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Bigger than a town: Lac Des Mille Lacs, Ont. grows to 1,000 anglers some weekends

Jan 11, 2018 08:23PM ● Published by Editor

Ron Pero, Colin Ellis and Chris Buzzie are the co-owners of Shack's Landing at Lac Des Mille Lacs. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

It's hard to believe, but one popular lake in northwestern Ontario has more anglers bobbing lines through the ice than some communities on the provincial road map have residents.

Lac Des Mille Lacs, located about 150 km west of Thunder Bay, Ont., currently has over 100 ice shacks spread out over the lake. With an average of four people fishing per shack, plus day visitors, some weekends can have nearly 1,000 people fishing on the popular walleye lake.

"You go out onto the ice, and you get to a big cluster of shacks, like 40 or 50 shacks in a small area, and you go, holy man, like, how are people coming out here?," said Ron Pero, a co-owner of Shack's Landing.

The community of Lac Des Mille Lacs could be thought of as a township, with taxes, or a yearly fee, collected by Shack's Landing.

Just a small portion of the 100 or so ice fishing shacks on Lac Des Mille Lacs west of Thunder Bay, Ont. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

The ice itself is public, but the surrounding property is private, meaning Pero and his business partners Colin Ellis and Chris Buzzie charge for access to the lake, as well as storing shacks in the summer.

Shack's Landing has one employee that Ellis jokingly calls, "the mayor of Lac Des Mille Lacs", who also doubles as the public works crew, maintaining a portion of the ice road.

Ellis said there is a real sense of community between the anglers.

"It can be a party, everybody keeps it pretty safe and clean. Everybody looks out for each other. When you're looking at minus 40 weather, somebody's propane furnace conks out, and they don't have a woodstove, you're welcomed into somebody else's shack."

"There's a lot of young families out there too.," said Pero. "They're outside and they're playing and they're fishing ... like my daughter, I've been coming out with her since she's been three."

Over those years, Pero has seen ice fishing change in some ways. Huts have progressed from drafty plywood shacks, to something much more luxurious.

Andrew MacLean and Jonathan Kroker have two ice shacks, plus an outbuilding at Lac Des Mille Lacs. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

"Some people have shacks, well, we call them shacks but they're palaces really. Full services, including satellite television," said Pero.

"Maybe a 50 or 60-inch flatscreen TV, or I don't know, cupboards that are better than your house."

"Saunas, whatever you need on the weekend. Even hot tubs sometimes on a good weekend."

Some of the luxurious shacks can be seen along the 14 km ice road.

The interior of the ice fishing shack built by Andrew MacLean and Jonathan Kroker. The pair constructed the structure two years ago, and plan to build a sauna shack this summer. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Near the end of the road is where Andrew MacLean and Jonathan Kroker have their two ice fishing shacks, plus an outbuilding.

One is used for sleeping, the other for guests, and the outbuilding, complete with outhouse, will be revamped this year.

"The one doesn't cut it, basically," said MacLean. "[We] started out with the one we built together, and then from there we found another shack that came up as an opportunity we couldn't say no to,"

"To have friends out here is the most important thing," added Kroker.

Kroker said the pair of ice huts work as a camp in the winter, and he and McLean have plans to make their patch of ice even more luxurious next year.

"Build the sauna shack," said Kroker. "That would be ideal. To keep us warm and allow us to have warm showers and, you know, just enjoy some heat while you're out here in the minus 40 weather."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeff Walters - Reporter/Editor - Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.

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