They've used contractors to help get the place to near mint condition. No problems at all with local guys. I guess the key is being a long time repeat customer. My father cannot say enough good things about Spence Plumbing out of Land-O. I know that he is busy, very busy, but he is also very good.
My wife and I are working with a local realtor, Erik Johnson (Remax), to get us back up north in a cabin in the woods. And he has been outstanding. Very different approach to real estate through him than we got from working with ShoreWest around Milwaukee. Maybe we got lucky with Erik, probably we did, but I talked to a semi-retired real estate agent and she recommended him to us.
Point being, there are great people in the northwoods. I'm very sorry that some haven't treated the prior poster too well. What I know about contractors is that they are busy people. If they meet with someone, and see the project, then talk to the customer, many times the juice isn't worth the squeeze, if you know what I mean. Always two sides to every story.
And fishing wise? We fished for 5 days and one say was horrible with wind. Caught a ton of walleyes and kept our fair share to eat. Fish are up there, still. Sure things aren't as good as "the old days", but it is still a special place.
Also, with the price of gas sometimes hovering $3.50 - $4.00 a gallon its becoming less worthwhile for people from Chicago, Milwaukee and further distances to come to Vilas county and make it worthwhile for a couple small walleyes, small muskies, or puny deer(if you can find one). Why drive 4-7 hours for bad fishing opportunities, when there is much better trophy potential on Winnebago or Green Bay.
Another thing is all the people that built the huge expensive cabins 20 years ago, as they get older and are looking get rid of them there is no guarantee their children are going to want anything to do with the huge estate however many miles away (truth is, many millennials are just not into that kind of stuff--some are, but many aren't, young people are very different from the way they were 20 years ago.)
Lastly, and my biggest beef, is the attitudes of many(not all, many) of the locals and especially contractors is terrible. I have been in the process of building a cabin in Vilas for a year now, trying to get many of the contractors can be difficult. I had a big concrete contractor set up to meet me last summer middle of June, I called to confirm a couple days before and they said they now couldn't make the appointment, and they never called back to reschedule the entire summer--luckily I found someone else and moved on. Plumbers though, are by far the worst, when trying to line up one to plumb my slab last year many would return calls once and then never return a phone call again. The guy I finally did get to do my plumbing he did the in floor plumbing and septic hookup last summer (which was a pretty decent sized job) we paid him in cash with the understanding that he would hookup the bathroom and kitchen fixtures this year, well now he will not take or return phone calls. So I have a cabin that I cannot get finished, I may just get someone from where I live to go up with me for a day, it's worth the extra money to get someone you can count on.
A couple years back when I was going to build a cabin, I was going to bring builders from the fox valley area to build it for me and a contractor from eagle river kind of reamed me out for not using local builders. My advice, if you are going to build and you have someone you can trust where you live that will travel to Vilas County to build for you--GO THAT ROUTE. Maybe, I just contacted all the unreliable contractors of Vilas county, but......I doubt it. I have a lot more instances but you get the idea.
Areas like Eagle River and Minocqua Woodruff will continue to do well because there is a lot to do there, food, entertainment, hospitals etc., but some of the outlying areas are really beginning to struggle in my opinion--just take a drive through Land O Lakes, and look at all the businesses going out of business or for sale. The once crown jewel of land o lakes The Gateway Lodge condo' doff their rooms a number of years back for about $30000-$40000 + monthly condo fees. Well, now the condo fees for basically a hotel room are $350/month (ridiculous) and I have seen rooms for sale for as low as $6000 OBO, where the guy was just looking to get out as quick as possible.
Don't get me wrong I love Vilas County and have a long history with it, and finally have my place up there after many years, but I just don't see people without my enthusiasm picking Vilas County as their choice for their future vacation place or summer home location.
Again---these are my opinions, take them with a grain of salt.
I don't look at that trip as a fishing trip, even though I bring my boat (it gets used to pull tubers more than fishing on that trip).
I do some serious fishing in Vilas county too, just not on that trip. I enjoy lake fishing for walleyes there and LMB fishing on certain lakes like the Minocqua chain, but I just go during "off peak" times.
I enjoy it for what it is. My extended family would hate a trip to the TFF or other more isolated lakes, because it is too far from restaurants, grocery stores, and other tourist stuff that they all like to do.
I will never understand the ski jet thing or the 150 HP boat thing and how it fits into the northwoods experience. It surprises me that these same people dont drive north with the jacked up 4X4 with 4 foot tall tires and padded roll bars.
We did get enough perch for one fish fry when we got home actually, which was nice and made the rest of the family happy too.
It is not a place where you should go catch limits of fish with the hopes of filling the freezer like my grandparents did years ago. Many of the lakes are not very fertile, or have lost weedbeds due to rusty crayfish. You can still catch quality fish though, and much of the time the bass fishing has become quite good. (I release all my smallmouths).
When I want to get some fish in the freezer, I hit an appropriate local lake or a big fertile lake like Winnebago. It is fun too, but different.
However, my favorite part of the whole summer was that trip with my son to Vilas County and the clean air, great atmosphere and cute ice cream stands.