The guiding life
Minot fishing guide recounts days on the water
It’s work. A lot of work. But there are special rewards too.
So says Kellen Latendresse, Minot, who spends countless hours on the water guiding clients and putting them on fish. He enjoys his work but is quick to acknowledge it wouldn’t be possible without the support of others.
“When you have an 18-month-old boy at home and an 8-year-old you have to have a wife that is 100% behind it and supportive. Every day I think of that,” stated Latendresse. “There’s definitely sacrifice. Everyone thinks it’s fun, just going fishing. The life of a guide is a lot of work, a lot of work.”
Work, yes, but there are memorable and special moments too.
“You get to meet some amazing clients and make new friends,” said Latendresse. “A great place to cultivate a friendship is in a boat.
Catching fish is an important aspect of good times on the water and it is what clients expect. Latendresse has repeatedly shown he’s learned where to find and how to catch many species of fish – walleye, trout, northern pike, smallmouth bass and muskie among them.
One of his late season outings proved to be what he calls “probably the most rewarding moment of my whole summer.” Brad Kraft, Minot, booked a fishing trip for his son, Amryn, 7, in the hopes of catching a muskie. Obviously, hooking into the “fish of 10,000 casts” is challenging, but young Amryn wanted to give it a try.
“He told me he had watched the television show “River Monsters” and that it was a goal of his to catch a Tiger muskie,” said Latendresse. “It happened that night. He reeled in a 37 inch Tiger! He looked at me and told me thank you, multiple times. You could see how grateful he was. Those are the feel-good stories that make an amazing day.”
Another favorite and memorable outing for Latendresse came when he guided a 91-year-old grandfather, son and grandson on a fishing excursion in the tailrace water below Garrison Dam. The trio caught several fish and it was very obvious they had a great time bonding together.
“It was a blast. The grandpa said it was one of the most rewarding days fishing of his entire life,” recalled Latendresse. “One of them caught a beautiful rainbow, one of the most beautiful fish I’ve ever seen. Memories were being made.”
Such moments are motivational for the fishing guide who often starts his day on the water at 4 a.m., guiding until noon, maybe getting a couple hours of sleep, and then returning to the water for an afternoon trip.
Latendresse has had excellent success guiding for walleyes, including an astounding single trip catch of four walleyes over 8 pounds and one over 10. All were released. While he enjoys chasing the most sought after fish in North Dakota, he has consistently demonstrated an ability to find other species too.
“I’m kind of a weirdo in the fishing world,” laughed Latendresse. “I have a passion for muskies and pike. I love it.”
Smallmouth bass are on his list too, a fish he considers one of the most exciting to catch and an ideal fish on which to introduce youngsters to fishing.
“Smallmouth are a great option. They are amazing for kids,” explained Latendresse. “Smallies jump out of the water. They are awesome fighters and they bite. Our Lake Audubon is one of the most underrated smallmouth fisheries in the whole United States.”
Latendresse got hooked on muskie fishing several years ago at Lake of the Woods in Minnesota and Ontario. Now, with the emergence of Lake Audubon as a muskie fishery, he spends as much time as possible figuring out where muskies roam and what it takes to catch them on Audubon.
“Anytime you can get a fish of 10,000 casts, even one or two a day, that’s quite an accomplishment,” said Latendresse. “It is very common to go on Audubon and have a four or five muskie day. It’s a great lake.”
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department began stocking muskellunge, both Tigers and pures, in Lake Audubon several years ago. Now the fish have grown to the size where catching them is an exhilarating experience for anglers, especially the Tigers which are a fast-growing cross between northern pike and pure muskies.
Latendresse likens muskie fishing to a chess game, using his electronics to help solve the puzzle of where the muskies are located on a particular day or time.
“They are not always where people would think they are supposed to be,” remarked Latendresse. “It’s a cat and mouse game. There’s two parts. One is finding the fish and the structure and the other is getting that fish to engage. That’s what I love about muskies. I just embrace the grind. They challenge me in a way that walleyes have never challenged me.”
Tiger muskies on Lake Audubon, said Latendresse, were averaging 34-35 inches a year ago. This year the length has increased to 37-38 inches with many catches exceeding 40 inches. Just recently Latendresse had a Tiger measuring over 43 inches in his boat.
“It’s definitely growing and there’s starting to be more muskie fishermen out there,” said Latendresse. “People are handling the fish they catch better too. We have an amazing fishery and it’s only going to be more amazing in the future.”
All muskies less than 48 inches in length must be released in accordance with NDGF regulations.