August 11, 2004 at 7:27 p.m.
The decision to begin guiding professionally was not an easy one to make for Turk, but a number of considerations that ultimately led to Croixsippi’s start seemed to fall favorably into place for him. “I have a beautiful wife and three great kids. I couldn’t have a 40-hour-a-week job, Monday through Friday, and expect to guide and fish all weekend, time with my family is too important to me. I’m lucky to have a good paying job that’s flexible and allows me to do most of my guiding during the week. Believe it or not, my wife urged me to begin guiding,” says Turk.
From a fishing standpoint, Turk’s ability to locate and catch St. Croix walleye and sauger, regardless of ever-changing weather and river conditions, made the decision to guide, (with the support of his family) a logical one. “Well, about nine years ago, I started fishing the river like a maniac and I was consistently catching fish when others weren’t. I was putting fish in the boat on days when guys who have been fishing the St. Croix for a lot of years said I couldn’t. I don’t give up or limit myself by fishing one method or technique, it’s just a matter of figuring out what the fish want and what they’ll bite.”
River fishing, as opposed to lake fishing, presents unique challenges to an angler. “A heavy rain can muddy the water and raise levels considerably. The stained water makes it tough for the fish to locate food and causes them to spread out, away from typical structure,” Turk adds, “conversely, when the water drops, the river clears up, and the bite will turn on. Sometimes, timing is everything.”
Another thing to consider is the fact that the lower St. Croix River is overrun with pleasure boat traffic during the daytime between June and September. “It just doesn’t make any sense to fish in the daytime, especially during the summer. Hundreds of pleasure boats buzz over prime structure every day during the boating season- they really spook the fish. I’ll only guide guests in the early morning or after dark (in and around the Stillwater or Bayport area) during the summer. Taking folks out during the day would be a waste of their time and money,” admits Turk.
Depending on the time of year, Turk will employ a number of methods and techniques to fish the St. Croix. He realizes the importance and benefits of being a versatile angler. “Most of the clients I guide have fished before, and they’re pretty knowledgeable. They’ve usually done quite a bit of lake fishing, and they hire me to get to know the river better. If we start the day fishing a particular section of the river with jigs and minnows, and we don’t pick up any fish, well, I owe it to the customers to begin thinking about plan B, C and D,” explains Turk. “Some days, when the fish are scattered, I need to cover quite a bit of water and look for actively feeding fish. We’ll get them any way we can – jigging, rigging, three-way, flat-lining stick baits, etc. If the fishing isn’t great on a particular day, they should at least know that I’ve worked hard for them and tried my best to get them on to some fish.”
This level of tenacity is what people should expect when they hire a guide for a half-day or full-day. A good guide needs to be a good listener and observant enough to understand what type of customers he’ll be taking on the water, in order to better serve them. “I get two types: people who just want to be entertained, and people who want to learn something, something I might know a bit better than they do,” explains Turk. “Once we get fishing, I watch and listen to the customer to see if he’s filing information away somewhere in his mind for future reference, or asking a lot of technical questions. I’ll let this type of person know exactly what I’m doing, and why I’m doing it. Customers can sense when a guide is holding out on them. I’m definitely not that kind of guide.”
Hiring a knowledgeable guide to fish unfamiliar water can be a fantastic way for an angler to gain valuable insight. “I think hiring a competent guide is a great idea for folks who have busy schedules and can’t put in a lot of hours on a body of water. It can greatly speed the learning curve. It’s nothing for someone to pay $150 for a rod or $300 for a good LCR or trolling motor. A good guide is just another tool an angler can use to increase his odds of catching fish.”
Defining success in guiding others can be measured a number of ways, but Turk sums it up best, saying, “When you’re expected to fulfill peoples’ expectations and put fish in the boat, and you’re fortunate enough to do it, there’s no job in the world that’s more rewarding to me than guiding.”
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