Johnson's ice hut project is now in it's sixth year, with some 650 photos. Here a patriotic shack on Lesser Slave Lake Alberta.
Photo Credit: Richard Johnson

Ice fishing huts in Canada

For dedicated fishermen in Canada, the frigid winters and frozen lakes are not problems to be tolerated, but rather a new joy to be enjoyed.

All across the country,  frozen lakes and rivers are dotted with people fishing.

Certainly well-known in other winter countries, it is truly a long-established part of Canadian winter culture.

Every winter, virtual villages spring up on lakes and rivers across the country as ice fishing huts are towed out onto the ice for the winter season. Here a village in Ste Anne de la Perade Quebec. © Radio-Canada

Photographer Richard Johnson began his interest in these unique structures some six years ago. Since then he has visited several provinces each winter to capture these huts on film. He now has some 650 photos from several provinces as part of his “Ice Hut Project”

Fishing through frozen Canadian lakes and rivers dates back thousands of years with Inuit and aboriginal need for fishing through winter ice for sustenance, then continuing with the fur trappers, and settlers.

This hut appears to be designed to fit into the back of a pick up truck for transport to and from the ice. Johnson says of ice hut design. ‘It must be weather resistant and transportable, giving basic shelter and access to the ground beneath it.’ Here, an ice fishing shack on Angler Lake, Saskatchewan., is shown © Richard Johnson

It eventually evolved into a sport more than a need, also a chance for modern men- it is mostly a male experience- to continue the bonding experience of the “hunt” as they sit two, or three, possibly four in the hut, chatting over beers as they fish for hours through the ice, in a warm cozy albeit small, hut.

Ice fishing, a primarily male hobby, is often a chance for friends to gather and bond. Some of the huts have portable generators to power lights and portable tvs and other appliances. An additional “tip-up” can be seen outside the hut on a lake in Ontario © Richard Johnson

 These fishermen range from the die hards who sit on little stools out in the open in front of the holes they’ve cut through the ice, to those with very simple portable wind shelters, all the way to sometimes elaborate wooden “huts” or “shacks” heated by little stoves.

They are towed out onto the ice when the ice is thick enough and left in place until spring when they are pulled off the warming ice and placed back in storage until next winter.

A rather elaborate hut in Baie des HaHa, Quebec © Richard Johnson

As they usually sit several centimetres above the ice on runners in order to be towed into place, snow is often packed around the base to keep the chill winds from blowing inside through the large central opening in the floor through which the lines are dropped through the holes through the ice.

Johnson’s photos showcase the variety of materials used to build ice huts, from faux wood panelling to sheet metal to to modified camping trailers. This photo was taken on Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba © Richard Johnson

The construction styles, paint, and levels of interior comfort are as varied as the people themselves as shown in Johnson’s photos, dozens of which are available on his website.

While many ice huts are on skids, many others are larger and towed from home to the ice on wheels, basically like trailer homes with many creature comforts. Here huts are being set up on the Saguenay in Quebec in Jan 2013 © CBC
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