Winter means ice fishing in Sylvan Lake

Snow crunches beneath your bulky boots as you make your way to your warm shack on this frozen lake. The sun is warm on your back but your breath creates visible clouds in the below-zero temperatures. Smoke plumes twirl into the sky from the chimneys of the hand-made shacks that surround you. People gather closely inside the cozy hideaways, peering into the holes they've drilled in the ice. They wait patiently until the fish bite.

At Sylvan Lake in central Alberta, there are about 100 ice-fishing shacks on the lake. Locals come out onto the ice to enjoy a day with friends, and maybe catch a fish large enough to eat.

Lionel Keyowski has been hauling his shack onto the lake for about 30 years. He says that the quality of fishing at Sylvan has diminished since he first started. The issue he says — white fish were introduced causing an upset to other fish populations. It's left him feeling frustrated with the amount and variety of fish left in the lake, which spans about 40 square kilometres.

But for many fishers at Sylvan Lake, it's a great way to spend long winter days even when the fish won't bite; even if the only catch is from the collapsed walleye population, which means automatic release after catching.

Photos by Masha Scheele