The small town of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade in Quebec, Canada, could be considered of little interest. However in adjacent towns and cities, it is well known for its popular ice fishing season. The attraction is a particular species of fish named 'Tommy Cod', which is located exclusively below the iced surface of the Sainte-Anne River.
In the winter of 1938, a man named Robert Mailhot was cutting large cubes of ice from the river's frozen surface, in order to power an old-fashioned freezer during the following summer. Through the resulting hole in the ice, he noticed that the river was a rich source of fish - the official discovery of Tommy Cod.
Types of Ice Fishing
A well-known method of ice fishing is by using rods. A fisherman waits patiently near a round hole in the ice, holding a traditional fishing rod. Alternatively, he could be using more sophisticated equipment that doesn't need to be held, allowing the fisherman to stand nearby and wait.
However, standing on a flat, windy, icy surface waiting for fish to be caught is precisely what makes ice fishing so hard for most people. It can become very cold and very boring.
As elsewhere in the world, the ice fishing pioneers of Sainte-Anne realised that while fishing it might actually be more practical, if they had a shack or chalet to shelter from the wind. They asked themselves 'Why not make a hole in its floor, so we can fish from the inside?' The result was a rapidly growing village of wooden shacks spreading over the surface of the frozen river.
Every fishing shack has a hole about two feet wide, extending from the front to the back of the shelter. Above the hole, 50 or more vertical fishing lines are attached near the ceiling, relieving them of the weary task of holding the bait and lines themselves.
Two kinds of bait are used, either the traditional pork-liver cubes, or the more expensive and so-claimed efficient, but odorous, shrimp.
Today's Ice Fishing Season
Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade is recognised as the world capital for Tommy Cod fishing. It is not uncommon to encounter festive celebrations involving alcoholic beverages all over the 'ice town'. Many fishermen prefer to keep the hole in their shacks covered, to avoid any drunks slipping and falling under the ice.
The fishing season begins on 26 December, on the basis that if it began any earlier, then fewer men would be able to attend the Christmas Eve celebration at the local church. The season ends on 15 February, when the Tommy Cod swim back to the Saint-Laurent River where they came from.