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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