Charters offer expertise to anglers
Written by Green Bays Press-Gazette   
Tuesday, 16 August 2005 11:09
If there?s any sluggishness in Johnathan Hoffner?s step on a gorgeous Wednesday morning, it isn?t evident as he smiles for a quick snapshot with a cooler full of Lake Michigan salmon.

Granted, it?s 10 a.m. But consider that Hoffner and his fellow Milltown, N.J., fishing mates have been awake since 3:30 a.m.

They went to bed at midnight.

"These guys don?t seem to mind waking up early so they can have a little fun and catch some fish," said Andy Guth, who operates Trik Sea II Charters out of Sunrise Cove in Algoma. "Things are good during the afternoon run, but for some, the true fishing experience takes place when the sun is coming up."

The trip to Northeastern Wisconsin was Hoffner?s first as part of an annual firefighter/ rescue squad reunion with Clintonville transplant Matt Molski. For Hoffner?s initiation, the Lake Michigan waters couldn?t have been more kind.

"It?s a whole different experience out here. It?s a great place to fish," said Hoffner, 23. "I mean, just look at the salmon we got. Not a bad day?s work."

During the summer, Algoma transforms into a picturesque haven for amateur anglers looking to rely on the expertise of veteran charter captains. Each day brings its share of familiar faces hoping to duplicate the success of the year before.

"I think all the captains here have come to understand the waters more, and that helps with the fishing," said Guth, an Algoma native who is also a special education teacher in Green Bay. "It?s been a busy season. The word is out."

Perhaps most telling is what happens once Guth?s 33-foot boat reaches the pier. After their charter excursion ends, the New Jersey crew invites Guth for a drink inside one of Algoma?s nearby restaurants.

Because of business, Guth politely declines, but the handshakes and kind words indicate that he?s more than just their guide for a morning of leisure. He?s what they look forward to every summer.

"This is our eighth year coming here, and I absolutely love it," Molski said. "You can?t beat the peace and quiet. In Jersey, you?ll be out on a large boat with 50 or 60 people. Here, it?s just a small group of guys catching up while doing some fishing. It?s a hell of a vacation."

Charter fishing is sort of the "lazy man?s trip," Guth said, which might appear humorous considering that casting a line isn?t all that rigorous in the first place. Instead, it?s more about leaving the equipment and weather reports to Guth, who is constantly tracking where the fish are biting.

"You pay for results," he said. "You could spend a lot of money on your own equipment, your own boat, and never catch anything. Granted, that?s a chance you take, and some people don?t have a problem with that. But we do our homework for a reason."

Straight charter rates for one to four people range from $375 to $575. Some deluxe packages are more expensive but include lodging, continental breakfast and proper care of the fish afterward. All licenses are included.

From May to September, bookings are rock solid, with the bulk being repeat customers. Two shifts typically mark each day: 4:15 to 10:15 a.m. and noon to 6 p.m.

It?s a daily schedule that is oftentimes brutal for Guth and his first mate, Algoma native Zach Burgess. But the short summer dictates getting the most out of your boat.

"It?s seven days a week around here. I?m going on day 32 without a single day off," said Burgess, 20, a Northeast Wisconsin Technical College student who?ll be taking his own boat out next year. "But you can?t really complain when this is what you know. You couldn?t do it if you didn?t love what this area is all about."

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