Ice fishing shacks show Saskatchewan's love of trucks, architect says

Richard Johnson has photographed more than 850 shacks across the country.

Richard Johnson has photographed more than 850 shacks across the country

The ice fishing shack will likely never be considered an architectural wonder, but they've found their way into the heart of one Canadian architect.

When Richard Johnson is not designing buildings, he spends part of his winter photographing ice huts across the country.

After exploring the winter shack for a decade, he said that they "represent the most fundamental form of architecture." The huts also tell a story about the lake they sit on as well as the people who sit inside, Johnson explained.

"Saskatchewan has the highest per capita ownership of pickup trucks, I was told, and that is evident with the shape of ice fishing shacks," he said.

"They fit into the bed of a pickup truck, so they can be driven around and deposited on different lakes. There's a little notch in the bottom. That notch also forms a bench when you are inside, so form follows function."

Here's an ice shack captured at Blackstrap Reservoir, Sask., in 2011. (Richard Johnson/Submitted to CBC)

Saskatchewan's shacks vary, but he said they are very different than shacks on the east coast. On Prince Edward Island the shacks are completely dark, allowing for spear fishing.

In the 10 years of looking at the shacks, Johnson added that there's been changes as people bring in solar panels, LED lights, satellite dishes and generators. But one thing has stayed the same.

"It's a place to get away. It's a place to solve the world's problems with a few buddies and some beer or some whiskey," Johnson said.

Toronto photographer Richard Johnson spends his winters capturing ice shacks across Canada including Saskatchewan. Here's a shot from Anglin Lake, Sask., from 2011. (Richard Johnson/Submitted to CBC)

Johnson has over 850 images of individual huts as well as around 100 panorama photographs of ice fishing villages. He said they will be compiled in a book, likely to come out next year.

An ice shack captured at Murray Point one Emma Lake, Sask., in 2011. (Submitted by Richard Johnson)


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.