The Ultimate Fishing Guide

Published in the February 2011 Issue February 2011 Ask The Expert Dan Armitage

Net Worth I reminded my new friend that he owns a perfectly capable fishing boat which he could trailer down, and that there are plenty of rental boats at the destination if the drive or the boat-trailering was holding him back. The guy admitted that part of his hesitation concerned the camaraderie he would miss in his guide/friend's absence, but also that he was worried about being able to safely navigate the local waters and get to the fishing spots that he had counted on his professional fishing companion to get them to.

The advice I gave him is the same I have shared with anglers testing new waters for years. The short version: hire a local fishing guide! Bite the ego bullet ("Why hire someone when I know how to fish and can run a boat?!") and shell out the (considerable) bucks it'll cost you to spend a day with a pro and I guarantee you, you won't be sorry.

Even if you own your own boat and have the basic fishing skills and equipment required to be successful in a given water system, the time and money you will spend (note I didn't say "waste;" I consider any time spent aboard and on the water to have value.) using trial and error to learn the local waters and stumble upon a fishing spot or two will positively eclipse the up-front monetary investment required to hire a local professional to help you cut some corners and straighten out your local knowledge learning curve.

Good Investment That said, to be fair there are some guidelines you need to follow when temporarily hiring the services of a guide, especially one to show you the ropes in waters you intend to boat and angle in the long run on your own.

Since you are not the typical client hiring a guide for a day or two of fishing while you are in town, and instead are hoping to gain local boating and fishing knowledge for your own use in those same waters, you need to be up front with him (or her) and share that information before you agree on a trip. Most captains and guides will appreciate your candor, respect you for being open about your intentions, and may (or may not) agree to host you. While they may not be as forthcoming about taking you to their "secret" hot-spots, knowing that you may return yourself and compete with his clients for his hard-earned fishing action, most professional fishing guides who agree to a "training trip" will return the favor by extending the extra effort required to show you some tips and shortcuts for safely navigating local waters and share other equally valuable information to someone who will be boating there in the long term. The guide will also take you to good places to fish, and perhaps explain what makes those particular locales productive, which is invaluable for someone seeking information to help them start identifying potential "honey holes" of their own.

This is where a hand-held GPS unit comes in handy. Ask your guide if it's okay for you to mark some of the places he takes you. Better yet, if your model offers the option, ask if it is ok with your captain to record the route of your entire time on the water for later reference. The rule here is to ask first; you don't want your captain to catch you sneaking position fixes of his prime fishing holes on a portable GPS receiver. That's grounds for a long swim back to the dock in most locales.

Camera-Friendly As I advised my friend, in advance of any trip during which you intend to hire a local fishing guide, you should get names of guides and captains from friends who have visited the destination, local sources such as tourism agencies, chambers of commerce, tackle shops or fishing guide associations, or study magazines that carry advertisements for captains who work the waters you want to visit. Then ask the guides you choose to contact for references from past clients, and follow-up with contact with them to learn of the anglers' experiences with that particular captain.

Once you have settled on a potential guide to hire, tell them exactly your intention to use the fishing and boating experience they offer as a basis for further exploration on your own. If they agree to take you out and show you the ropes under those conditions, follow-up with additional communication to make sure you know what time to show up and where, what to wear and who is responsible for what in terms of tackle, bait and lunch.

Done right and with mutual respect, as experienced by my friend, you may be entering a mutually beneficial, long-term relationship. At the least, you will be spending invaluable time in the company of someone with professional knowledge of waters and a fishery that you want to know better yourself. And that's worth gold.

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