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Sweet Angling at Sugar Shack

Archie Hoogsteen holds a fine Northwestern Ontario Lac Des Milles Lacs walleye in front of one of his rental ice shacks. • Credit: James Smedley
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Sweet Angling at Sugar Shack

Ice Fishing in Northwestern Ontario's Lac Des Milles Lacs



Ice fishing Northwestern Ontario's Lac Des Milles Lacs is unlike any Northern Ontario fishing we've done. Used to fishing small inland brook trout lakes accessed by snowmobile or snowshoe, my father Gordon Smedley and I drive an hour west of Thunder Bay along Hwy 17 to a plowed ice road leading out onto the expanse of Lac's Sawmill Bay.

"Just follow me," says Archie Hoogsteen as he jumps into his truck and heads down toward the Lake. Archie runs Sugar Shack Rentals and will be guiding us to our destination and keeping us company for the next few days. "Kind of nice not to have to repack everything into a sled," I say as we follow Hoogsteen along the ice road. Dad nods as he pulls up beside Archie who is stopped near the shoreline of an area known as Sand Point. Hoogsteen points to Sugar Shack's cluster of ice houses near Coffin Island, a few miles distance.

Dad pulls the truck up alongside our home for the next few days. It's a blue, siding-clad 8-by-12 structure with a two-burner propane stove, fold-down table, and benches that convert to a double bed. There are shelves for gear and hooks to hang clothes. Large windows provide a view of outside lines and there are holes in the floor for fishing. But in the growing darkness, fishing will have to wait till morning.

I step out into a crisp, sunny morning to see Archie ghost past with a 21-inch fish. "Better get your lines in, I've got three already," he says as he slides the fat fish back down the hole.

Gordon Smedley with a nice Northwestern Ontario Lac Des Milles Lacs walleye. (Photo credit: James Smedley)

Sure enough, the bite is on and the Smedley camp catches and releases several 20- to 22-inch walleye and a handful of 3- to 6-pound pike, keeping some of the 15-inch walleye to eat. Although jigging lures account for a few fish, the top producer is a set line with a small green jig and a medium sucker minnow dangled just off the bottom of the 12-foot flat.

Generous host, Archie Hoogsteen, offers a plate of freshly cooked walleye from Northwestern Ontario’s Lac Des Milles Lacs. (Photo credit: James Smedley)

Lac Des Milles Lac's stained water means the walleye have the pleasing quality of biting throughout the day. As the sun climbs higher in the sky Dad and I are seized with a profound hunger due to a scant breakfast and steady angling action. Archie heats up the propane deep fryer and soon a mountain of golden walleye is stacked on a plate. There is some talk of cutlery and salad and other accompaniments but we end up standing around the table in the sunshine, eating chunks of crispy hot walleye with our fingers till we're stuffed.

We still have a few more days on the ice and I can tell fishing with Sugar Shack Rentals is going to be pretty easy to get used to.

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