Hiring a fishing guide is never a bad idea. If you’re on vacation in an area that you don’t frequent, it can cut the learning curve substantially. Guides like me provide the latest intel, show guests what’s working at the time of their visit, and even show them areas to fish while they’re in the area. Of course, some clients are novice anglers who just want to have a good day on the water.

Regardless of fishing skill level, some guests provide guides with some moments that make us cringe. With that in mind, I’ve spoken with my Northcountry Guide Service team, as well as several other local guides, to come up with a list of things NOT to do during a guided fishing trip.

(Why I agreed to write about this topic on behalf of all my guiding buddies is beyond me, but here goes . . . )

Fish bite in the rain, and they bite in the cold. Clients should be prepared for any weather conditions.

Proper Attire

We’re all somewhat tech savvy with smartphones, or at least we all have a radio or television to watch the weather forecast. Nothing is tougher on a guide than having a client show up unprepared for the weather. Most of the time, clients underdress, which is to say they aren’t prepared for cold or wet conditions. However, the opposite has been known to happen, too. I once had a female guest from Nevada show up in high heels. She looked great, but she sure had sore feet at the end of a windy day on the water.

Your guide knows what lures are working, which means you can leave your gear at home.

Rods and Tackle

Don’t show up with your favorite fishing rod that hasn’t seen daylight in 13 years. We realize it’s your favorite, but it’s unnecessary. Your tackle box is also useless in a guide’s boat. Trust your Captain – he or she will have the right gear for the type of fishing you’re going to do that day.


Don’t Reel a Hooked Fish Too Far

Near the end of a fight with a fish, stop reeling well before the lure and fish get to the tip of an expensive fishing rod. This was a constant with every guide I spoke to for this article. We know you’re excited, but it’s hard to net the fish, the lure, and the top half of the fishing rod at the same time. And the chances of a fishing rod breaking skyrocket when you reel the lure and fish too close to the rod tip. As a rule, stop reeling when a fish is 6-8 feet from the rod tip.

The author (left) with a client’s monster Minnesota walleye.

Fishing Rods have Hook Keepers

When moving from spot to spot, or ending the trip, don’t put a lure’s hook into one of the eyelets (line guides) on the rod. We all realize that this isn’t common knowledge, but the eyelets on rods have sensitive inserts in them. Putting a hook on them will damage them, which then causes the fishing line to fray, which can result in lost lures and fish. Let your fishing guide put away the gear. After all, you’re there to relax; we’re there to work. Important note: On fishing trips of your own, if your rod doesn’t have a hook keeper located near the top of the handle, then secure a hook around the frame of a guide, but not inside the guide itself.

A popular saying among guides: “Fish fish, don’t fish memories.”

Let the Guide Be the Guide

It’s a common conversation in a guide boat with clients who have fond memories of a specific area. We realize that you caught 200 walleyes in a little stretch of shoreline 20 years ago, but if we’re not fishing there, we promise, the fish aren’t biting there. That said, if you want to visit a spot and fish it for the sake of memories, let us know. We’re sentimental, and love stuff like that. But don’t tell us that such-and-such is the best spot on the lake, and you can’t believe we’re not fishing there.



Sometimes we think things are obvious. Being on the water in the sun all day means that everyone needs to stay hydrated. Remember to bring water or Gatorade with you. Most guides keep some in the boat, but it’s best to be prepared. Ask your guide before you leave the boat landing; he or she will tell you if you need to bring your small cooler or leave it in your vehicle.


Speaking of Hydration

Try to keep your coffee, beer or soda in the mug or in your mouth. We don’t want to scrub beverage stains out of the carpet of our boats. Most boats have cup holders – utilize them. If they don’t, try to remember where you set your drink container.

For a guide, a good day on the water means lots of fish; a great day is one where nothing was broken.

Lots of Buttons, Don’t Push Them All

Yes, we have a new boat, and it has a lot of little bells and whistles that help us get through long days on the water. Please, don’t touch every switch – one of them just might be an eject button.


Watch Your Step

Guides try to stay tidy; I promise that we do our best. However, some days we have back-to-back trips, or a late-night trip followed by an early morning trip, and that just doesn’t allow us time to clear everything from the floor of the boat. Specifically, I’m talking about fishing rods. Don’t step on fishing rods – or toes! Again, you’re there to relax. Just have a seat, we’ll get anything you need.

A boat with one too many anglers can be a nightmare for everyone.

No Surprises

This is a big one – we expect the number of people that you discussed when booking the trip to be the exact number of people standing on the dock. It’s not fair to us, and it’s not fair to you, if an extra person – or an extra family! – shows up and expects to hop into the boat. If it’s a last-minute thing, call us before we launch the boat so we can be prepared.

Regardless of whether the fish are biting, a guide trip should be fun and educational. And FYI: The number of fish caught is directly proportional to the number of taped fingers on the guide’s hands.

Please understand that these 10 topics are just a small collection of the issues that came up while talking to several fishing guides. The phrase “piss off” in the article title might not be 100 percent accurate to describe the list. Most of these issues are tongue-in-cheek, and might be a bit exaggerated, but they are all things that have irked a fishing guide at one time or another. Have fun on the water!

Images by Matt Breuer

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