“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.