Hardest working. Most reliable. Most dependable. It sounds like a truck commercial, but these are the words that people better use to describe you if you think you can earn your living as a Fishing Guide. We sat down with Dustin Larson, aka “DLars”, one of the most-respected young guides on Devils Lake to get a peek into his life as a guide and why he does it. Here is how Dustin describes his life on the water:
So, You Want to be a Fishing Guide?
“Being a fishing guide is the dream job of all dream jobs. However, there are caveats to the dream job,” explains Larson.
What makes the job challenging?
“Disciplining yourself to be on time even during the early hours, learning from others and paying attention, working long hours, being nice to people that are not nice to you, and cleaning many fish as a result of a successful outing; these are all byproducts of the dream job of guiding. You then go home and prepare your gear, kiss your loved ones goodnight, and do it all over again at 4:00 the next morning. I try to go seven days a week during the season,” DLars explains, as he offers a confident grin.
“The reality is, there are many sacrifices along with many rewards, many give and takes. The most detrimental in life, is the sacrifice of relationships and family. The ability to maintain healthy relationships and do well at being a fishing guide is a very hard balance to establish and maintain. You need a strong supporting cast, that’s for sure. But once you figure those lessons out, it’s all worth it.
One of the most rewarding parts of guiding is being able to see newcomers to the sport of fishing catching fish and having a great time, especially seeing children catch their first fish or their very first limit of Walleyes; there is nothing better. Another reward is seeing a husband and wife fish together and the interaction they have with one another, the teamwork amongst them is second to none. All of these scenarios is greater than the sacrifices given in becoming a fishing guide, it’s simply a life choice.”
Why Invest in a Guide?
No matter if you are a beginner, weekend warrior, or an avid angler, you can still always learn something from a day on the ice with a skilled guide. You can also sit back, relax and focus on catching fish instead of doing all of the work yourself. Even better, if you make a weekend of it and bring the family, you can make memories that last a lifetime. The odds of catching your personal best fish are no doubt increased by fishing with a professional who spends everyday looking for a patterning fish.
Here is why Dustin believes you should look to a guide:
“There are a multitude of reasons why a person should choose to fish with a guide—specifically during the ice season. First and foremost, you should remember that ice fishing means you’re only fishing through an 8” hole. Covering water to find fish is extremely tough to do efficiently, and the knowledge a guide has with each day they are out on the ice is priceless for a layperson coming to a body of water for just a few days. Additionally, the work a guide does while the clients are fishing include covering water and trying new tactics, and the extra time you’re able to spend catching fish are nearly priceless to the person that is only on the lake a few days.”
Why Do You Choose Eskimo?
“I choose Eskimo Ice Fishing Gear because they are high-quality products that fit what I attempt to provide for my clients. Comfortable, efficient, and dependable. Eskimo products are cutting edge and they attempt to create products that are not currently on the market, making the ice fisherman’s life easier, comfortable, and more enjoyable.
In an effort to decrease quality issues, Eskimo has an elite group of ice fishermen and pro staff that give feedback and ideas to their team of engineers, bettering the products to ensure great quality for consumers. I believe Eskimo is one of the best companies in ice fishing, and I am truly happy to be a part of it.
During the 2017-2018 ice fishing season, I guided clients 92 days in addition to multiple days of reconnaissance, finding bites, and looking at ice conditions. There are many days I’ve drilled 50-100 holes to get people on trophy fish. How I determine that count is the fact that there were some days that clients hole hopped and needed room to ‘troll on the ice’ so to speak—like with most days having clients.
I am truly privileged to be a part of lifelong experiences that are remembered forever with friends and family. There is nothing more rewarding for me than to watch clients catch fish and have fun together with their friends and family.”
What Else Do You Want Us To Know About the Life of A Guide?
“One of the biggest misconceptions about guides is that we have a “dream job.” The reality is that it takes a lot of work and dedication to become a guide, especially for ice fishing. The ‘no days off’ approach is almost essential in order to make a living that can provide for a family. There are no vacation days, no sick leave, no pension, no insurance coverage; it’s simply go-go-go. The sacrifices it takes to be a ‘full-time’ guide are nearly unrealistic, especially when talking about marriage and a family with children. There are many sacrifices regarding time. It is a labor of love, with an emphasis on manual labor. The peak fishing season in the Dakotas is not that long as a guide, so I have to make hay when the sun shines, so to speak, and the season permits.
My goal last summer was to complete a period of 60 Days in a row of guiding. I failed due to a group canceling due to high winds, otherwise, I would have done it. I completed 117 days last summer and 90 out of 92 straight days in the winter.”
So, what do you do in between seasons?
“When I am not fishing/working I am fishing with friends and family, typically looking for new bites in an attempt to provide my next group with a great experience. In the off-season, I like to hunt waterfowl, upland birds, and big game.”
What is your most memorable catch?
“As a chubby 12 year old, my Dad took me up to Lake Sakakawea for a day. We didn’t have a big boat, so we really couldn’t venture out too far. We stuck to a bay, and after a little while my Dad hooks into a giant—I mean a real giant. He fought this fish for 2½ hours, with a $14.99 dimestore rod combo and tattered 8lb. test mono. (The line might have been as old as me at the time). During the 2+ hour fight, we beached the boat, and he landed an 80 lb Paddlefish we had no business landing, nor did we even know they existed. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to top that one.”