Travelers on US Route 2 might be startled by the sight greeting them on an otherwise empty stretch of road: the huge, gaping maw of a muskie fish, replete with teeth the size of a small child. At 65 feet long and 15 feet wide, the Big Fish does indeed live up to its name.
Local media is quick to mention the oversized muskie’s cameo in the 1983 film National Lampoon’s Vacation. But the Big Fish was not always such a source of pride. Conceived by Wayne Kumpula in the late 1950s as a way of drumming up business, the Big Fish unsuccessfully acted first as a drive-in restaurant, then as a souvenir stand before ultimately falling into disrepair.
In 2009, the dilapidated aquatic monster was included on a list of “Minnesota’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Places.” This alarming distinction raised awareness of the Big Fish’s plight, and donations poured in for repairs. Thanks to the efforts of the community and its new owners, the Big Fish now lives on as a restaurant and resort that continues to welcome—and terrify—a new generation of visitors on the shores of Lake Winnie.