Since the dawn of time, mankind has attempted to outwit and capture one of nature’s wiliest creatures: the fish. Some of us have proven less than capable of matching wits with fish. Fortunately, we have allies in the age-old struggle in the form of men such as Mike Upgren of Reel Fishing Guides.
Mike’s passion ignited on Minnesota’s Cotton Lake, where he started fishing with his grandfather Harold at the age of five. Fish throughout North Dakota would soon learn to speak Mike’s name in hushed tones as the boy caught countless numbers of their brethren. In his teenage years Mike started petitioning his father Ted to let him pilot his 16 foot Lund powered by a 35 horse Evinrude all on his own.
Mike’s dad had hoped that requiring his son to take a boater’s safety course would dampen the pestering, but Mike was not to be deterred. Within a few months the newly licensed young man was darting around up and down lakes and rivers all by himself, and soon with Ted in tow. Grandpa Harold reluctantly joined Mike on the Missouri River even though he’d been taught to avoid that treacherous water full of snasty nags and currents, but he soon grew confident in his 16-year-old grandson. A used 17 foot Alumacraft and 40 horse Suzuki soon replaced the Lund, allowing several years of safe fishing with Ted and Gramps.
“I first started guiding professionally several years ago,” said Mike. “I worked with Lake Oahe Guides for four seasons until I decided to pursue my goal of owning my own guide service. I work in the printing and marketing business when I’m not out on the water, so I figured if anyone would enjoy a part-time fishing business, it would be me. I reached out to the other local guides, like my friend Kent Yancey at Big Muddy Guide Service, and told them I wasn’t setting out to become their competition. Like them, I just want to get people out on the water to show off the great fishing that North Dakota has to offer.
“The primary fish we target is walleye, but we’ll go after northern and smallmouth, too. We specialize in Lake Sakakawea, Lake Oahe, and the Missouri River system. They’re all within a 10 to 80 mile drive from Bismarck, and between the three waterways you’re almost always guaranteed an exciting bite. I’ve had a lot of people catch their first fish in my boat, a Nitro ZV21 with a 350 Merc. It handles just about anything our big, windswept lakes can dish out.
“Helping people to catch fish is really only one small part of what a great guide service offers. Sure, I can tell you exactly what conditions, techniques, and bait will almost guarantee you a walleye, and Reel Fishing Guides only uses our sport’s top of the line gear. But we also make sure every trip is going to be beautiful. We always top off our tanks so we can provide a great tour with a lot of different water and scenery.
“We’ll pick you up right at your home or hotel. If you’d like to have a few beverages while you’re out on the water, that’s fine, too. We’ll clean your fish, and if there are enough people in your party we’ll even set up a fish fry at the end of the day!
“I’ve fished a lot of tournaments in the past, but now I prefer to spend more time guiding. When you’re tournament fishing, you’re competing against other people. When you’re guiding, you’re competing against the fish, which to me is more personal. I especially enjoy getting kids into fishing. Too many youth are becoming attached to their electronics nowadays, when what they ought to be doing is fishing, hunting, and enjoying the long prairie views of North Dakota’s gorgeous landscape.
“I’ve made a great many friends in the years that I’ve guided. Nice catches are great, but happy fishing smiles on the faces of my clients are the most rewarding.
“Reel Fishing Guides began through my passion of fishing and enjoying God’s creation. I want to thank to my grandfather Harold and my father Ted for taking me fishing as a youngster. Those experiences have made me who I am today!”
You can learn more about Mike and the ultimate North Dakota fishing experience at reelfishingguides.com.
By David Scheller