Captain’s Choice: Traverse City Fishing Guides Reveal Their Favorite Spots by Mike Norton of the Traverse City CVB
For nearly a century, Traverse City’s world-class recreational fishery was a jealously guarded secret, but it’s no secret anymore. These days, anglers from around the world are heading to northern Michigan to try the region’s legendary fishing.
But when you’re faced with so many choices, it’s hard to decide where to start. Rather than try to come up with an answer, we asked three top local fishing guides what their favorites are.
Captain Ben Wolfe – Wolfe Outfitters
Ben might have been the wrong person to ask, because he has too many favorites for one fishermen; he fishes in too many places and too many seasons. (He even takes clients out on the ice for midwinter fishing.)
“We have so many opportunities to fish for different species, so many different seasons and different lakes and streams, it’s really hard to choose just one.”
Ben caught his first fish when he was four years old, using his grandfather’s fly rod. Even when he was living in New York City working as a French chef, he’d return each summer to chase the smallmouth and salmon, and the place eventually drew him back.
“The boat is my office now,” he says. “But details are everything, just as much on the water as in a professional kitchen.”
Today he lives in Beulah, less than a mile from his parents’ house, but he’s more often found on the water. In fact, he runs three different companies — Traverse City Bass Fishing, Wolf Outfitters and Sport Fish Michigan – and started his own line of designer coffee, called Deep Blue.
“There’s a lot of exciting things happening in this place, and I’m glad to be part of it,” he says.
Captain Cameron Garst – Showtime Charters
Cam Garst, on the other hand, definitely has a favorite spot to fish. His 21-foot Tiara fishing yacht , Showtime, only cruises one place: the West Arm of Grand Traverse Bay. In fact, he rarely ventures farther north than Power Island, so his catches mostly take place within signaling distance of downtown Traverse City.
“The fish are right here, so there’s no reason to waste time and gas on long trips,” he says. “It helps me keep my prices down.”
His favorite fish: lake trout, a large native Great Lakes species (a good-sized laker weighs about seven pounds) that he finds much tastier than salmon. They’re deep-water fish, so his clients will find themselves casting into the deep canyons in the middle of West Bay, and they put up a good fight, too. (The fish, not the clients.)
Like a lot of guides, Cam became a fishing guide after working a more mundane job: as circulation manager at the Traverse City Record-Eagle. He started Showtime Charters in 1982 with a 27′ Chris Craft and quit his job a year later to pursue fishing as his full-time occupation.
But the best thing about the job, he says, is the people he fishes with.
“It’s a people job,” he says. “I can be out with a brain surgeon in the morning and in the evening with a guy who works in waste management, and we have the same fun, tell the same jokes.”
Captain Brian Pitser – The Northern Angler
As a fly fishing instructor and specialist, you’d expect Brian Pitser’s favorite fishing to be casting for brookies from a driftboat on one of the area’s blue-ribbon trout streams. But what really captivates him right now is using a fly rod to chase carp in the gin-clear shallows of Grand Traverse Bay.
“It’s kind of an interesting niche, going after carp in May or June out on the Bay,” he says. “I just had a group come up from Florida – during their prime tarpon season – to try it and see what it’s like.”
For most of the season, though, Brian is likely to be found guiding anglers on the Betsie, Manistee, Platte or Au Sable rivers. A graduate of Hillsdale College, he worked six years in the corporate world and decide to take a couple of years off as a fishing guide before heading to law school. The “couple of years” just kept growing though, and after 14 years of guiding and instructing he bought The Northern Angler Fly Shop in Traverse City in 2010.
The best part of being a guide, he says, is being able to introduce newcomers to the sport of fly fishing and the storied lore of northern Michigan – birthplace of Trout Unlimited and the legendary Adams Fly.
“Fishermen come to Traverse City from all over the country, especially from Texas — even Florida in the summer — and I love to show off what this area has to offer,” he says.
For more information about Traverse City’s world-class fishery, and for information about lodging, dining and other activities in Michigan’s “True North,” contact Traverse City Tourism at traversecity.com or call 1-800-TRAVERSE.
**This article was reprinted with permission from the author**
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”