Elaborate, stolen N.Dakota fish house recovered in Minnesota

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Stolen fish house tallies miles across two states

By: TIM KJOS, Detroit Lakes Tribune

February 06, 2002

     Call it weird, good karma or pure dumb luck.

     Whatever the case, Dean Tvedt of Argusville, N.D., has his $4,000 fish house back after thieves stole it from the Jamestown (N.D.) Reservoir and then set it on Big Detroit Lake. The incident took place over a nearly two-week period in early January. Tvedt, along with friends Chris Gourde and Barry Krogh, both of Harwood, N.D., elaborately constructed the 8 feet by 11 feet fish house and took it to Jamestown for a test run.

     The structure is hard to miss. Gold-brown in color, the interior is lined with four-inch structural foam core panels. The exterior is steel siding used on commercial buildings.

     There is a fancy, three-foot wide door with a half-moon window. Gourde said Tvedt wanted that type of door because of a wheelchair-bound friend so he can go fishing without struggling getting into the structure.

     The shelter stays warm, given that the insulation offers an R-32 value.

     It took about a week to make the shelter, and then it was ready for a New Year's Day outing at Jamestown. They planned to return Jan. 4 to resume fishing, but a funeral interrupted those plans.

     Gourde - who is answering questions about the theft because Tvedt is in the Air National Guard and now on active deployment at an undisclosed U.S. Air Force Base - said they returned Jan. 6 and discovered the fish house was gone.

     They talked to an angler who had a shelter near theirs, but he hadn't seen anything.

     So, they quizzed two other nearby anglers. They said two men drove up in a damaged pickup and loaded it.

     When the anglers asked the guys - believed to be from Moorhead - what they were doing, the answer was they had won it in a contest, despite the fact that Tvedt's name was on the fish house.

     Gourde prepared a flyer on his computer describing the fish house and then printed copies of it.
     Tvedt, who went on active duty a couple days before it was stolen, enlisted help from fellow soldiers, asking them via e-mail to be aware of the theft.

     The effort paid off.

     A retired Air National Guard member from eastern North Dakota went to Audubon Jan. 12 to pick up his processed deer.

     That was also the same weekend as the professional snowmobile race in Detroit Lakes, and so Byron Nelson drove over to see the sunken snowmobile trailers.

     While returning back to North Dakota, Nelson saw a pickup towing Tvedt's fish house. He followed it to Bakken Bait in Audubon, where one of the individuals purchased a fishing license.

     Nelson tried several times to reach Tvedt, but by that time the pickup and fish house were gone. Tvedt contacted the Stutsman County (N.D.) Sheriff's Department, which relayed the information to the Becker County Sheriff's Department.

     They later learned that a pickup licensed to a Pelican Rapids individual was pulling the fish house at the time it was seen at Bakken Bait.

     Gourde, who is a skydiver, asked a pilot friend in Fargo to take him up Jan. 16 in hopes of finding the missing shelter from the air.

     "It was pure luck," commented Gourde. "We flew from Fargo straight over to Detroit Lakes and we're just going to worm our way back to Fargo going over the lakes. We flew right to Detroit Lakes and there it was sitting."

     Gourde immediately called the Stutsman County Sheriff's Department upon landing back in Fargo. That department then called BCSO and a deputy was waiting for Gourde when he arrived in Detroit Lakes.

     They went to Big Detroit Lake and impounded the shelter. One of the thieves had already licensed the shelter in his name.

     "I know who the guys are, but they aren't releasing the names yet," stated Gourde.

     The Stutsman County State Attorney's Office said the matter is under investigation, but charges have not been filed yet.

     Tvedt, Gourde and Krogh are already contemplating revisions to the structure to prevent it from being stolen again. They may either remove the trailer tires or the trailer tongue when it is set in place.

     "We're still brainstorming that. It will be as theft-proof as we can make it when we leave it on the ice again, if it will ever get left on the ice," said Gourde.
 
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