Think you'd like to be a fishing guide?
For once, I was there “yesterday.” If you’re an angler, you know what I mean. How many times have you heard, “Well, the fish aren’t biting today, but had you been here yesterday (or last week, or last month), well…”
Putting me on the fish that magical late-summer morning a few years ago was veteran fishing guide Dave Rose. We were fishing a small river in northwest Michigan from a drift boat, casting minnow-imitation lures for king salmon (also known as Chinooks) that were migrating upstream from Lake Michigan to spawn.
When we began fishing at dawn that morning, Rose estimated we would see about a hundred salmon moving upstream in the shallow, clear water beneath the boat. But by the end of our 7-mile, half-day float, we’d easily seen 10 times that number — an estimated 1,000 salmon or more.
“I’ve only seen this happen a time or two during all my 20 years of guiding,” Rose says incredulously. “We were definitely in the right place at the right time.”
I hooked half a dozen salmon that day, landing three — which is about the usual ratio for kings. Rose estimated that the salmon I caught weighed 17 to 18 pounds each.
Many fishing guides specialize in a specific species, but Dave Rose is a multi-species fisherman, guiding anglers to trout, salmon, smallmouth and largemouth bass, walleye, pike, perch, and panfish on inland lakes. He lives near Traverse City, Michigan, and attracts most of his clients from that resort town and others within a day’s drive.
The guiding life
A typical guiding day for Rose begins the evening before the actual trip. “It usually takes me a couple hours to prepare the boat (an 18-foot MirroCraft) with the specific tackle we’ll need for the day, including the safety gear,” says Rose.
During summer months, Rose usually has his clients meet him at a particular lake at 5 a.m. He’ll get there a half-hour or so earlier, to launch the boat and be ready. His typical guided fishing trips last about five hours and cost $425 for either one or two anglers.
One of the main things Rose likes about guiding is meeting different people. “I really enjoy the camaraderie of fellow fishermen,” he says. “So if you don’t like people, you probably wouldn’t enjoy guiding.”
Only about half his clients are experienced fishermen. “And it’s not an easy task to get people to catch fish if they know little or nothing about fishing,” he says. “So if a customer is a newbie, I spend much of our time on the water teaching him/her how to fish. But I enjoy that aspect of the job, especially when guiding a parent and child.”
Not always sunshine and roses
As for the downsides of guiding, Rose mentioned inclement weather. “You never know what Mother Nature is going to throw at you,” he says. “Some days are cold, wet, miserable and the fish just aren’t biting.”
Rose has a special trick up his sleeve for those tough days. He lowers an underwater camera over the side of the boat to prove to clients that fish really are present. “Regardless of the conditions, my goal every day is to try and get clients the most and biggest fish they’ve ever caught,” he says. “I work hard to make that happen, every trip.”
As for the costs of being a fishing guide, Rose says expenses can run quite high. “There is not only the cost of purchasing a boat, motor(s), and trailer, but the cost of maintenance and gas as well,” Rose says. “Add to that an annual guide’s license, insurance, rods, reels, bait, and other tackle, and expenses really add up quick.”
One last thing Rose highly recommends for any potential fishing guide is a fallback plan. “Make sure you have a spouse with a real job,” he says.
If you’d like to fish with Dave Rose this summer, he can be reached at 231-633-9875 or by e-mail at email@example.com. And tell him I sent you.
Chip Gross is Ohio Cooperative Living’s outdoors editor and a member of Consolidated Electric Cooperative. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.