Ice Fishing Shacks On Eagle Lake

photographs and text by Jennifer Steen Booher of Quercus Design

We had a nice little snowstorm yesterday. (Editor’s note: This was originally posted on the Quercus Design blog on February 7th. This past weekend’s snowstorm, by comparison, was not exactly “nice” and “little.”) Big fat snowflakes came down hard for a couple of hours and then the sun came out and shone brilliantly on the one or two inches that accumulated.

While the flurries were still swirling I went out to Eagle Lake and poked around the ice shacks. For my friends who live in warmer climates, and for those of you who love Maine but wonder what we do here in the winter, ice fishing is a pretty serious winter sport. You drill holes in the ice with an auger, like this gentleman:

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and then you set your lines with sticks, as in the photo above. The lines are attached to flags, which are triggered to lift when something takes the bait, so you can hang out in your hut,

 and keep an eye on your lines.

I have to confess that I am not much of a fisher-person at any time of year, although I’m always willing to help eat the catch.  I love hanging out in (other people’s) ice shacks, though. They’re exactly as insulated as they look – not a bit – but many of them have a woodstove or propane stove, and once you pack three or four people in even an unheated one you find you shed hats and mittens pretty quickly. Then you drink and eat and play cards and laugh a lot, and maybe keep one eye out for flags popping up on the lines if you want fish for lunch.

The lake looks pretty bleak in these photos because of the storm, but on a sunny weekend day people are skating and the ice house owners have spread folding chairs out in front and are barbecuing and yelling back and forth and there are kids sliding on the ice and dogs slipping around trying to catch the kids and it’s about as bleak as the Fourth of July. Colder, though.

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Is the ice strong enough? Yes, right now I think it’s about 8″ thick. You have to be careful around the edges and anywhere the water is moving (like at a spot where a stream enters the lake.)

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Do the houses ever fall in? Very rarely. You build a house and put it on the ice, you’re going to keep an eye on the weather. We had a problem last week because the ice thawed very fast, and two or three houses did go in. That’s the first time I can remember that happening in fifteen years, though.

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How do the houses get on the ice? The owners usually haul the house to a boat-launch area in the bed of a pickup truck, and then pull it onto the ice with an ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle, like the one near the top of this post.) You can see that each house is mounted on sturdy wooden runners.

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On other lakes they might just use the pickup to pull it on, but Eagle Lake is part of Acadia National Park, and cars aren’t allowed on the ice.

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 This one’s my favorite!