By Kristen Miller
Enterprise Dispatch Editor
HOWARD LAKE, WAVERLY, WINSTED, MN Members of the Dassel-Cokato FFA are in the process of selling raffle tickets for a fishhouse in an effort to raise money for an upcoming trip to South Africa.
For FFA advisor and Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School graduate Eric Swatzke, the fishhouse has a special meaning, as it was the last fishhouse he built with his father, Dick, before he passed away in June.
Dick had been in the construction and remodeling business, and passed on the skills of the trade to his son.
They both were outdoorsmen, spending days fishing and hunting together.
The father-son team built their first fishhouse together in the 1990s, and built a permanent stick house.
After Eric graduated college, he began his teaching career in Marshall.
While there, his goal was to build an industrial house, like the one built by the industrial technology students at the Dassel-Cokato High School.
Eric decided to start small with the students by first building a wheel house, like the one pictured.
When he moved closer to his hometown of Waverly, Eric and his dad started their own business of building high-quality fishhouses.
They started the company, Custom Iced, and together built and sold 35 fishhouses ranging in price from $7,000 to $15,000.
The shop was originally located in Howard Lake next to John’s Collision, before it was moved in 2013, to a remodeled shop at Dick’s home in Waverly.
The houses ranged in size and amenities, from the very basic to an 8-foot-by-20-foot fishhouse with a drop-down door and ramp for hauling all-terrain vehicles, Eric explained.
The fishhouses are also custom-built, with the elements chosen by the buyer, from the number of holes in the floor to the layout of the kitchen and bathroom, he added.
The last fishhouse Eric and his dad built together was for the purpose of raising funds for 12 FFA members to spend two weeks in South Africa this coming August learning about agriculture.
Together, they built a 6-foot, 4-inch, by 14-foot fishhouse that includes sleeping quarters and a small kitchen, and is valued at $10,000. Materials were paid for by the FFA, and all the proceeds from the raffle will go toward the trip.
The fishhouse is currently located in the parking lot of Cokato Wine and Spirits.
After completion, Dick was diagnosed with leukemia, and passed away 25 days later.
Though Eric has put the fish house business on hold, he plans to continue his father’s legacy and reorganize the business, working out of a shop on his property south of Buffalo.
Eric said he is proud to have done this with his father. “It will be nice to continue this [business] with a little bit of his memory a part of that,” he said.