It has now been over 3 years and now into my 4th, since I made the decision to become a full time fishing guide in the Quinte region. Truth be told when I had made this decision I really had no idea what I was in for, and probably still don’t. each year has been a crazy learning curve. I am writing this blog because of the amount of people that have said to me that he/she, either would like to be, or maybe knows someone that they think would make an amazing fishing guide. So I’m going to put into perspective what being a guide is really like and what to expect.
Being a fishing guide can be one of the best jobs in the world its true, but it does not come easy and without blood, sweat, and tears, oh and unless you have a tonne of money in the bank, then be prepared to be financially strapped for years to come. If you love fishing, then do not become a guide. Over the past 4 years and over 400 days spent on the water, I think I can count on 1 hand how many times I have actually gone fishing, TRUE FISHING, meaning where I get to go out and enjoy the act of fishing for myself and not worry about other peoples comfort levels while on the water.
Guiding is one of the hardest industry’s I have ever been involved in, but it sure beats flipping burgers, or a busy city commute, or cutting lawns. If I had thought about it, I would have started guiding a lot earlier, maybe when I was in high school or shortly there after. The key is to begin laying the foundation at an early age by working hard to become the best fisherman you can be, by learning everything you can about fishing tactics, techniques, and by studying the biology and behavior of the species that you want to fish for. This is difficult to narrow down at an early age I know, In fact I’m not sure I really know if I have found the right species for me yet and I’m almost 40.
Now for the part I say to people that think they want to become a guide LOL. Most people that want to get into guiding, fail to realize that “guiding” does not mean “fishing”.I have a buddy who has a son, he takes his son fishing all the time, and because I am a guide, he always say’s to me when I ask him what he’s doing for the weekend? he reply’s that he will be “guiding” his son on the bay for the weekend. Im not sure if he says this to get under my skin, or if he does it because he is trying to relate to me with what I do for a living but either way it definitely gets to me when he calls himself a guide, and over the years now has even hurt our friendship a bit. In my mind you have to earn that title.
When you take a paying customer out on the water, you are expected to be an instructor, a cheerleader, a helping hand, a butler, a maid, a cook, have incredible customer service skills, and in some cases be a babysitter. The worst case scenario requires you to choose a lure, tie the correct knots, teach the clients how to use the equipment, show the client where the fish are, choose the correct speed, and steer the boat, and then stand there and watch while the client proceeds to do everything wrong after a fish bites, usually the client, after loosing the fish due to too much slack in the line looks at you and blames you for not teaching him the correct way. You then have to nod and bow your head as if it were your fault and try all over again.
Before all of this goes on, you are required by law to take separate courses that allow you to take paying clientele on your vessel plus hold the proper insurances all of which are extremely costly, and all before you have any clientele or income into the business to help recoup your costs.
Now that you have done all that and you are trying to find any way possible to advertise your business for free because you have just spent your life savings, your wife’s life savings, the down payment you had for a house, begged, borrowed, and stolen tens of thousands to get a suitable boat and equipment to accommodate strangers, oops I meant clients to go fishing you are all set right? NOPE WRONG.
This is the most difficult part of being a successful guide. Earning the respect of your peers. This is possibly the most important portion of becoming a successful guide. Just because you can put a few fish in your boat does not make you a good guide. If you do not have the respect of the other guides in the area that you fish in you will not last long.
Lets think about that. Especially if you are anything like me LOL. Ok lets say you get everything in place and you come to a marina and plunk your boat in the water and your ready to start taking on clients, where are your clients coming from? now you need to go and find fish, so you ask one of the other boats your tied right next to and say hey brother so where are the fish biting today? do you think his answer is going to be “? hey new guy, ya the fish were on fire at these co-ordinates xxxyyyzzz”. NO NOT A CHANCE. it will be more like this if he doesn’t just tell you F off, “hey new guy ya we caught lots about 15 miles just west of the red marker out by ZZZXXXYYY”. now excited you just got up to date information and thinking wow what a great guy. you will get up early in the morning have the gear all ready to go, your clients meet you, and you head out to what you think is going to be the best fishing grounds in the area. wondering why you are the only boat out on the water that day, you fish hard all day and nothing to show for it. you head home with your head held low with angry clients that you know will never come back. not to mention you would like to give them the trip for free but the cost of fuel to get to the spot and back and troll around all day almost broke the bank, so you have no choice but to charge the clients you just skunked.
back at the dock you talk to buddy that gave you the co-ordinates and again if he doesn’t just tell you to f-off he probably tells you “oh sorry man I heard first thing that the bite was hot somewhere else so he went there instead”. this kind of thing will probably go on for anywhere from 1 to 5 years before guys will start sharing info but you will have to earn their respect first.
While this 1 to 5 years of initiation from your peers is going on you have everyone and their dog that fishes and knows you, wanting to come out for a fishing day. when you mention the cost they look at you, laugh, and say “ok but how much for me?” LOL thinking you need to find places where the fish are you take people out for next to nothing barely covering costs and definitely not making any kind of a wage.
within the first year, “guiding” has now become more about taking a lot of friends out for a next to free day on the water and because you are a so called “guide” you no longer get to actually reel in any of the fish, you get to watch people learn your spots that you have worked like a dog to acquire and they get to reel in fish that you basically caught for them.
fishing that was once a passion will become a job like any other, where you have to wake up earlier than any job you’ve had in the past, around 4am, any, and every day of the week, and get home late, with what seems like very little reward. This will go on for a while, but if you can get past that time of becoming a guide to the part where you earn the respect of some of your peers, (remember you do not need the respect of ALL of them) then you will start to have fun with the job and it will eventually become the best job in the world.
remember that without the respect of your peers you truly fish alone. even though you are on your own on your boat, make all the daily decisions alone, are solely responsible for all the bills, do the clean up daily all alone, you can not do this job, WELL, alone. I can personally tell you that it is considerably easier to get onto active fish with many boats covering areas and sharing info than to have to find it on your own.
If I were to give anyone looking at becoming a Fishing guide some gentle advise it would be to, 1- remember to take advice from any guide willing to give it. 2- even if some of the information you get from someone turns out to be bogus, make sure you thank them and learn from the experience. 3- you will not like all the advice you get from people so remember to pick and choose advice that pertains to you and even if you did not like what someone has to say does not mean they are wrong. 4- this business is not for everyone and it is ok if its not for you. 5- make sure you have your own & informative good information to share with others, nothing earns respect faster than this, (a good hot lure, or spot) but be selective to who you give it to remember you have worked hard to gain this intel. 6- And lastly, remember your boat doesn’t run on thank you’s, it runs on fuel.
Now for the good part. I know I may have come across a bit sour in this blog up to now but it is the truth about becoming a guide in my eyes. Ok, moving on, so you have got through the initial initiation stage and you have found a small clientele base after a couple years spent grinding it out on the water and your still here. you have made a few alliances on the water, and you know a few good producing spots where you know you can put a few fish on the boat for clients. it is at this point you will start to enjoy your new profession. Even though you started this job thinking you could do it because you were an ok fisherman, now you realize that your potential is limitless with the right people behind you. watching people catch fish, becomes your passion, the smiles and excitement on especially the little childrens faces that you helped put their biggest fish they have ever seen or caught is what drives you to get up every day. You start to take in the beauty and nature that surrounds you day in and day out, that you remember was one of the reasons you wanted to be a guide in the first place. a sense of relaxation consumes you every day while on the water with clients instead of a kind of stress that no individual should ever have to feel, your dream that became a job is now becoming your dream job once again, and it all becomes worth it as you truly make the transition from a passionate fisherman to “GUIDE”. Just because someone has a registered business name and a boat with the proper paper work does not make someone a “guide” it takes time to earn that title, but once you do, then no-one can take it away from you.
So if you think being a “guide” is for you, I would welcome anyone to the challenge and good luck.
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They say a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work. I tend to agree with that statement and here is one scenario.
leave me a comment below and let me know if you agree.
If you have ever fished The Bay Of Quinte in the Fall you know that The Bay seems to have a mind of its own at times. The Bay Of Quinte commands respect. Every morning as many of you fight your way through city traffic and crowd your self onto over populated street cars and subways, trying hard not to make eye contact with the person rubbing up against you, by looking onto your electronic devices and spending all day trying to get the smell of a thousand different perfumes, mixed with BO, and thousand cologne smells you had the pleasure of encountering before you had your morning coffee, out of your head. relax there is a place where all that craziness seems to just disappear.
Of course, I’m talking about fishing. Fall Fishing on The Bay Of Quinte can be, in a word, majestic. As clients pull up to the harbor before sunrise and watch as the fishing captains of all the charters tied off to the docks ready their boats for the days activities, If you could just relax for a few minutes and pay attention to your surroundings, you would notice an array of activities going on. Anglers launching their boats into the water at the main public launch, the trees rustling in the wind on the high cliffs surrounding the harbor, the sound of the boats warming their engine’s, the sound of the birds coming to the harbor and landing in the water where they stay for the day to feed, the distant chit chat of anglers discussing their days plan and wishing each other luck.
As the sun tries hard to make an appearance a dim light starts to shine through the trees empty branches, its time to load clients onto the boats. As each Boat unties from their respected dock, you see a convoy of charter boats slowly making their way out of the harbor and into the channel. The water like a sheet of glass and the boats not even making a ripple in the water. By the time most of the boats have reached the entrance where the channel meets the bay, boats start to throttle up as to be the first boat to their days choice spot. the boats head out into all directions and soon they all disappear and you are alone, just you, your captain, and your crew.
As we make our way to our destination, the sun rising, you start to notice the light fog over top of the water as it is cooling and getting closer to the big freeze of the winter months. shore lines lightly covered with a dusting of snow, we pass a flock of low flying ducks one way, and a flock of geese the next. The boat throttles down and comes almost to a complete stop. The captain starts the small trolling motor and turns off the main engines you can barely hear the small motor running, after a short time the captain has set up all the rods and reels and you slowly start to concentrate on the rod tips moving, and awaiting the sound the reel makes when there is a fish on the line. Pretty soon any and all life’s little problems seem to have taken a back seat to the tranquility, and the immediate, here and now.
After a while of trolling around you start to get anxious and wanting to hear the scream of the reel knowing that there would be a potental that dinner may be on the other end, Yet Nothing happens. The captain makes a few changes in the program and you feel excitement that the changes made, will make all the difference, and soon a fish will strike.
More time passes, and the lines lay quietly in the water stalking your prey. You have now long since finished your coffee, and start to forget about the act of catching fish. chatting among your friends and reminiscing of old times, As time passes you have now completely given up on hope that any one will catch a fish today but you don’t mind as you are having fun listening to, and telling stories, having a few snacks, and listening to some music. its now mid afternoon and there is a strange clicking sound coming from behind your seat, the captain jumps out of his seat and runs over you to grab the rod with a bend in it he sets the drag of the reel and hands it to you. at first you don’t really feel anything maybe a bit of resistance but cant tell if a fish is on the line or if its just the lure at the other end. Suddenly a few good shakes of the fish and the rod loads up almost bending right over, you think the rod is about to snap. now your adrenaline pumping, the blood rushing through your veins, you realize you have a big fish on the other end. after several minutes of fighting, your arm gets tired, you want to hand off the fish but your friends are cheering you on and you can’t give it up now. you fight the fish until it is at the boat, the captain pulls a net out and nets the biggest Walleye you have ever seen. after taking a few pictures you decide to release the fish back to try and let someone else have their chance at catching this beauty fish.
Its your personal best walleye and possibly fish you have ever caught. the captain re-sets line in hopes of a last attempt to try for another one before its time to go in.
Unfortunatly not another one is caught for the day. The captain brings up the lines, turns off the small trolling motor, the big engines tart up and you head in for the day, on the way home you start to notice the sun starting to set, the birds that you passed in the morning are starting their journey back to where they came from, soon you notice other boats getting closer heading back to port, and shortly there is a few boats heading back up the channel to the harbor creating that convoy you noticed in the morning.
Once you get back to the dock you realize that you did not think about work all day, or that you have to get to the bank to make that payment, or you havn’t talked with your wife/ girlfriend/boyfriend all day and didn’t get the dreaded, (can you pick up a few things on your way home ) call. you realize that you had fun with some friends and have just made another great memory. Now your already looking forward to your next day on the water knowing every day fishing can be extremely different than the last trip out.
Capt James Mathias
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Is a bad day fishing better than a good day at work?
My Fishing Adventures of the East Coast
Well the last day of my fishing adventure for 2015 on the East coast has come to an end. I came out with the intention of putting my head down for a few months and work hard on a lobster boat. I wasn’t sure what to expect to be honest. I have worked on commercial vessels in previous years & in various parts of the world. In 2002 I spent a summer working on a scallop boat in Advocate Harbour NS. shucking scallops. After my stint on the scallop boat, at the time the Captain had invited me to come back to work the lobster season. Unfortunately at that time I was unable to make the trip back out to try out the lobster season but ever since I have wanted to try my hand at fishing for one of the worlds finest high end sea food, as a deck hand.
With the TV shows such as wicked Tuna, Deadliest Catch, Cold Water Cowboys, over the past 10 years and combined with the fact I now run my own fishing charter business which in my personal opinion is one of the best places to do what I do, chartering a world class fishery for arguably some of the largest walleye found in the world on The Bay Of Quinte. This peeked my interest to try and find a job for this past spring season. I was in for a bit of a shock tho, I had a false idea that lobster fishing would be one of the easier commercial fishing jobs that I would have ever experience and I was in for a rude awakening.
Maybe because im not as young and fit as I once was or maybe because truly Lobster fishing is actually a tough deal but I found this experience very rewarding and extremely difficult. With long hours (at least on my boat) LOL, Lobster fishing had quickly humbled me as I found I was not the lean mean fishing machine I figured I was when I looked in the mirror HA HA HA, Some 13 hour days 6 days a week lifting 250 traps a day weighing up to 120lbs each, sorting sea crustations that are trying all day to rip your fingers apart, Sorting through thousands of lobster daily, and banding up to 1500 (ish) claws per day, hanging over the edge of the boat to hook a rope which are often stuck on rocks and pulling against the tide while trying to balance yourself through rough seas. Everything in nature’s power is trying its hardest to prevent the fisherman of Cape Breton from trying to help supply the world with some of the finest tasting seafood many have come to love and rarely afford. But year after year these fishermen successfully battle the elements, and do so with dignity, and pride.
I was however fortunate enough to get a chance to see one the rarest lobsters in the ocean. the blue lobster, and not only did I get to see it once but on the last day of the season we actually got to pull up another blue lobster I think to be completely honest it was the exact same one we caught almost 2 weeks prior and released.
A friend of mine Jeff flew out to come for a visit and I was able to get him out on the boat for the last day of the season and he too was lucky enough to get the rare opportunity to get a glimpse of the blue lobster being caught and released back to its natural environment, a very special moment for me.
This type work is not for the weak, it is a tough job. But I would recommend it to anyone that are adventure seekers, determined, hardworking, has a love of fishing, loves being on the water, and of course does not get sea sick. I would challenge anyone who has never done it before to give it a try and see if you have what it takes to be a commercial lobster fisherman. And if you do then Cape Breton is the place to do it.
I will take a moment to thank a few people I have met out here I can only attribute my first ever successful season as a commercial lobster fisherman.
First to my new friends Liam, Boo, you guy’s to me are the salt of the earth type of people Liam helped me get sorted once I had arrived in Mabou Harbour he got the trailer working properly and helped me get my water tank filled up on a weekly basis among a tonne of other things you did for me without asking just because you are good people. Always willing to lend a helping hand, you guys are what helped make my trip enjoyable and I wanted to thank you for everything. your kids are amazing, Parker buddy, ill miss ya, keep your head up on the bike and hug Marry for me daily LOL.
Next Capt Andy, this individual helped me through the months as well. He invited me into his home for a hot showers and a meal on several occasions, He took me both crab, and lobster fishing while my captians boat was down getting fixed. I enjoyed every moment of your time I wish you the best of luck with your fishing charter business you are a hell of a fisherman one of the best, hard core, and a great guy in my personal opinion cheers bud. If anyone is looking for a wicked, tuna fishing adventure in Nova Scotia then check out Captain Andy’s charter I guarantee you’ll have the experience of a life time. Go to www.rankintunacharters.ca or call him at 902-9452709 you’ll be glad you did, and Capt I’d fish with you anytime.
Millan at the Downstreet in Inverness, you are a laugh for sure and the reason I kept coming back to the café, congrats on the new position bro you deserve it. Til next time bud.
And of course I must thank Captain Jody Rankin. Without you giving me this opportunity to kick my butt on the open water day in and day out this season I would not have had this incredible adventure giving me a memory of a lifetime. We have spent the last 2 months together, but we have spent more time together in that short period than I get to spend with my wife in a year. We fished calm waters, rough seas, been towed in from open water, worked through the break downs, caught lobsters, had break downs, worked through injuries together, did I mention the break downs HA HA HA. I hope we will fish again together sometime soon, I appreciate everything you did for me while I was here, oh and tell your wife she is an amazing cook LOL your a lucky man CPAT. maybe if you can make the trip to Ontario one day I’ll be able to return the favor, and again thank you for the opportunity.
There are many other people here on the island I met and wish I could mention but this blog would turn into a book so I’ll just stop there. But I will say that the experience of meeting some of the communities around the island I have never seen a more hospitable people in all the travels around the world I have ever been to and I look forward to making a trip back again someday. Thank you Cape Breton
Some other people I need to thank here are my family. I have 2 beautiful boys that have given me their support back home and always support me in my adventures in life, it was very hard for me to be away from you guys for this long and I look forward to seeing you soon. And of course my beautiful wife Rachel, without your support and sacrifice I could not go and do these crazy adventures. There is not a women on this earth that can put up with husband like me I know, and you do it in stride and with a smile. I’m a lucky man, I love you with all my heart, and I’m coming home, see you soon babe.
I hope for those that have followed my Fishing Adventures On The East Coast, that you enjoyed the story. This was about my real life interpretation of what its really like to become a deck hand on a commercial fishing vessel for the Lobster season. I’m sure I’ll be doing another one before long LOL.
If you enjoyed, please like and share my FaceBook Page, and /or Comment below, if you think you would like to try your hand at doing something like this I would be happy to speak with you and my be give some helpful advise.
Tight Lines, and full traps
Sunday May 17th 2015
Today I was able get my wrists and hand a bit of a needed break as it was my day off. Unfortunately for the crab fisherman they are not as lucky they work the lobster on Monday’s Tuesday’s, Thursday’s, Friday’s and Saturday’s, and they go crabbing on Wednesday’s, and Sunday’s each week until their quota’s are filled.
Anyway today was the first of the snow crab to come in and hit the wharf, I found it very interesting as there were a bunch of vehicles that pulled up and a bunch of young men jumped out of each vehicle and waited around for the crab boats to come in. as each boat comes in the men are hired to unload the boat, with approx 11,000lbs of crab it can take quite some time to unload as each of the crab must be put into crates, then put directly into a large tractor trailer and then packed with ice.
I was rewarded myself with a nice snowcrab which I made for dinner and had enough left over to make a crab sandwich for tomorrows lunch. It can pay off to be living right on the wharf, LOL.
On Monday it was back to work and since the traps were in the water for a couple of days without being disturbed it should be a good haul. Well the day didn’t disappoint a good haul indeed while Monster Stalking the Lobter we were rewarded with a few nice sized ones. LOL
My Trip to the East Coast
I made it up to Chiticamp NS. This morning in hopes of potentially landing a very temporary position getting the lobster/crab processing plant ready for the upcoming season, I was unsuccessful in my task, however I was again walking the docks which was very active today, all the fisherman seem to have taken advantage of today’s great weather to get their boats and gear ready. I was talking with some local fisherman and it seems that boats have or are about to start the crab season on the east side of the island. As this is now the 2nd time I have heard this I am contemplating heading over that way in the morning to check it out. As it will be about a 1.5 hour drive I think I will leave my trailer where it is in Inverness, pack an overnight bag (just in case) and try my luck.
For the mean time I will head back to Inverness and see what’s going on back in town. As I drive back along the coast I notice that the ice all along the coast seems to have broken up over night and is now moving away from shore. A couple of fisherman told me that when it starts to break up it doesn’t take long, fingers crossed. As the day moves along the ice has moved about a ¼ km off shore and looks to be leaving the area.
I awoke surprisingly sober around 6am feeling refreshed and ready for the day. I decided to see what the other side of the island may have in store for this old wannabe greenhorn, so I packed a bag of cloths, some toiletries and headed over to the east side of Cape Breton Island.
I arrived into North Sydney NS. And took a few picks of the very impressive ferry that takes people to Newfoundland, then off to the docks to find some more fisherman.
I found a very helpful guy working on his buddys boat (the was called Family comes 1st ) he gave me some info about some boats that were looking for some helpers down in Louisbourg NS, approx 70km south but unfortunately as for the boats in Sydney they probably wont be out until around the 15th of May. The man invited me intoto his brand new lobster fishing vessel, he and his son had just purchased 2 new vessels for the upcoming season, I climbed up the scaffolding and chatted with the man for a few moments, again he invited me to come aboard, I explained that the next time I step onto a lobster fishing vessel it should be one I am fishing on. he seemed to understand that, So I thanked him for his time and info and off I went to find some guys looking to head out.
I arrived in Louisbourg about an hour later down at the docks to find that some of the guys were starting to head out a few days ago but the ice from the west side of the island that had started to move out as I mentioned in the other blog had made its way around the island already and was now blocking any boats from getting out of the harbours on the east side. The word was if I wanted to stick around until the ice leaves then they would happily take me onboard to work the season. I thanked the captain I was chatting with for his offer but I explained I was only looking for a few days and an experience, as I had already committed to a boat back in Mabou for the season and that I would not be able to let the CAPT Down. He understood my position and I got back in my truck and headed back to inverness where my trailer is parked. ( I hope its still there when I get back lol.)
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