It’s a safe bet you’ve never seen ice fishing like this before.
Tucked away at the end of a lane on the west end of the Town of Rainy River sits Vaughn Murray’s newest and most eye-catching project. He’s converted a white limousine – a 1994 Lincoln, to be specific – into one of the most unique and functional ice fishing shacks around. And Murray is exactly the kind of guy you want at the helm of an ice fishing venture like this. Murray is 71 years old, and in his time he figures he’s caught an astonishing number of fish.
“I’ve been here 33 years,” Murray said of his spot on the river.
“I’ve caught 15,000 walleye off that dock. And I’m probably underestimating by a few thousand. I’ve probably caught 2,500 walleye between five and fifteen pounds is my biggest. Plus sturgeon.”
With a clear view of both the Rainy River-Baudette international and train bridges just down the river, the white limo would almost blend into the snow were it not for the black top and additional customization Murray has done to it. The exterior of the limo is festooned with plenty of stickers and just off the rear bumper is a flag celebrating the Stanley Cup wins of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Once inside, prospective ice fishers are in for a treat. In order to accommodate ice fishing, Murray has cut four holes into the bottom of the limo floor, fitting each hole with municipal-grade pipes like you would find in new sewer and water main installations. To keep fishers happy and warm, an electric heater has been installed into one side of the limousine, with the electric cable running back up to the dock, though Murray said he also has a propane heater that he can run in short bursts to heat the interior up quickly. Rod holders are located next to each fishing hole, and the walls of the limousine are decorated with collectible Jim Beam bottles at one end, and an assortment of Elvis memorabilia at the other. With plenty of heat and fishing right at your fingertips, it’s easy to forget that outside the wind might be blowing the temperature down to -20 temperatures.
Murray explained that he installed the limo on the ice at the end of January, not expecting much. It turns out an ice fishing limo shack in a unique location like Rainy River caught the eye of plenty of people online, even if Murray didn’t exactly anticipate it would be as internationally successful and notable as it has become.
“I did it as a joke,” Murray said.
“And my buddy put it on that Lake of the Woods fishing in Minnesota, and in 12 hours he had over 600 hits, and that’s where it took off from. I’ve been in the Grand Forks Herald, CBC Radio, Thunder Bay television, the National in Toronto, Outdoor Life Magazine out of Texas, I’m in there this month. I’m just laughing. I quit ice fishing 15 years ago, but when I got this car I thought, ‘I’ll throw her out for a joke, the locals or my grandkids can screw around with it’ and it just poof, I was getting calls, getting calls, getting calls.”
Overall, Murray says he’s had nearly 100 people make use of the shack in the time he’s been accepting groups. Though fishing in the river can be unpredictable, Murray said that everyone who has come through to fish in the limo has had a good time, even if they might have walked away with no catches at all.
“There’s been 19 groups times four [people].” Murray said.
“And I betcha half a dozen groups, two hours and they’re gone. Just to say they’ve been fishing in a limo. And you know, most of my bookings have been women. A guy from Kenora said him and his buddy and their wives wanted to come down and he said, ‘if I catch one fish out of that limousine, that’ll make my day.’ People are looking for something different to do.”
The experience is also very affordable considering the available amenities and novelty of it all. Murray said he’s charged groups $100 dollars to rent the fishing spot.
As popular as the limousine fishing shack has been this winter, Murray said he has no plans to run it again next year, having already made arrangements to sell it to a Nestor Falls area camp
“I’m out of here next winter,” Murray said.
“I ain’t hanging around for this crap. I can’t handle the cold anymore. I can take a beach in Mexico or Costa Rica over this any day.”
Still, even if the ice shack limousine doesn’t make an appearance in Rainy River next winter, Murray said he’s thinking of other plans for the summer, potentially including a similar idea for a custom fishing boat.
“My pontoon boat is a 28 foot, and you know what I’m gonna put on it? A van body,” Murray said.
“Rip the motor and everything out of it, I’ve got the van picked out already. So when you’re travelling on a cool day or it’s raining, you’re all sitting inside, no wind or nothing. And on the nice days, I’ll have 12 feet of deck out front with chairs on it.”