Friends Of Fishing 411 TV
By Mark Romanack
Captain Rob Barnes of Barnstormer Charters is one of many talented anglers who routinely help Fishing 411 TV secure interesting and informing television content. When it comes to the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River, Rob’s knowledge has been invaluable in helping us land a number of great shows in recent years. Dale Voice is most happy when he has a slab crappie in his hands. One of Mark’s oldest friends, Dale understand intimately how much work goes into shooting television episodes and he is always willing to lend a hand.
As the year winds down and we get ever closer to our broadcast deadlines for 2022 television content, I find myself going over the details to make sure all the I’s have been dotted and the T’s crossed. This is the time of year a lot of behind the scenes and frankly pretty dull stuff gets done.
It’s November when we get confirmations on our broadcast times for Sportsman Channel and World Fishing Network for the coming year. We also start the annual process of editing television episodes, creating trailer videos for every episode, producing breakout segments for each episode, writing and recording voice overs, putting a fresh face on the show introduction and it’s also a time for firming up contract commitments for sponsorships. All of this keeps us pretty busy, but in retrospect none of what we do at Fishing 411 TV would be possible without the help of some key people who volunteer their time to help us stay on the hottest bites and the most interesting destinations.
The “magic of television” makes it seem like we are always on hot bites and catching tons of fish. The reality is that just like other fishermen we have our good days and we have our share of bad days as well. Every TV shoot doesn’t go as planned and sometimes we come home with our tail tucked between our legs.
Thankfully Fishing 411 TV has relationships with a number of anglers I’ll simply call “friends of the show” that help us not only by being guests on respective shows, but also helping us find fish, determine the best presentations and bring to television the most information packed episodes possible.
Most of the anglers we use to stay on top of the best fisheries are tournament professionals, charter captains or guides, but a few are just enthusiasts who have a passion for fishing and fishing education. Because no single angler can be knowledgeable in all areas of fishing, our list of resource people continues to grow each year as Fishing 411 TV spreads out our reach and programming ambitions.
The space we have available here in our weekly blog isn’t nearly adequate to showcase all the “friends of the show” who regularly help our team keep our angling and communications skills sharp. The truth is we are always looking for anglers who share our passion for fishing and helping others to be more successful on the water. The world is full of talented fishermen, but not all of those individuals are willing to give up their knowledge or the spots they have worked so hard to secure. It’s a special breed of angler who sees value in helping others and insuring that future generations enjoy the same fishing opportunities
Dale Voice is not only a talented fisherman, he is one of my oldest and dearest friends. Back when I was fishing walleye tournaments Dale would often tag along to put another solid stick in the boat and also to help in brainstorming sessions. When I get a chance to fish for fun, Dale is the first person I call.
Bryan Darland of Jay’s Sporting Goods in Clare/Gaylord Michigan is the first guy I call when we need a smallmouth bass fishing episode. Not only is Bryan a world class fisherman, his passion for sharing his knowledge keeps us coming back for more and more. Captain Travis White of Keewenaw Charter Company has helped the Fishing 411 TV crew land a host of trout and salmon episodes over the years. When it comes to Lake Superior, Travis is our “go to” guy!
Captain Travis White of Keewenaw Charter Company knows more about trout and salmon fishing on Lake Superior than anyone else we have ever met. Not only is Travis a world class angler, he is a student of fish biology and fisheries management that is so important to insuring our sport fishing opportunities continue for generations to come. I met Travis on an airplane in route to the annual ICAST sport fishing convention and we have been close friends ever since.
Captain Frank Campbell of Niagara Region Charters is also the media coordinator for Niagara USA one of the sponsors of Fishing 411. We use Frank often to ferret out new and different ways to catch the popular species of Lake Ontario, the Eastern Basin of Lake Erie and also the Lower Niagara River. Collectively these fisheries are some of the best in North America and no one knows them more intimately than Captain Frank.
Besides being one of our sponsors, Frank is a gentleman who gets his reward when one of our staff lands a fish he helped us figure out.
Captain Matt Yablonsky of Wet Net Charters is a multi-species angler who targets all the popular species found in western New York including chinook, coho, lake trout, brown trout, walleye, smallmouth bass and yellow perch. No one spends more days on the water than Captain Matt and his fishing skills and knowledge have helped us land countless television episodes. In addition to being a world class angler, Matt is very good on camera and his passion for fishing leads us to tap into Matt’s knowledge every chance we get.
Captain Rob Jones is a river rat who specializes in catching walleye on the Detroit River. No one fishes the Detroit River more than Rob who’s only day of rest is Sunday when he serves as a deacon in his local church. We nicknamed Rob the “Deacon Smash Master” because his skills for walleye jig fishing are only exceeded by his love for Christ.
When Jake was growing up, Rob was like a second father. Jake and Rob have a very close bond to this day.
CAPTAIN TERRY KUNNEN
If you have ever visited the Fishing 411 TV sport show display, there is a good chance you have met Captain Terry Kunnen of TKO Charters. Terry works the Off Shore Tackle portion of our booth and keeps things running smoothly when Jake and I are on stage doing seminars. Besides being a world class troller, Terry has a burning passion for ice fishing, especially when it comes to catching walleye on hard water.
CAPTAIN STEVE MARTIN
Captain Steve of Mi-Hi Charters is one of the rare individuals who charter fishes full time. Steve splits his time between Lake Erie in the Spring and Lake Michigan in the summer and fall. We are constantly amazed at Steve’s ability to stay on quality fish day in and day out. Over the years Captain Steve has helped us land TV episodes countless times.
Captain Brandon White of Rochester Sportfishing is a young charter captain based out of Rochester, New York. We met Brandon and his Dad when they won a day of fishing with Jake and myself set up by the Niagara Falls Sport Fishing Expo. We all enjoyed a great day of walleye fishing on Lake Erie and have remained close ever since. These days, Brandon is building a charter business of his own but he is never too busy to point us in the right direction when it comes to fishing Lake Ontario or the Eastern Basin of Lake Erie.
RICH AND LINDA HASLETT
Captains Rich and Linda Haslett of Talon Charters are two of the most down to Earth people we have ever met. Every day they see a boat load of new anglers who come on board as strangers and leave at the end of the day as life long friends. Fishing creates lasting bonds with people in a way that is hard to put into words.
Rich and Linda split their chartering days between Lake Erie in the spring and early summer and Lake Michigan in the mid-summer and early fall. Besides being amazing fishermen, Rich and Linda have the unique skill of putting a smile on the face of everyone around them. It’s like the fishing poles on their boat are magic wands!
Captain Ron Levitan of Passin’ Time Charters is one of my oldest friends and a trusted angler who has spent a lifetime chartering on Lake Erie. Outdoor Writer Dave Richey, who has passed on, introduced me to Ron 30 plus years ago at the Detroit Boat Show. We’ve been friends ever since.
When Jake was in high school he was a first mate on Ron’s boat during the summer months. A lot of what Jake knows about the rewards of hard work was learned at the back of Ron’s boat.
Captain Mike Hansen of Starved Rock Guide Service is one of the rising stars of the new Head 2 Head Walleye Tournament Circuit. A self proclaimed “river rat” there are few anglers who spend as much time as Captain Mike chasing walleye and sauger in flowing water. Mike’s specialty is vertical jigging with hair jigs on the Illinois River. A lot of tournament guys aren’t interested in sharing their secrets, but Mike is different. He gets a great pleasure out of helping others catch more fish.
Captain Ed Retherford has the distinction of being the charter captain who has been working on the Great Lakes the longest! His charter career has spanned more than 50 years and during that time Ed has touched countless individuals who share a passion for fishing. A retired science teacher, you will find Ed chartering out of Alpena and Presque Isle Michigan from May until the lake trout season closes at the end of September. When it comes to fishing the northern most waters of Lake Huron, no one has more experience or is more willing to share of that experience than Captain Ed.
Captain Chip Cartwright is the owner of Wolverine Tackle the folks who produce the Silver Streak trolling spoons. In all the years I’ve been trolling on the Great Lakes, the Silver Streak is the only spoon I’ve ever put in the water! I know other spoons also catch fish, but I have an enduring faith in Chip and also the spoons his family manufacturers. Over the years we have used Silver Streak spoons on countless TV shows to catch chinook, coho, lake trout, brown trout, Atlantic salmon, walleye and ciscoes in every corner of the Great Lakes.
Captain Pat Kalmerton of Wolf Pack Adventures has been our “go to” guy for the Wisconsin waters of Lake Michigan for many years. As we have watched the Michigan waters of Lake Michigan slowly decline over the years, Pat has been instrumental in helping us better understand the trout and salmon fisheries that are blossoming on the Wisconsin side of the lake.
Moving forward it’s abundantly obvious we will be fishing more on the Wisconsin side of the lake. Thanks to Pat we are starting to get a grip on when and where we need to be pointing our boat towards Wisconsin.
Captain Brandon Stanton of Team Gunsmoke Sport Fishing is one of the rare individuals we have come across who would rather fish on the ice than in open water. His Saginaw Bay charters have become overwhelmingly popular in recent years and Brandon is always willing to let us tag along when the TV crew is hungry for content.
Captain Rob Barnes of Barnstormer Charters is a young and rising star in the sport fishing industry. An active member of the Lake St. Clair Walleye Association, Rob’s knowledge of the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River have been invaluable in our efforts to showcase these fisheries in recent years. It’s amazing to us that these fisheries are located smack in the middle of one of the largest metropolitan areas in the Great Lakes region, yet they consistently produce fishing that can’t be topped anywhere else.
CAPTAIN ERIC HIRZEL
We met Captain Eric Hirzel of Erie Gold Sportfishing at a Walleye for Wounded Heroes event in Port Clinton, Ohio a few years ago. I feel like I’ve known Captain Eric my whole life as we have so much in common besides our passion for walleye fishing. Any time we are headed to Lake Erie, chances are I will have picked Captain Eric’s brain in detail. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Eric’s fishing skills and also for his common sense approach to life and the things that matter most.
Bryan Darland is the tackle buyer for Jay’s Sporting Goods, one of the original Fishing 411 TV sponsors. In addition to working in the fishing tackle industry, Bryan is an avid angler who spends countless days on the water in search of smallmouth, steelhead, walleye, crappie, largemouth and much more. Besides being an awesome guy to spend the day fishing with, Bryan is a world class angler who has come through for Fishing 411 TV countless times over the years when we really needed a fish.
SUMMING IT UP
Like I said, the space we have in this newsletter isn’t nearly large enough to pay thanks to all the people who have helped Fishing 411 TV over the years. Season 16 will go to broadcast very soon including our milestone 200th episode. As we reflect on the years we have spent creating outdoor television, it makes me excited to think we are only just getting started.