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An Outdoorsman’s Journal – 5-28-2014

by Mark Walters

Guiding for a Paycheck

Hello friends, 

I met Justin Kohn while doing a canoe fishing adventure on Lake Puckaway, about a month ago. Justin is a fulltime, year round hunting and fishing guide and spends most of his time working the waters, fields, and marshes of Green Lake County. I lucked out when Justin told me that I could spend a couple of days with him in his boat, of which one was with a client and the other was just the two of us.

Tuesday, May 6th
High 59, low 39

Justin calls his business All Season’s Adventures (920-229/3494) and he started it 7 years ago with his good friend, Tom Chier, who owns Southway Bait Sales.

I grew up fishing and camping on Puckaway and Justin, who just turned 32, grew up on a farm right on the shores of Puckaway and he told me that by the time he was 11-years-old, when he finished with a day on the tractor, he would hook up the families 14-foot boat to the tractor, pull it down to the public landing at Marquette, and end his day on the water.

These days that 14-footer has been replaced with a 20-foot Lund “Pro Guide” that is pushed by-200 horse Mercury Verado.

Today I would have the honor of meeting and fishing with Martin Melin, who is a building maintenance engineer at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. I would spend my day in the bow of the Pro Guide and watch the guide do his job and the client enjoy what he had made the trip from Chicago for, and that was to spend a day on the water and catch fish.

In this case, it would be walleye and the method would be planer boards and crankbaits, and it took maybe 5 minutes before the first walleye smacked a crank and soon after the 17-inch eater was swimming in the livewell.

I had a feeling when I met Justin that we would be spending time together and today I would learn his very interesting story. He worked construction but was always a diehard outdoorsmen. Seven years ago, when he was laid off, he spent a lot of time on the water and several of his friends told him that he should give guiding a try. That is when Justin and Tom Cheir started this business and when the call came for his layoff to end there was no returning. I like that story because I did the same deal as a steel fabricator that would become an outdoor writer 25-years ago.

Today, the fish were hungry and trolling was the system. Lots of times Justin works the weeds with a light jig tipped with a crawler.

I did not know about his farm background or that he grew up on Puckaway until he showed us the fields he used to work, and then we saw a herd of eight deer running in it and one of them was an albino.

Back in 2011, Justin and his brother-in-law Matt Nogalski placed 3rd in the Mercury Nationals, which is a 300-boat walleye tournament held on the Winnebago chain. Last year, Matt and Justin won the Mercury Nationals and to prove his love of fishing, Justin and Matt won The Good Old Days bass fishing tournament on Puckaway just last weekend.

Today, I also listened to many stories from Martin Melin who in his own way is an awesome fisherman. Martin loves Wisconsin and is an avid fisherman on Lake Michigan as well as our inland waters.

I learned a lot about making sure the crankbaits are going over the top of the weeds in this shallow water fish factory. I also learned about some incredible gear, such as the Minn Kota “Talon”, which is an electric anchor that holds you on the fish in up to 12-feet of water, and the 17-boxes of crankbaits, which will also be used next to night crawler harnesses. The transition of the fish from weeds, to mud flats as bug hatches will come later in the summer and most importantly just the pleasant and professional attitude that it takes for a guide to actually earn a living in this very unique business.

As I looked at the resorts, the shoreline, thought about the hundreds of days I spent as a kid on this water and remembered when I canoed the entire Fox from Cambria to Green Bay back in ‘92. It was good to see a young man that is going to keep the torch going by earning a living by providing the public with a day in the great outdoors.

Thanks for reading! Sunset