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Outdoor Life - Outdoor life is a column by Mick Bohonis.
2011-12-16 at 13:27

The modern ice shack

As a kid, I can vividly remember sitting on an upside down pail beside my hand-drilled hole intently watching my line tied to a red willow stick jammed in the snow.

Little Butler Lake, Agimak lake, Sandbar Lake, Raliegh Lake, Sowden Lake and many others we fished around the town of Ignace were the hot spots when I was growing up.

My grandfather’s old heavy Snow Cruiser was how we got into these lakes with a homemade sleigh in tow that carried everything we would need to spend a day out on the ice, and when I say out on the ice, I mean that in a literal sense.

Back in the ’60s ice fishing shelters were unheard of, at least on the lakes we frequented, and the only thing we had to keep us warm was the clothes on our back and maybe if we were lucky enough to be very close to shore we would have a fire made for us to huddle against if it was brutally cold.

How times have changed, and with today’s technological development of high-tech portable ice fishing shelters that has taken the industry by storm, no one has to sit outside in cold temperatures and high winds any longer.

Better yet, in the last 10 years the construction of homemade ice shacks has really taken off and seems to be the rage for hardcore, hard water anglers. The development and advancements of some of these units is nothing less than spectacular.

Some of these shacks are like portable apartments on ice, and I personally have seen some that simply blew me away with the customization that went into them.

It seems each year more and more homemade ice shacks are popping up on inland lakes, which now makes it a lot easier for anglers to be out on the ice no matter what the weather conditions. This also makes it much more appealing for the whole family. The simplicity of four walls and a wood stove in the corner has revolutionized ice angling and is becoming quite contagious amongst hard water ice anglers across the northwest.

If you have never experienced spending a weekend in the middle of the lake in the middle of winter, I suggest you give it a try, as I can guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Most of these units scattered on the lake have the basics such as wood stoves, bunks, windows, an insulated door and a couple of hatches in the plywood to sit in the warmth of your shack and catch a few fish right through floorboards.

Some of my friends have built themselves custom shacks that reside on Lac Des Milles Lac just west of Thunder Bay, and I have had the privilege to be invited and accompany them for a weekend. I have to tell you it was like staying in a hotel room suite at the Hilton. Ice fishing indoors in a T-shirt watching the hockey game when it’s -25 C outside is a great experience to say the least.

Customizing an ice shack depends solely on your own personal needs and requirements, but one thing is certain and that’s to make sure it’s warm and stays warm.

Wood stoves seem to be the most common source of heat in these units. However, more and more folks don’t want the hassle of cutting, splitting and hauling wood and opt for propane furnaces or space heaters that eliminate the need to cut and haul wood to your shack. Although propane can be much more expensive, it is a lot easier to use and requires much less space in the shack.

A small propane wall mounted heater or mini-furnace will produce more than enough heat to keep a shack cozy and takes up very little space.

These shacks I’ve been in not only have the comfortable heat happening, but are outfitted with satellite television, running water, stainless steel sink, custom cabinets, stainless hot water tank, portable washroom, pull-out beds, double bunks, inside night lighting system, a regular power source with half a dozen outlet plug ins, built-in stereo systems with satellite radio, adjacent wood shed with gas generator, three-burner propane stoves, outdoor barbeque, outdoor lighting system and the list goes on.

A far cry from sitting on an overturned plastic pail with your hood pulled over your head jigging in 25 kilometre per hour winds.

At times I will also stay with my good friend Archie Hoogsteen, who owns and operates Sugar Shack Rentals out on Lac Des Mille Lacs. Archie has been fishing this body of water for many years and knows it intimately.

Mr Hoogsteen started this ice shack rental business some years ago for the angler who may not have the need or want to be out there on a weekly basis like so many hardcore anglers do.

He saw the need for a comfortable heated ice shack for anyone who wants to come and enjoy a day or a weekend with his family or friends and have the comfort to enjoy themselves.

Sugar Shack has a variety of shacks out on Lac Des Mille Lacs that all have propane stoves, wood stoves, comfortable beds, propane lanterns, generators and an unlimited supply of fire wood.

Holes can be pre-drilled and he even has outhouses for your convenience. I have stayed with Archie and his operation many times and have had a great time and caught fish.

The convenience of being able to drive your truck via Sawmill Bay and directly to your abode has revolutionized how we now can enjoy something we want to do without having to spend a zillion dollars on a snow machine and sleigh.

He will even pre-drill your holes for you so upon arrival all you have to do is throw your sleeping bag and cooler of grub inside and drop a line and stoke the wood stove.

It’s a great way to spend a weekend without all the hassle of having to have all the gear.


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