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Preview of Jan/Feb Issue Feature “So You Want to Work in the Fishing Industry?”

by Todd Martin

You have often dreamed of the lifestyle. You have deep rooted envy of people that make their living from the fishing industry. You think to yourself, “I can do that. How hard can it be?” You imagine yourself dropping the city slicker routine and getting paid to go fishing. You just know that these guys are living the dream! Are they really? The reality of a full-time career in the fishing industry can be quite different from the dream job that many think it is. To allow you a glimpse into the world of the BC sport fishing industry, the pertinent wisdom from prominent fishing guides, resort operators and tackle store owners must be gleaned; read on and soak up the insight they provide.

Via Todd Martin
Via Todd Martin

Tackle Shops

Mike Berry owns and operates Berry’s Bait and Tackle in Richmond with his sister Michelle and close friend Len Marshall. Mike has been in the tackle shop industry for 40 years and has worked at Berry’s Bait since he graduated high school. It’s the only job he’s ever known.

Kelly Davison started as a guide on the Fraser and Harrison rivers in the mid-80s and then worked at Ruddick’s Fly Shop in Burnaby before buying Babcock’s Fly & Tackle in Coquitlam and renaming it Sea-Run
Fly & Tackle in 2005. Kelly has been in the retail fishing business since 1982.

Dave Steele began as a guide at Stuart Island Resort in the late 70s and has owned Highwater Tackle in North Vancouver for 28 years. He’s a regular contributor in BC Outdoors Sport Fishing magazine with his popular “Backcast” column.

See how these Industry Experts weigh in on the following questions and more: (read the full spectrum of questions and answers in the Jan/Feb issue of BC Outdoors)

What advice would you give to newbies in the tackle shop industry?

Guess who answered like this, “You need to be a well-rounded angler. Always be willing to learn and make sure you are a people person and a good communicator…”

What are some mistakes that should be avoided?

Try and guess who answered like this, “Don’t get into this business to get rich. It’s a lifestyle choice….”

What has been your biggest challenge?

Guess who said this, “You need to have a crystal ball to predict fisheries openings and stock your store accordingly.”

Resorts

Danny Gerak and Lee MacGregor own and operate Pitt River Lodge. They built the lodge from scratch 13-years ago, after a few years of renting rustic cabins on the same property.

Bob and Tash VanTongeren own Mile High Resort in the Kamloops region. They were guests at the resort and liked it so much they bought the business 11-years ago. Mile High Resort dates back to 1938 and the property has been in the family for 24 years.

Gord and Patty Robinson are newcomers to the industry. Gord is a retired member of the Vancouver Police Department and Patty is still working part-time as a police dispatcher. Timothy Lake Resort near Lac
La Hache was for sale and they jumped at the opportunity. The resort had been closed for 18 months when they took over and 2013 was their first year in business. They have no previous experience in the fishing industry.

See how these Industry Experts weigh in on the following questions and more: (read the full spectrum of questions and answers in the Jan/Feb issue of BC Outdoors)

What advice would you give to newbies that want to run a resort?

Do you think you know whose advice this is, “Focus on creating a good product. Finding your niche, diversifying as required and proper marketing are all keys to success.”?

What was your dream when you started and how does it differ from reality?

And try and guess who answered like this, “We underestimated
how much hard work this would be.”

What has been your favourite moment as a resort owner?

Can you guess whose favourite moment this is, “Developing a regular client base and getting to work with our family has been rewarding”?

Guiding

Jason Assonitis runs Bonchovy Fishing Charters along with fellow guide Jeff Copeland. They are based out of downtown Vancouver and guide clients in Metro Vancouver’s productive salmon fishery. Jason worked for eight years as a guide at both Peregrine Lodge and Langara Fishing Adventures before starting Bonchovy Charters.

Jay Mohl has done it all. He’s worked as a commercial fisherman, managed seafood processing plants and spent the last 18 years as a guide and owner/operator of Clayoquot Ventures Guide Service, based in Tofino, BC.

April Vokey is an avid angler as well has a well-reputed steelhead and salmon guide. In 2007 she founded Fly Gal Ventures, where she presently guides and instructs anglers on some of B.C.’s best steelhead destinations.

See how these Industry Experts weigh in on the following questions and more: (read the full spectrum of questions and answers in the Jan/Feb issue of BC Outdoors)

What advice would you give to newbies that want to be a fishing guide?

Guess who gave this advice, “Don’t expect to make a ton of money right away. You need to pour your heart and soul into the business and have a passion for it. Very few owner/operators survive for long in this industry”

What are some mistakes that should be avoided?

Sage advice, guess who said it, “Don’t chase yesterday’s fish. Spend more time fishing and less time second guessing yourself and running around. Don’t cut corners on maintaining your equipment.”

What has been your biggest challenge?

“For me, it’s balance. I have my fingers in a lot of pots in this industry and I own more businesses than just …” is the challenge of which of our featured guides?

Diving into the sport fishing as  a career could be a case of “be careful of what you wish for”. The experiences of our panel of experts certainly paint a telling picture. Business ownership in the fishing industry is not all fun and games simply spending your days on the water. Just like any other profession, you reap what you sow and sowing in this industry is a lot of hard work.

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