Anyone who’s been been around the lake a time or two knows that some of the best times are when you or a friend get a monster bite and after struggling to reel it in, find that’s it’s just a stick, lily pad or a friend’s lure. Now, imagine if you were able to pull off a prank that took that basic concept to the next level and then turned it into a hilarious video.

Meet Eric Haataja.

Haataja is a fishing guide in Wisconsin and holds the world record for brown trout. He’s been doing it long enough to know that ice fishing can get a little mundane. So he’s invented a way to keep smiles on his clients’ faces: elaborate pranks that make them think they’re hauling in the fish of a lifetime.

His latest video is giving outdoorsmen across the country giggle fits after it shows one such instance. In it, Haataja’s client from last week can be seen “fighting” what appears to be a monster. What the client doesn’t know is that it’s not a fish on the other end of the line: it’s actually one of Haataja’s associates. And the camera hilariously lets all the viewers in on the trick as the client struggles to land his trophy (which in this case was a tackle box with two minnows):

Eric Hajaat pulls off awesome ice fishing prank

Image source: YouTube

Eric Hajaat pulls off awesome ice fishing prank

Image source: YouTube

Eric Hajaat pulls off awesome ice fishing prank

The real “fish,” which is one of Hajaat’s associates running with the line. (Image source: YouTube

Eric Hajaat pulls off awesome ice fishing prank

Image source: YouTube

“He’s runnin’, he’s runnin’, he’s runnin’!” Haataja can be heard yelling in the background during the trip on the Milwaukee harbor. He also sells the catch by telling the client not to let the big one go.

“Big fish! That’s a big fish!” he assures.

“Take your time with him!”

“He’s a monster!”

And the client bit hook, line and sinker, so to speak.

Watch it unfold in the video:

“I’ve done it for about three years now,” a chuckling Haataja told TheBlaze from the Milwaukee, Wis., area where he runs his guide business. He actually had more of the videos but lost them when a hard drive went kaput.

“It’s about having a good time, catching big fish and keeping [the clients] entertained,” he said. And because ice fishing is a little more social, “when things slow down you try to find ways to entertain our customers, and one of them is by practical jokes.”

And it works. A big part of why, Haataja said, is because he’s become known to catch big fish. So when it’s a person on the other end pulling and not a fish, a lot of clients expect it’s just another gilled giant: “There’s expectation there.”

If you’re wondering how he actually pulls it off, he let us in on the secret. The big clue is at about 33 seconds into the video, when the camera quickly pans over a separate hole in the ice. That separate hole is the key to the trick:

Eric Hajaat pulls off awesome ice fishing prank

As the camera pans, viewers unknowingly catch a glimpse of how the team pulls it off: a separate hole (in the bottom left of the frame) on the outside of the ice tent. (Image source: YouTube)

“We set up our shelter, and in the corner of the shelter we drill a hole,” he said. “And then right on the outside of the shelter … we drill a hole right next to the other hole, and then we put the tent right on the edge.”

They then run a line down the hole on the inside and have someone else grab the line and pull it through the hole on the other side, all while the client is across the ice and oblivious. When it gets slow, that’s when they call the client over and tell him there’s a fish on. And that’s when the fun begins.

“They come running over,” Haataja said, and have no clue. When the client finally reels in the “catch,” the team likes to vary what’s on the other end, everything from food to a barbie doll and even a Wisconsin staple: a Johnsonville brat.

“They always all seem to laugh,” he said when asked how clients react and if they ever get upset. In fact, he says, some even refuse to believe they’ve actually been pranked and insist there had to be a fish on.

He’s vowed more videos. Clients beware.

(H/T: Field and Stream)