River rats like Jarrid Houston will tell you that they like moving water because you never know what you might catch.
On Houston’s beloved St. Louis River in the Twin Ports, he can catch catfish, sturgeon, smallmouth bass, monster musky, northern pike, crappies, perch and even carp all in the same day.
It’s the diversity of species in the Northland that makes it such a great place to fish, Houston notes. On Chequamegon Bay of Lake Superior, for example, he loves to catch brown trout, coho salmon, lake trout and more.
“I love them all,” Houston said on a recent fishing excursion in his 17-foot Lund Impact — a post-Wisconsin opener, pre-Minnesota opener, just-for-fun trip.
And he really does love them all. Heck, he might even try to catch eelpout. On purpose.
But as he slowly reeled in a fish on an early May afternoon on Lake Nebagamon, Houston let the Viking fan in him slip out just as the fish got close enough to the boat to identify.
“Oh, there it is. … I still love seeing that white spot on the tail,” Houston said. “I’m a Minnesota native. You have to love walleyes.”
Indeed, Houston has an old marble-eyes image tattooed on his leg.
It was a brisk, windy afternoon of fishing, with a cold front just having passed by. But Houston and his guest still managed to find a couple of nice walleyes, a few smallmouth bass and a couple of northern pike — most of which came on jigs and fatheads or jigs with a bit of worm.
Houston, who recently turned 39, lives in South Range just outside Superior with his wife, Brandy, and their long-haired dachshund, Doxin. His day job is as a construction liaison for a Duluth architectural firm. But his passion is fishing the lakes and rivers of the Northland.
Houston grew up along the St. Croix River and has been fishing all his life. He started guiding in 2009 when he was laid off during the Great Recession, after just buying an expensive boat. Guiding helped him make his boat payments. But he also discovered guiding was fun — a lot more social and fun than, say, tournament walleye fishing which can be solitary, uber-competitive and nerve-wracking.
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“I’m a people person. A social butterfly. I’m a chatty Cathy,” Houston said. “I like to talk to people. I like the interaction. And I like being able to host someone while they are on vacation. … I get to help people have fun. How cool is that?”
Houston’s weekly fishing report, which first ran on the local Visit Duluth tourism website, started running in the News Tribune in February 2017, and has become a popular feature. The fishing report runs each week in print and online and offers not just what Houston’s been up to personally, but also reports from his network of anglers, bait shops, charter captains and guides across the region. He keeps it fairly vague on exactly where the fish are biting best; he doesn’t want to get blamed for any lakes being fished out. But he does offer up timely advice on where, how and when the fish are going good.
Since he became a professional guide 12 years ago, Houston has quickly built a regional reputation, landing regional headliner names like Lund boats, Northland tackle, Blackfish clothing, Clam, Vexilar, Venom Outdoors and JT Outdoors as sponsors. He’s also been a regular on TV fishing shows like Lund’s Ultimate Fishing Experience, Angling Buzz, Midwest Outdoors, Larry Smith Outdoors and The Outdoor Report.
Houston garners high praise from Tom Neustrom, a Grand Rapids-area fishing guide, fellow Lund pro-staffer and an inductee into the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame. The two have teamed up leading how-to-fish seminars at boat shows and other events.
“Jarrid has become one of the bright young fishing promoters in Minnesota. Not only is he a top-notch guide, but also an educator when it comes to teaching anglers the proper ethics in fishing. It’s refreshing to work a show with Jarrid,'' Neustrom said. “Jarrid loves to talk fishing and work with his clients on becoming better anglers and continues to learn the important aspects of growing his identity in a positive way. The Twin Ports area is very fortunate to have Jarrid in its midst, and he is an excellent representative of our fishing fraternity.”
A burly former college football player with a free-flowing mane of unruly blonde hair and a scruffy beard to match, Houston looks and sounds like the Minnesota-made fishing dude he is. (His ample size makes even big fish look small when he's holding them.) But he also loves his Northwestern Wisconsin lakes that are just minutes from his home. Most of his clients want to fish walleyes, often on the St. Louis River, and he obliges. But if they're open to bass or panfish or catfish, Houston especially loves multi-species days on some of the lesser-known waters in the Northland.
Along the way to his guiding success, Houston has become an obsessive fish releaser. Even on stocked walleye lakes — so-called put-and-take lakes — he releases keeper-sized ‘eyes that most anglers would save for a meal. Even when guiding, Houston discourages clients from keeping fish. He does not include fish-cleaning services in his guide rates in part to encourage people to release their catch. (Although he'll give in for some special requests.)
“I hardly keep anything any more. If we keep taking fish out of these lakes as fast as we can catch them these days, there won’t be any resource left. We have so much technology that works so well now to help catch fish,” Houston said. “With great power comes great responsibility. You can really do a number on a lot of lakes with the electronics we have now.”
Without further ado, here’s your chance to know more about the guy behind Jarrid Houston fishing column you read every week in the News Tribune:
Twenty questions with Jarrid Houston
News Tribune: Where did you grow up, go to high school?
Houston “I grew up in Stillwater, Minnesota, until I was a junior in high school, then moved to Osceola, Wisconsin. After I graduated high school, I went to college at Bemidji State University. After college I relocated to the Twin Ports.”
News Tribune: What was your major at BSU? Fishing?
Houston: “I went to BSU to play football and learn about construction. And yes, of course, to fish and hunt as well. I like to joke to people and say I went to BSU and earned an degree in Industrial Technology with an emphasis in Construction, but also came out with a Masters in Fishing.
News Tribune: What are your earliest memories of fishing?
Houston: “I grew up a river rat on the St. Croix River and have fished longer than I can remember. Most of my earliest memories revolve around biking to the local fishing holes with my brother and friends, or spending camping trips on the islands of the St. Croix River with my family.
News Tribune: Who were the most instrumental people in connecting you to fishing? Dad? Grandpa? Neighbor?
Houston: “Usually you will hear people say their dad or grandpa. But in my case I will say my whole family. Fishing has been an important part of both my personal and extended family my entire life.”
News Tribune: How did you find a wife who loves to fish as well?
Houston: “She (Brandy) never really fished much growing up in Ohio, but now she loves to fish. What is it us happily married men always say? Oh yeah, I got lucky.”
News Tribune: How did you end up in the Twin Ports?
Houston: "After college I was hoping to land a job with Kraus Anderson Construction because of an uncle that worked for them for more than 30 years. Sure enough, I got said opportunity. Since then, I bounced to another company, Lakehead Constructors, and now happily work with the great team at DSGW Architects in Duluth."
News Tribune: What is your “other” career, other than fishing?
Houston: “Developing technical specifications for building components and sort of act as a construction liaison. I also still practice construction estimating on occasion.”
News Tribune: Don't you also play in a band? What kind of band and what instrument?
Houston: “I started singing and playing guitar in bands in my early college years and continue to grace the local stages with my bandmates from DSGW Architects. Our band is called "The RevisionZ."
News Tribune: How many days a year do you fish?
Houston: “At least 3-4 times a week and sometimes more. Never less than 150 days per year.”
News Tribune: How many days a year do you guide?
Houston: “I guide 50-75 trips per year, both ice fishing and open water.”
News Tribune: When did you start guiding? What inspired you to guide rather than just fish for fun?
Houston: “2009 was my first for-hire trip. … I was a casualty of the economic downturn and had just bought a brand-new boat. It didn't take me long to figure out I could make a few bucks doing something I already love.”
News Tribune: What’s the hardest part about guiding?
Houston: “Having to work holiday weekends. And (busy) schedules can be a negative.”
News Tribune: Have you had any unusually difficult clients? You don’t have to name them, but what was the problem?
Houston: “Honestly, not really. Most people that come aboard are there to have fun and catch some fish, as well as learn a few things along the way.”
News Tribune: What’s your favorite species to fish for and why?
Houston: “Impossible question (to answer) as I love to fish for all species that swim. With that said, most people are still after the state fish of Minnesota, making my job mostly all about catching walleyes.”
News Tribune: Where’s your favorite place to fish?
Houston: “Also impossible, as I love fishing all types of waters. However (I have a real) love for river fishing. I was married on the St. Croix River and someday my ashes will be flowing through the St. Louis River.”
News Tribune: What, where, when is the most memorable fish you’ve caught?
Houston: “It was last May during a TV shoot (for "Lund’s The Ultimate Fishing Experience," on the St. Louis River) where we bagged a monster musky unofficially measured 56 inches. You can Google it.”
News Tribune: If you could have only one lure to fish with, which one would it be?
Houston: “A jig and a worm will catch most everything that swims!”
News Tribune: You encourage our readers to release lots of fish, even big panfish. Do you ever keep fish for a meal?
Houston: “Hardly ever. I respect fish, especially large fish. So letting them go makes me feel like I did something positive. If I kept fish every time I went out fishing I would not be helping sustain fish populations.”
News Tribune: What’s next for Jarrid Houston? Is there a full-time fishing career in your future?
Houston: “I love my regular routine and have come to the conclusion that I will continue to work both careers simultaneously. I think that, when the time comes that fishing becomes full time, I will have retired from my professional career as a spec writer in architecture.”
News Tribune: What are your summer guide rates?
Houston: “Our rates are good for 2 anglers and for a 1/2 trip they are $300. For a full-day trip $400.”
To learn more
Houston's Guide Service can be reached at 218-393-4962 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit houstonsguideservice.com for details.