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It’s the time of year when some anglers start thinking of ice-fishing, and some of those anglers every now and then like to hire a guide to take them fishing.

It’s also the time of year when other anglers start thinking about the next open-water fishing season, and some of those anglers, every now and then, like to hire a guide to take them fishing. If you’re either of those anglers, there are questions that you should ask the prospective guide before you commit to time on the water or ice with them.  

I’ve had the opportunity to fish with a lot of fishing guides over the past 4 decades, and I was a guide in north central Minnesota in the 80’s. I’ve learned that different anglers have different goals when they hire a guide, and those goals should determine what questions you ask the prospective guide when you contact him/her to line up the trip.

First, consider what you’re trying to accomplish with your time on the water. Some folks just want to go fishing. They want to spend some time with a friend or family member and they don’t want to have to do any of the planning. Hiring a fishing guide is a great way to do that. The guide will take care of almost everything, and a good guide will tell you what you need to do. You’ll be advised to have a fishing license, rod and reel, lunch, and rain gear. Some guides provide the rod and reel and rain gear, some don’t. Be sure that you know if they do or don’t.

Maybe you want to learn a new technique. That’s a different deal: Now your fishing guide also becomes a teacher. Let’s say you want to learn more about jigging for walleyes. Tell the guide that. He’ll probably suggest a time of year when the jig bite for walleyes is best. Maybe you need to be even more specific: You want to learn more about jigging for walleyes in shallow water. Again, a good guide will suggest the best time for that.

Ask the guide if you should bring your own equipment or if he provides. Some guides prefer to have you use their equipment. The best guides might want you to use their equipment because the best guides know that their equipment is in tip-top shape. Some people prefer to use their own equipment, and I know that it was very disheartening when a guest would show up with equipment that was not appropriate for the type of fishing that we would be doing. If you want to use your own equipment, make sure it’s in good shape and suitable for the type of fishing you’ll be doing.

Ask the guide if he is going to fish. Some anglers don’t want the guide to fish: They’re concerned that the guide will catch most of the fish. I always explained that I was going to fish until the fish were located and we had determined what they wanted to eat. At that time, if my guests wanted, I would put the rod and reel down. If they were okay with me fishing, I immediately tried a different bait to determine if the fish were responding better to a different presentation. It’s the goal of a good guide for the guests to catch the most and biggest fish. And, if I did hook a fish, I always offered the rod to the youngest angler in the boat or to the angler that had caught the fewest fish. Sometimes they accepted, sometimes they didn’t.

Hiring a fishing guide can be a wonderful experience. Just be sure that the guide knows what your expectations are for your day on the water. He knows that if he does a good job, chances are you’ll hire him or her again. 

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