but it looks good too. I love the white wood panels that Camping World installed on the backs of the jack-knife bunks and countertops. I’m told Troy used to work in cabinetry. His craftsmanship truly shows with those angled cuts! The white brightens up the space while giving it a cozy, updated look.

The wheel wells look brand new because… well, they are! I have peace of mind knowing that we won’t have to deal with water damage or wood rot anytime soon. What a headache that would’ve been down the road. I’m so thankful to get it taken care of now and not have to deal with water damage while out camping with the kids in the middle of a frigid cold winter day.

As for our most exciting update – the two additional jack-knife beds are perfect! These make it possible for our whole family to do overnight trips on (and off) the ice for years to come. And we’ll be able to host friends and family and introduce them to our world of ice fishing and ice camping. We have a bunk ladder that attaches to either beds. We also DIY’d bunk bed safety rails which can be removed when not in use.

I’m just so happy and impressed with the work that Camping World did on our fish house. The Service Center at Camping World of Baxter was easy to work with, they were quick and helped us meet our goals to create this one-of-a-kind fish house.

More updates to make our fish house feel like home

We added some DIY updates of our own to make it feel more like home, including:

  • A no-plumbing sink: We cut out part of the countertop for a drop-in sink bowl which drains water into a 5 gallon grey water container. We’re using a beverage dispenser as our water dispenser.
  • Safety Catch Covers from Catch Cover to make sure our phones and children don’t fall into the ice holes
  • Open shelving with hooks and baskets
  • Subway tile backsplash behind the range using peel-and-stick wall tiles

But the most noticeable update we made is to the outside of the fish house – a custom wrap by Studio Wraps in Brainerd, Minnesota. We wanted to replace the eagle’s wings and Rage’n decal with something fun and more Girl of 10,000 Lakes-esq. So I teamed up with Studio Wraps and their crew of talented wrap artists who took an idea I had and made it come to life! It officially feels complete.

Studio Wraps is located just a few miles from Camping World of Baxter which was super convenient. They can wrap pretty much anything from RVs to fish houses, vehicles, walls, windows and floors. You name it! Sky’s the limit. Their designs are known to #SnapNecks and catch a few double-takes. I can’t say enough great things about the Studio Wraps crew. You can read all about the custom wrap job in an upcoming blog post or watch the video below!

Life in the new fish house

We’ve spent nearly every weekend since January in our new fish house and it has been a dream-come-true. Like any RV, it takes time to adjust and figure out your groove of things. But now that we’ve camped out on the ice six weekends in a row, we’ve found our rhythm.

Folks who are unfamiliar with ice fishing typically envision anglers sitting on a bucket outside while fishing and freezing their tushes off. Although hole hopping and ice fishing in the elements is a great way to catch fish and still remains very common, hard-sided fish houses have changed the ice fishing experience for those who want to camp on the ice, especially those who want to bring the entire family along.

Our fish house is typically 72 degrees, our kids are with us, we wear regular “inside clothes” and cozy slippers, there’s a pizza cooking in the oven or we’re frying up freshly caught fish, it’s family movie night while we’re jigging for walleye or crappies, or we’re playing games around the dinette while keeping an eye on tip-ups from one of the windows.

I’m sharing more about life in the new fish house in an upcoming blog post, so stay tuned!

Again, thank you to Camping World for partnering with me for this fish house project. Be sure to check out Camping World for all your RV needs including maintenance, repair and renovation projects at the Camping World Service Center.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: