Eddy McLean ice fishes inside his fishing shack on Sylvan Lake. McLean, 42, renovated an old camper trailer into a warm ice fishing shack over the course of three months at the end of 2018. Photo by Kaylyn Whibbs/Sylvan Lake News

Ice fishing in style on Sylvan Lake

Eddy McLean turned a camper into a luxurious fishing hut in just three months

Canadians don’t just survive winter, they do what they can to overcome and enjoy it.

Sylvan Lake’s Eddy McLean, 42, has been fishing on the lake for 10 years, in a boat during the warmer months and on the ice in the winter.

“I’ve been using tents and stuff like that and sometimes you’re just out there fishing with no tent and then just over the years the tent and getting cold I was like ‘OK, I gotta do something,’” said McLean of his motivation to build his new fishing shack.

On Oct. 1, 2018 McLean picked up the old camper trailer, brought it home and began stripping it down to the bare metal.

“It was pretty scary looking,” McLean laughed, “but I painted it and then I took it home and ripped it apart, built benches and put in the T.V.”

McLean stole his kids’ T.V. from the house to hook up to the underwater camera.

“It’s pretty cool when you see a huge, like a big fish come by,” he added.

The renovations went quickly and the shack was out on the lake for it’s first season the second week of December.

McLean says being in the shack is “like camping,” although he hasn’t slept in it yet, but says he probably will during the fishing tournament at the end of February.

The benches lining the outside of the shack were made to come off and lie across the empty space to make a bed.

The log cabin-like interior is decorated with outdoorsy ornaments, operating lights, a built in radio and a homemade wood stove.

McLean explained he put a dial onto the wood stove so he can control the heat and with the insulated walls he could make it like a sauna in the shack.

“It’s a little house away from your house,” added McLean. “It’s fun. You get a bunch of buddies out here… we were out here until 2 [or] 3 a.m. some nights.”

There’s also a section of wall where he has featured printed photos of everyone who has caught a fish in the shack since December.

McLean works week on, week off and is in the shack as much as possible during his weeks at home.

“The wife goes to work at 8 o’clock and the kids go to school at 8:30 [a.m.] and I pretty much stay out here until 3 o’clock, so I just go until they get off,” said McLean.

Ice fishing out on Sylvan Lake is like a little community and he welcomes everyone, from his friends asking to use it to everyone out on the lake stopping by to have a chat about who’s catching what.

McLean says he thinks his shack has inspired others to build their own like it and it has made a wave on social media as he posts pictures and videos of his luxurious fishing home.

The word and excitement has even made its way back to his home town of Cape Breton, N.S. through Facebook posts.

“There’s a lot of people messaging me like ‘I wanna come out and see your camper, see how you’ve done it,’” McLean said, adding he knows of three or four people who went out and bought an old style camper from places like Kijiji.

“Sometimes you can find people just getting rid of them, like they’re not worth nothing, and then you take it home and do this for ice fishing,” he explained, but his wasn’t the first camper turned shack.

He says anglers have been using campers for a long time, even in Sylvan Lake, but others have been getting into using T.V.’s in their shacks after seeing his setup.

Using an old trailer also makes it easier to move your shack around, you just hook it on to your vehicle and pull, just like a regular camper, McLean says.

“[The square shacks] they’ve got skis under them, so you gotta pull them around, but the problem is to get them out on the ice you need a trailer and then you need to wench it up on the trailer and you need to have a big enough trailer to do that,” compared McLean.

McLean says he wants to make another shack next year just to rent out.

“People just like coming out and having everything here… I’m gonna make another one this summer and then have one to fish in [and] one to rent out, something like that,” said McLean.

Next year anglers hoping to escape the cold may be able to experience a taste of McLean’s fishing home-away-from-home, but for now he is limiting his shack to himself, his family and his friends.


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Max Phillips, six, fishes in McLean’s shack on Feb. 9. Phillips has been out to the shack a few times, but hasn’t caught any fish as of yet. Photo by Kaylyn Whibbs/Sylvan Lake News

McLean’s homemade wood stove in his fishing shack. The fire warms the insulated trailer and keeps the water in the kettle boiled. Photo by Kaylyn Whibbs/Sylvan Lake News

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