Spearing grows in popularity
Alexandria’s Jeff and Jackie Reed knew exactly how they wanted to spend a cold and blustery day before a blizzard that hit the Alexandria area this past weekend.
The Reeds, who have been married for 12 years, have never been the kind to sit in front of a TV on a day like that. Instead, they prefer to head to their spear house on Lake L’Homme Dieu and sit in the dark. That’s exactly where they spent their morning this past Saturday.
Here, the water below them serves as their television set. Jackie is focused on the large sucker minnow she has set up in about nine feet of water over a weed bed when a northern shoots in and strikes the bait. The fish stops long enough for Jackie to release her spear and bring up her second fish of the day.
The Reeds do almost everything together. They hunt and fish. They ride four-wheeler and work on household projects, and in the winter, they are part of a growing segment of people who love the thrill of spearing northerns.
“It’s just such a great pastime,” Jackie said. “You come out here and we listen to the radio, and it’s a great way to tease one another when somebody misses.”
Those misses don’t come around all that often for a couple who has gotten pretty good at this over the years. Jackie has grown up loving the sport and that hasn’t left her. Jeff also speared at a young age with his grandpa before going away from it for a while as he focused more on angling. It was Jackie who helped get him back into it after the couple was married.
He’s glad she did. The Reeds love to fish in the summer and hunt both deer and bear in the fall. With spearing, they get the thrill of having both those passions come together.
“It’s that same adrenaline rush that you get when you hunt and that deer shows up,” Jeff said. “When that fish comes, and it’s all of a sudden there – it’s that same feeling. People wonder why you would sit around for two hours and look down in the water and not see anything. Then that fish shows up and you realize – that’s why.”
Alexandria’s Cory Berglin, a close friend of the Reeds, knows that feeling. He was with Jeff and Jackie in the dark house this past Saturday and also loves to spear.
It’s a passion he has passed along to his three sons, ages 11, 13 and 14. Berglin has safety harnesses that the kids have to wear in the house as they wait for the northerns to come in.
“Some kids are in hockey and families will choose that as their winter sport,” Berglin said. “Other kids, they sit in front of the PlayStation or Xbox and that’s their babysitter. Well, the fish house is my boys’ babysitter.”
Berglin’s three sons spend a lot of time spearing with the Reeds. When they do, there are no phones and no games going on other than the playful ribbing that gets thrown into the conversation.
“The thing I like about it is we sit and we visit,” Jackie said. “I don’t think there are a lot of young kids who go out with older adults and just sit and visit about life. I think that’s what you can achieve through sitting in a fish house together with a young person. That’s what I’ve always liked about it.”
It’s a sport that is becoming more and more popular with the younger generation every year. Jeff remembers how spearing was 15-20 years ago.
“The only people that you saw spearing were retired guys,” he said. “Now you see these high school kids out here with spear houses.”
Angling will always be a popular winter sport in the area, but more people seem to be finding out there is a lot of fun to be had in spearing.
“I have definitely seen more people this year than I have in the past and a lot of the younger guys as well,” Jeremy Shuck of Christopherson Bait in Alexandria said. “In the past, there were always a few, but it was the older generation. This year, I’ve really seen an interest in the younger generation starting to spear again.”
There are plenty of opportunities available with healthy northern populations in most of the lakes around Douglas County. The Reeds live on Lake L’Homme Dieu so they stick mostly to their home lake.
“Some of the best days that we’ve ever had out here are when they have the Ice Fishing Challenge out here,” Jeff said. “I think it stirs the lake up with the noise and the cracking of the ice. We’ve had some really good days when that tournament has been going on. I don’t know if it stirs them up or what’s going on, but we’ve had fish flying through that day and just had a ball.”
Those are the days that are easy to remember, but even the hours that result in no northerns can still be worthwhile. The Reeds have seen almost every species of fish that Lake L’Homme Dieu has to offer, even a couple young muskies over the years.
It’s an up-close view of a wild aquarium. That view, the thrill of success, even the disappointing misses and the teasing that always comes after – all of that is why there is rarely a day spent in the spear house that isn’t worth remembering.