Choosing a Fishing Guide: The difference between a good trip and a great trip

You had saved up for two years. The anticipation nearly killed you. The waiting, the wondering, the researching all coupled with the childish excitement of the unknown. Finally, the day comes for your long awaited fishing trip to the lake you have only seen in your dreams for the past 24 months. You and your buddies hired a fishing guide with the hopes of learning the lake, picking up a quick limit of walleyes and of course catching the elusive wall hanger. But wait, by sheer chance a nasty thunderstorm blew up and the long awaited dream trip quickly becomes the trip from hell. In an attempt to flee the storm, your guide accidentally ran the boat onto some submerged rocks. To make it worse upon impact you fell out of the boat cutting your arm at the time of the collision. You were rescued but didn’t get to a hospital in time and now have severe nerve damage causing your arm and hand to not work like it once did. After months rehab and thousands of dollars in medical bills you find out your guide was just some guy who told you he was a fishing guide.

The preceding scenario was made up, but more than many care to admit, it could happen and sometimes does. In this day and age of commercialism and instant gratification some very important questions never get asked when choosing a fishing guide. To avoid any problems when hiring a guide there are a few simple steps to be taken and questions that need to be asked. Simply asking these questions and doing some simple research can save you time and headaches, hopefully making your dream trip more enjoyable.

There are four steps that need to be taken once you decide what lake or river you want to fish.

Use the internet to research guide services in the area.
Call local bait shops or resorts to find who they recommend
Call or email the guide to ask the all important questions
Book the guide and have fun

Researching With the Internet

The internet is a wonderful invention. It puts the world right at the tips of our fingers. It can also come in extremely useful when choosing a fishing guide. Assuming you have already chosen the body of water or area you want to fish you can simply do a web search and you will get many web sites with information about that area.

Like anything else some web sites are more informational and up to date than others. You will quickly figure out which is which. The better ones have reports and lists of guides and other amenities from that lake or area. From there it is best to read past reports and start making a list of mentioned guides and outfitters who are advertised to making reports the lake. It is not out of the question to log in and ask a few questions of the site members to help you build your list of potential guides and maybe recommend one that will be just right for you.

Another useful way to utilize the web in choosing a fishing guide would be to search local and regional magazine and television web sites to see what guides they are featuring and doing stories on. This will at the very least going to tell you who the more popular (or up and coming) guides are and that may help you pick out the ones that are operating on the up and up.

Call Local Bait Shop

You have already chosen your preferred lake or river and have done the web research to point you in the right direction. The next step is get a local perspective. Bait shops are a great place to begin with this process. The proprietors are there all year long and receive information that is as up to date as any available. The bait shop can not only give you up to day insight into the fishing conditions in the area, but most bait shops know the guides in the area and sometimes have preferred guide services they recommend. Visiting with the bait shop about the guides can help you get a reliable guide because their reputations also relies on your having a positive experience. If the guide they suggested you hire did not deliver you probably would not come back to the bait shop either.

Contact the Guide Service

Your choice of who you want to be your fishing guide has been made or your list is shortened to a few. The next step (and most important) is to call or email the guide to ask a few questions and to see if the guide is available the date or dates you want to fish.

When you contact the fishing guide the conversation to follow can be the determination of weather your trip is filled with memories and photos of success or similar to the scenario at the beginning and all you have is a bad memory and a bum arm.

Question 1- How experienced are you?

You quickly get a feel for a guide with this question. If they answer that they are new to guiding, that is ok. What you want to hear is that they know the lake or river and have spent some time on it. Getting someone who has guided on it for decades is a bonus, but some people have spent literally a lifetime learning the secrets of the lake and only recently decided to turn their passion into a career. One answer to be aware of is that the guide only recently moved to the area to take up shop. This typically happens when a spectacular bite arises. Fly by night operators move in to make a quick buck.

Question 2- Do you carry liability insurance?

This question is so important in this day and age. That opening scenario could be your worst nightmare. Believe it or not, many people calling themselves guides out there, especially in states not requiring guides to be licensed. These guides operate with no insurance to help them turn a better profit. It is in yours, your family, and your parties best interest to make sure your guide is fully insured. Any truly professional fishing guide will carry a liability policy. It is not only to protect you and your group in case of emergency but also to protect themselves from the cruel reality that could claim everything he or she have worked for in case of an accident. Some states such as North Dakota require all guides to maintain a minimum amount of liability insurance to purchase their guide license and stay in business.

Question 3- Do you have a guiding license?

This question depends on where you plan to hire your fishing guide. Some states and provinces require guides to obtain a license while others do not. For Example, North Dakota requires a guide to carry a license while Minnesota does not. It never hurts to ask the question to see what kind of reaction you receive. If you have made it this far in the process of choosing a guide you will know if a state requires a license or not. Finding out that a guide is licensed will tell you that the guide is operating at a higher standard and is also insured.

Question 4- Do you have all other proper permits and licenses?

This question may seem redundant to the others but it is a catch all. You see there are many bodies of water that are federally governed and require the guide to also be a certified Coast Guard Captain to operate. Many guides will tell you they are licensed in their respective state (and they are) but they may still be violating federal mandates.

This is important to you be cause if they are breaking a federal law the insurance and state licenses (if required) mentioned above become void. It would really be a travesty if you had an accident with a guide whom you thought was all legal only to find out they did not complete another requirement (either intentionally or unknowingly) voiding their insurance.

Federal licenses are not the only other permits you need to look for. Some states (such as Minnesota) require labor permits to operate boats for hire over certain sizes. Again, a guide not obtaining these licenses or permits can prove to cause your trip to be disaster.

Book the Guide and Have Fun

You have now done all of your homework and all of the fore mentioned questions have been answered to your satisfaction. The web sites you visited came up with the guide who posts reports, answers angler questions, and the members like and respect. The local bait shop recommended the guide to you as a trustworthy person and guide that delivers results. You called the guide and asked the important questions to ensure you are hiring a professional guide. Most importantly the guide is fully licensed and insured to do business.

The dates have been set, the waiting was hard, and your anticipated trip of a lifetime has arrived. You can take confidence that you hired a professional guide who cares about his clients and the laws that govern his profession. The only thing left to do is enjoy your trip to the fullest and make the memories that will last a lifetime.

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