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For the past five years, a Nipissing First Nation couple has rented out furnished, heated fishing huts with all modern conveniences – including pre-drilled holes

Traian Palad holds a perch he caught at Primeau’s Ice Castle on Lake Nipissing, where he and his family are renting a fishing cabin for the first time.Photography by Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

“Luxury ice fishing” may sound like a contradiction in terms, but it’s as real as the 18-inch layer of solid ice on the surface of Ontario’s Lake Nipissing.

Pat and Stephanie Primeau operate Primeau’s Ice Castle, a small ice-fishing business that rents out fully furnished fishing huts, complete with satellite TVs, washrooms, propane stoves and furnaces. Their two guest huts (they’re actually converted trailers) sit directly on the frozen waters of Lake Nipissing, about two kilometres from shore. Visitors can use predrilled holes, which penetrate both the huts’ laminate floors and the ice beneath, to fish the chilly depths while sitting on couches, or even while lying in bed.

The Primeaus, who are both members of the Nipissing First Nation, run the business on weekends, between shifts at their day jobs. Mr. Primeau is a waste water worker with the Nipissing Nation, and Ms. Primeau works as a flight attendant for Air Canada. “My wife and I started this business in 2017, five years ago,” Mr. Primeau said. “We both love ice fishing, and we decided we wanted to try and rent ice huts, since we are always out there fishing – but not ice huts that looked like everything else. So we did our research and found these beautiful ice castles.”

Lake Nipissing – or Nbisiing Zaag’igan, as it’s known in the Ojibway language – teems with pickerel, perch and whitefish. The Nipissing Nation runs a hatchery to help maintain fish stocks. Some winter anglers make day trips, but for anyone planning to stay overnight, a warm fishing hut is a must.

Most of the lake’s ice fishing operators are clustered in Callander Bay, near the southeastern shore. The Primeaus believe theirs is the only commercial enterprise on the northern shore.

On a recent weekend, one of the Primeaus’ two huts was occupied by Jack O’Donnell and his friends, who have been coming to the northern shore for several years. Mr. O’Donnell said he considers the Primeaus to be the best operators on the lake because they provide well-equipped living spaces in a quiet, relatively isolated environment.

In the other hut was the Palade family. Traian Palade said the trip was his first to the north shore. He was doing most of the fishing, while his son, Lucas, and daughter, Emma, busied themselves with Rubik’s cubes and books.

Anyone wanting to experience couch fishing for themselves may need to be patient. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources requires fishing huts to be removed from Lake Nipissing by March 31. The Primeaus say their ice castles are booked solid for the remainder of the short season.

Pat Primeau moves a gas generator out of the wind. It powers one of the two Primeau’s Ice Castle fishing huts, though their heat comes from propane.

Perch are a popular catch because there's a higher provincial limit for how many fish anglers can have in their possession. Conservation officers sometimes do spot checks to make sure the limits are observed.

Tools of the trade include rods and an auger, powered by a cordless drill, to dig through the ice. Primeau’s Ice Castle also has the option of pre-drilled holes through the cabins' floors.

Jeff Rainville, left, looks out a cabin window alongside friend Clinton Webb and his daughter, Abby. The walls are covered with tallies of the fish caught by the cabin's occupants over the years.

Traian Palad points to bells on the end of his rod, whose ringing will signal a fish is on the line. Stocks in the lake are replenished by a hatchery run by the Nipissing Nation.

Clinton Webb rushed out to check his ice fishing rod after an indicator on his tip up was released.

Footage from an underwater camera shows a minnow being used as bait. Some anglers use devices called tip ups to suspend bait at a desired depth. Others manually jig the bait, or raise it up and down.

The lights of North Bay, Ont., about four kilometres away, shine at dusk. The Primeaus' huts are booked solid until the end of the season on March 31.