Ice reelerz are a fascinating subspecies of angler. Not only do they eschew water in the liquid form, but for many the actual catching of fish is secondary to the communal aspect of fishing. This week we’ll take a look at the unusual habits — and habitats — of these strange creatures.
Where are they?
Ice reelerz occur throughout the northernmost latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. Specimens have been identified in Antarctica, but for the most part, places in the Southern Hemisphere don’t have the right combination of cold air and fresh water to make them habitable for ice reelerz.
The ideal habitat for an ice reeler is any place where a body of water that contains a healthy fish population freezes to a depth of several inches. It’s always better if the lake or river freezes over entirely, as open or soft spots can be dangerous.
What do they eat?
It’s difficult to pin down the diet of an ice reeler. Most are piscivorous, but many also prefer to catch fish rather than eat them. Beer is a requirement for many ice reelerz. Some specimens have been seen using grills on the ice near their fishing spots to cook forage items such as burgers, brats, and steaks, as well as for any grillable catch they may pull up through the ice.
How Do They Fish?
The variety of techniques, equipment, and fishing habits among ice reelerz is nearly as varied as the personalities of the reelerz themselves. The first thing you need is a hole in the ice. Most reelers use augers, either power or hand, to drill through the ice. Some folks use chainsaws or, even less commonly, axes to cut ice holes. A ladle to keep the hole clear is also immensely helpful.
It’s very common to use electronics like fish finders to help decide where to fish. But there are also those who drill a hole based on location and/or structure, drop in a line, and just hope for the best.
A major component of fishing for ice reelerz is staying warm. This can be especially challenging on bigger lakes and rivers where the winds can whip up and blow with ferocity. So, in addition to appropriate outerwear and layering, many ice reelerz use shelters.
Some shelters are lightweight and portable, like tents or lean-tos. Others are more elaborate, like camping trailers that can be moved from one spot to another with a vehicle. The most elaborate are almost like small cabins that are rarely moved throughout the season. These may be tricked out with satellite TV and generators. (Some ice reelerz use their shelters to escape from their everyday lives.)
Ice fishing rods are generally shorter and often use lighter tackle. Because the ice reeler is fishing in a little round (or sometimes bigger, rectangular) hole, jigging is probably the most popular technique used by ice reelerz.
What are their social habits?
While there are plenty of solo ice reelerz, most travel in social groups. Peter Hoang, a long-time ice reeler on Lake Simcoe in Ontario actually cautions against solo fishing because of safety reasons. John and Tony from Get Bent TV prefer group fishing for more practical reasons.
“One of our buddies has a four-wheeler. So, we invite him out pretty regularly,” the say.
On big lakes in cold climates — like Simcoe or Mille Lacs in Minnesota — the ice shacks form veritable villages of ice reelerz. They have their own pecking orders and social strata.
It may take an anthropologist to figure out folks who fish in these hard water fishing villages. But we’ll do our best this week.