Minnesota > Ice Fishing Minnesota

Minnesota Wheelhouse guide/outfitter general question

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Just got back home from a trip to Northern MN, where myself and a buddy rented a wheelhouse thru a "guide service" rather than a resort. We were pretty excited that the guide inquired "what species would you like to target?" and thus felt like the guide service would provide a better experience than a resort outfit. Coming from Montana, I had never set foot in a wheelhouse, or used any services from an "Ice fishing guide" so i've found myself with alot of questions. Just hoping somebody on here can help me with local insight:

1. Condition of the wheelhouse: Dead Batteries (had not charged since previous client's use), Propane furnace that would stay lit for less than a couple hours (bad thermocouple, buddy is an HVAC tech), and most scary to us was that the CO detector did not have a battery inside it either. Another one of my buddies Dad's died in a wheelhouse (CO) back in the late 90's so we are quite sensitive to that CO detector. ESPECIALLY when there's a ****censored word****ed up heater/heat exchanger in question.......

2. Is it common for a guide service (not a resort rental) to simply drop you off at the house without ANY insight as to what baits/jigs to use, general knowledge of bite windows, etc? We're competent fishermen, but some local knowlege about general bites was really what we were paying the premium for (we thought).

3. After being asked what species we were hoping to target, we were told when we met the guide at the wheelhouse that "ive got this house on a hell of a good perch flat." Which is really the only specie that we told him we weren't interested in SPECIFICALLY targeting (obviously not complaining to have perch around, but wanted to chase Ling & Wally). Should we have called him on that at the very beginning, or accepted his story that "my lake plow guy did not make it out, so it would be too much work for me to get you guys into the wheelhouse you wanted to be in."

AND LASTLY: considering the above, do you leave a "tip" for these type of services beyond the listed price? I have grown up helping out with my uncles hunting/fly fishing outfit, so I'm accustomed to tipping a guide (every time) and then adding additional tip based on the level of service provided. If a guide listens to your 'wants' and helps facilitate, has a well maintained outfit, etc. At the very least - when we informed him that we've got plenty of 11" perch back home - maybe move us out to the desired wheelhouse after he got the road open? Rather than tell us he was taking a bigger group of clients to that house (more revenue for him).

We left a reasonable tip in the battery compartment of his CO detector, and left it laying on the stove in the wheelhouse. My buddy didn't want to leave anything, but with my time spent in the outfitting industry i could not in clear concious "stiff" the dude.

Any input you guys have would be sincerely appreciated. I am looking forward to hopefully making it out to your (awesome) state again during ice szn and just want to make sure my expectations are reasonable and that I am not being that "out of state asshole" just because i lack knowledge of what to expect from a hardwater guide.


Holy crap, you hooked up with a loser!!!!! In a nutshell: A resounding "NO" to almost all yer questions! Every resort I've ever seen/been /dealt with/had friends deal with, and I know more than a few that OWN resorts up there, whether it's ice or soft water fishing with/without their boats, all I know of  is they GLADLY put you on the fish, advise ya on what's hot for the bite at that time, will move you around from shack to a better hot spot (depending on what's available, size, etc). They spend a LOT of time plowing the roads and putting the shacks out properly.....that's why, IMO, it's best to hook up with a resort if you aren't familiar with everything. Anyone can slap up a website and call themselves a pro guide.
The shacks and all that resides IN that shack will be in good working order, becuz they know folks WON'T come back if they fail any of the above,.....Minnesotans DO know their ice fishing!
A tip for the clown you were with?? Ya, onto his head! No way is that "Stiffing"...he did it to you. If you spent good money in a restaurant, and got lousy service, would ya leave a tip, or feel you were "stiffing" them? I bet not. Otherwise, yes, a good guide does rely on tips here, especially when boating/soft water fishing.
How the hey did you get put onto this guy?? I'd definitely spread the word; you sure don't want anyone else going thru that, or worse, and I'm very sorry that you did. That IS NOT a typical Minnysoda experience by any means.
If ya want, I can PM you some good resorts I KNOW have a good rep, and will do what you expect for your money. Again; sorry to hear what happened...that's just not us.   >:(

Wow!  That's about all I can say.  So many things here are not what I would have expected, but not surprised.  I don't know who you went with, but I would say you got taken.  Its easy to have a webpage or facebook page and call yourself a guide, when really it sounds like he is an owner of a wheelhouse and just sets it on the ice. 

If you want to provide some more information about who you went thru, or a web page - someone may be able to provide you with more feedback.

Personally, I go with the resorts - they always do the things you mentioned, they understand that this is their livelyhood, and returning customers are worth something.  There are guides that have houses on many of the larger lakes (Red, LOTW, Leech etc).  They move them as the walleye season progresses, so maybe next time, you can check around.

Hate to hear that this guide ruined your MN experience. 

And no - with what you dealt with, I would not have left a tip.  Maybe a note, but no money!

Thatís brutal! Sorry to hear
As a fellow Minnesota native~ Thatís not who we are. Hope your next trip there is much more rewarding.

Thanks everybody for the local insights. To be honest, I was expecting this sort of feedback from my first post. Everyone that we met outside of the first couple days we had the house booked were some of the nicest and most welcoming folks I have met. "midwest nice" is real, aye? After the challenges we face on the ice up here in MT, it would take alot more than a bad outfitter to spoil our MN trip. We had a few days to ourselves to explore local (Bemidji) area lakes and got on quite a few EPIC bluegill/crappie bites. As a novelty, I'll take those two species all day long - and it was rather rewarding to find them ourselves (beat the guide).

I'll PM you guys all respectively regarding your responses. The outfitter came VERY reccomended to us by some folks at the Northland Tackle shop, Sponsored by CLAM corp, and has been mentioned on at least a few of the local podcasts/JMO outdoors stuff. He had quite a few wheelhouses in his outfit, and the way he SPOKE I am absolutely positive that he is a very skilled angler and incredibly knowledgeable in the area. It was a little bit annoying to see CLAM sharing pictures of him out SMASHING big fish while we were still fishing in his wheelhouse on a damn slow perch bite. Would have been totally cool if he said "hey guys you've been on a slow spot, let me take you out to catch a few big fish this afternoon" rather than literally telling us "alright guys, good luck - hopefully the wally come in - i've got to go catch some big ones to get content for the sponsors"

He told us, he gets most of his clients from social media inquiries, thru sponsor, etc. I'm betting, that he has a bunch of young "followers" (millenial groupies) that don't have experience with outfitters, and don't recognize the B.S. The perception of being around "regional fame" in the fishing/hunting industry can blind us to being treated second class to "pics for the sponsors"


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