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The Frugal (Ice) Fisherman

No 'wheeled-house'. No electric auger. No electronic 'fish-finder'. Andy Cairns' approach to ice fishing is a breath of fresh air in a time when things have become so complicated.

After riding his recumbent bike on to the ice, Andy Cairns fishes Tuesday, Dec. 29, on Rice Lake in Brainerd. Cairns wanted to approach ice fishing from a very frugal perspective. He gathered several long sticks and a discarded construction tarp for his ice fishing hut. He is working on an inexpensive heat source this weekend. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Inspired by the television series "Alone," Andy Cairns used his creative frugal skills to enter the world of ice fishing.

When his friend Bruce Lapka recently let him know the fish were biting on Rice Lake in Brainerd, Cairns decided to try his luck but with the condition he would do it as cheap as he could. Described as "just a poor painter," he rides his recumbent bike to and from work at Gary's Painting.

When the ice anglers on the Brainerd lake, some with wheeled houses and others with high-tech portables, saw the fellow who towed the materials for his cone-shaped fishing hut behind his bike onto the lake, they took notice. Using gathered sticks and a discarded construction canvas for the unusual structure, the unique fish house is now was part of the skyline for the fish houses on the ice.


Seeing this Cairns' setup, J.R. Cooper, a fishing guide who lives on Rice Lake, wanted to reach out to help with lures and a stove because he remembers fishing in a cardboard box.

Andy Cairns talks about his motive for staying frugal when it comes to ice fishing Tuesday, Dec. 29, on Rice Lake in Brainerd. He admires the people who star in the outdoor television series Alone.

Turns out Cairns just wanted to do the project as cheap as possible in case he loses interest in the sport. Riding his bike on the ice has drawn attention because it takes so much skill.

Cairns says he only rides his bike on the lake when the ice road is plowed. When contacted Wednesday night, Dec. 30, Cairns was experimenting with a wood stove built from an abandoned tank.

I was raised on a farm in western Minnesota where I participated in 4-H, high school sports, and everything that farm kids do for fun after chores. Graduated from Ridgewater Community College with an AA degree and my first taste of newspapering. I worked a summer on the Ortonville Independent as a reporter and photographer.
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