Hiring guides to fish Wisconsin lakes is a century-old tradition. From current NFL stars to Chicago gangsters from the 1920’s, many folks have paid to meet a fishing expert at the boat launch for a day on the water. Some clients want to fill the freezer, some want to have a stress free day with the kids, some want to learn a new body of water, and some want to hone in on new techniques for catching fish. Whatever your reasons, hiring a guide to fish in Wisconsin can be a rewarding experience.
Fishing shows, magazines and outdoor expos are all inundated with ads for guides. Hiring a guide for the first time can be a daunting experience. You’re paying money to share a boat with an expert angler, and this means you have to connect both socially and educationally with a person you’ve never met to maximize your benefits- if you think about it, it’s a bit like your first day of junior high. Making friends, meeting teachers, what you’re going to eat in the lunchroom…All of those aspects from your gangly first day of 7th grade are similar to your first guiding experience.
Without knowing what you don’t know, hiring a guide can be a bit nerve-wracking, especially for new anglers. Rest assured, guides are keenly aware of client needs, and do everything they can to make for an enjoyable trip all the way around. If you’re like many other anglers who are considering hiring a guide for this upcoming season, the following information will help alleviate those concerns and allow you to settle back and just be excited about all the benefits of hiring a guide on Wisconsin waters.
Where to Find Wisconsin Guides
You’ve agreed with yourself that a 900 acre lake you’ve never fished before is a big question mark, and hiring a guide is the answer. Your first steps are to locate and research the available Wisconsin guides.
Call any bait stores you can find in the area- they often sell bait to guides, and can point you towards appropriate guide services. Remember that guides and bait stores are linked through the natural resources economy. This can also be a great way to meet the folks who you’ll be dealing with frequently on the new water or species you’re learning from the guide.
Purchase a few Wisconsin centered outdoor magazines: Musky Hunter, Wisconsin Outdoors, Midwest Outdoors, etc. All press will have a section regarding guide services in the area you want to fish. You’ll have a list of guides to choose from, great articles to flip through on a lazy Sunday, and you’ll be supporting Wisconsin local writers and small business.
If you’re an adventurous type, head to one of the many fishing expos held in Milwaukee, Madison or Wausau. The advantage of the expo attendance is that you will probably meet the guides in person ahead of time. Remember that you’ll be sharing a boat with them for around 8 hours- having a conversation with them face to face will make you much more comfortable about your upcoming trip.
Understand Why You’re Hiring the Guide
If you’re hiring a guide to catch fish and have some fun, it’s pretty simple. Guides are ready and waiting to take you out on some prime water. However, approaching your guided experience with a goal-oriented mindset is important. Most folks hire a guide to learn new water or a new species to target. Guides can also help learn the geography of a particular region. Lakes in certain parts of the state have systemic tendencies due to population, fishing pressure and the geomorphology of the region. Hiring a guide in a particular area of the state can give lots of insight for other waters in the general vicinity.
Particular approaches to fish can also be a hidden benefit to accessing Wisconsin guide services. Anglers who are beginning to target muskies, for example, can receive a hands-on education on how to fish more difficult baits to work like plastics and live bait. This will also give you a window into any additional gear you might need as you’ll have access to the guide’s gear. Fishing magazines and TV shows would have you believe you have to max out at least 3 credit cards to be a productive angler. A Wisconsin guide will show you what you need and how to use it, which increases your long-term spending efficiency. This is also a great opportunity to discuss boat electronics- you can be sure you’re speaking to an angler who has a ton of experience with different aspects of this expensive yet essential equipment.
Etiquette On The Water
You have a guide selected from a particular region, you have a species and method of fishing you’d like to learn more about, and your gear is packed and ready as that weekend in July arrives. Now, the wonderful Wisconsin waterways aren’t exactly Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, full of hidden rules and social mores, but there are a few things to keep in mind in terms of being a good citizen.
Be on time
That’s polite just about anywhere you go, but especially true in fishing. The timing of a fishing trip can coincide with action from the targeted species. The guide wants you to catch fish, but if you’re delaying the start of the fishing due to tardiness, you can negatively impact the catch for the day.
Have a plan for food
Be sure to speak to your guide about food. In some circles, the client brings lunch for the guide. Have an understanding regarding snacks, food and drinks. If you’re interested in drinking a few beers and eating popcorn chicken with your feet on the gunwale while you drag crawlers for walleye, let your guide know. If you’re going to pack a few granola bars and energy drinks, pausing only briefly to refuel before fishing hard again, let your guide know. The expectations clearly stated by you, the client, can help the guide understand what kind of trip you’re looking for.
Expectations for Success
Captain Matt Raley, who owns Hideaway Hollows Outfitters, guides all over the country. He has years of experience connecting anglers to the fish of a lifetime, especially in northern Wisconsin waters. I asked Matt about client expectations and he explained, “Know what your expectations for the trip should be. Ask the guide what to expect. Hiring a guide for hunting and fishing doesn’t mean you should expect limits each time.”
In short, guides can’t make fish bite. Their expertise and experience provides the best possible chance for success on the water, but tough days can happen. Head into your guiding experience with Capt. Raley’s idea of what the client should expect instead- “Have fun and hopefully increase your future success. I hope especially on fishing trips that clients are able to learn a few things along the way, too- either learning a new lake or technique.”
You can connect with Capt. Raley and learn more about his Wisconsin guide services at:
Payment for Services
This one is very easy. Bring cash with you and always tip.
Close the Deal
It’s winter here in Wisconsin, so what better way to spend your time than to cozy up with a coffee and a laptop and do a little research on area guides? Pandemic permitting, attend a few trade shows and meet and greet some of the fine men and women who make their living helping folks catch fish. Contact the guide of your choice, and schedule a trip. Learn all new skills, take your kids fishing, or grab some pointers on how to sharpen your game. Guide services in Wisconsin are plentiful, accessible, and most of all, a great experience for any angler of any skill.
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