The Outdoors Experience Radio Outdoor Talk Show, Chicago Illinois outdoor radio and television shows with Steve Sarley. Chicago fishing and hunting radio and TV talk shows about the great outdoors on WIND Radio 560.

Outdoor Articles & Tips

Steve Sarley writes a column every two weeks for Illinois Outdoor News.

Steve Sarley writes an outdoors page every Thursday that appears in The Northwest Herald. These articles can be found online at Here is one of Steve's columns:

Every year I issue a list of guides that I can recommend. With the slow economy, a guide’s services can seem a little steep, but what better way is there to learn a body of water. Once you learn it, you can go back again and again to catch more tasty walleyes and panfish for the dinner table. In that respect, the use of a guide can be justified as truly worth the expenditure.My list of guides covers waters within a reasonable drive. I’ve added a couple this year that work locations a little farther away, but in areas that a lot of people travel to.

Spence Petros – – 815-455-7770 -This Hall of Fame angler books weekday trips on Geneva and Delavan in May and June. He always fills up because a trip with Spencer is the closest you can get to guaranteeing yourself a day on the water that you will remember forever.

Captain Bob Jenkins – - 888-427-8262 – Captain Bob runs out of Waukegan and is a double threat. He takes his big boat out for salmon and trout and also runs a nifty center-console craft that is absolutely perfect for perch. Captain Bob is the only charter on the big pond that can get you a limit of tasty golden perch while fishing in a comfy boat that is designed for what you are doing. I caught a beauty that weighed just a hair under two pounds with Bob a couple of seasons ago.

Steve Everetts – Finseeker’s Guide Service - 847-707-1827 - Steve is a licensed captain and my “go-to-guy” for Lake Delavan fishing information. He is the best on that body of water, hands down. I have written a number of times about trips with Steve when we have caught way more than our fair share of big pike and big bass.

Captain Bob Rossa – - 815-575-4665 – Captain Bob is returning to beautiful North Point Marina as his base of operations. He is a consummate professional and almost always sends his clients home with plenty of tasty fillets. Heck, even if you didn’t catch fish, Captain Bob’s stories would be worth the price of the charter alone.

Eric Haataja – – 414-546-4627 – This young fellow fishes all over the state of Wisconsin and catches fish on every lake and river he hits. I have never met anyone who was so well versed on as many bodies of water as Eric is. He is respected by the top pros and is often seen on television with John Gillespie and Babe Winkelman. 

Jim Tostrud – – This is a guide who is great with children. Part guide/part fish artist, the incredibly talented Tostrud has a good handle on what’s hot on Geneva. In my opinion, he’s the best at going after Geneva’s huge bluegills and mammoth crappies. Jim is the perfect guy to hit the water with for a dad and a kid or two.

Jim "The Crappie Professor" Kopjo - 708-601-1962 - Shabbona is Jim's favorite body of water to hit for crappies and who doesn't love catching them. He will teach you skills so that you can increase your crappie success on any body of water you fish. He is great with kids and families. A really good guy!

Carl Kaufmann – Carl Kaufmann Guide Service - 815-338-2475 – Carl perfectly defines the word “gentleman.” He is truly one of the nicest guys in the business. Kaufmann is superb at finding big bass and pike on both Lake Geneva and Lake Delavan. If one is off, the other is usually on, so Carl’s knowledge of both of them gives him a big edge. Carl is great with kids and first-timers and nobody works harder to make sure that you catch fish.

Jeff Hahn – – 815-669-6540 – I lost my best Fox Chain guide a few years back when Captain Darrell Baker passed away. I haven’t fished with Jeff Hahn yet, but my people tell me that he does a tremendous job. Don’t be put off by his youthful appearance, Jeff does this full time and has been at it for eight years. He is fully licensed and insured which is a little unusual for the Chain.

“Cat” Matt Jones – - 815-537-5506 – If it is those whiskered beasts that are what you desire, Matt Jones is your man. He chases big cats on the Rock River twelve months a year. He hunts 10-pound channel cats and 50-pound-plus flatheads with regular success. He is energetic, personable and extremely hard working.

Todd Gessner – www.toddgessneroutdoors - 618-513-0520 – Todd Gessner is one of the smartest guys I know. He is also one of the nicest. Todd guides Rend, Crab Orchard, Devil’s Kitchen, Lake of Egypt and all of the rest of Southern Illinois’ legendary lakes. If he’s not available, his protégé, Jason Johns, is almost as good as Todd. Stay at rend Lake Resort while you visit, if you want to give yourself a real treat.

Bob Santangelo – 708-261-6759 –Captain Bob works south of the Chicago Metro area, an area that doesn’t get enough publicity for good fishing action. Captain Bob does a great job on the Kankakee River and also on Heidecke Lake. He is capable on all species but is one of the few that can put you on rod-busting hybrid stripers.

Captain Ralph Steiger – - 219 –688 – 3593 – If you like smallies, then you must be aware that Lake Michigan is becoming known as one of the hottest bronzeback locations in the country. Steiger is one of the only charter captains who can specifically target these huge smallies. He launches out of Indiana, so it’s a long haul, but believe me, it is worth the cost of the gas. A five pounder is a definite possibility.

Jonn Gramm's Camp Smallmouth River Guide Service - 309-399-7055 - Jonn specializes in wading and float trips on the Vermilion River in Central Illinois. He has reasonable rates and all gear is provided. He is especially adept at teaching the finer points of river fishing for smallmouth bass either with a fly rod or spinning gear. Jonn has over 25 years of experience.

Greg “Mister Slip Bobber” Bohn – - 715-356-4633 – Walleyes, and I mean big walleyes are Greg’s specialty. He can teach you the finer points of slip bobber rigging and you won’t believe how many fish you can catch with that method. Greg works out of the legendary Northwoods area of Northern Wisconsin. For a really special trip, book Greg for a nigh trip. That’s when the big ones really hit.

Brian “Bro” Brosdahl - – 218-340-6051 – Bro is a young man who fishes professionally for walleyes, but has a soft spot for jumbo gills, perch and crappies. He has a great personality and has become an innovator in the sport in just a few short years. He is very entertaining. Bro plies his trade on the most popular lakes in Minnesota.


I don’t claim to be familiar with every guide who is out there. If you know of someone who you think deserves to be added to this list, please let me know.

































A Muskie Battle Royal
Articles & Tips >>

The arena is the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame Museum in Hayward, Wisconsin. The title at stake is the Heavyweight Championship of the World, also known as the all-tackle record for largest muskie.

Let’s go down to the ring. In this corner is the champion, having held the belt since October 20, 1949, hailing from Hayward, Louis Spray. In the champ’s corner is his second, John Detloff, President of the NFWFHF.

In the other corner is the challenger, the World record Muskie Alliance, hailing from Illinois and seconded by photogrammetrical analysis provided by Dan Mills of DCM Technical Services.

Normally the referee would have a quick run-through of the rules like, not scratching, no biting, no hitting below the belt, but not in this bout. This bloodbath is a no-holds-barred, bare knuckles contest. May the best man/group/fish win. And there’s the bell!

Louis Spray is the holder of the current record for the world’s largest musky. The fish is listed at 69-pounds, 11-ounces and was caught on the Chippewa Flowage. Spray had previously caught two other world record muskies.

During the forties, the muskie title changed hands frequently. If the monsters registered during that era were not works of fiction, it is surprising that Wisconsin’s swimmers were safe in the water and not merely dinner fare for these monstrous, toothy beasts.

Spray provided affidavits to prove the legitimacy of his catch, but there were always challenges to Spray’s veracity. Spray was a product of the era, somewhat of a fast talker who was always looking to cut a deal to direct a few dollars into his bank account. His personality and reputation are primary examples people who dispute the record use to try to downplay the size of his record fish.

Since 1949, Spray’s record has been debated. This is not unusual, as the records for bass, perch, walleye and other fish are often questioned by disbelieving anglers. In fat, recently, the old record fish in the smallmouth bass category was reinstated to the 11-pound, 15-ounce fish caught on Dale Hollow Lake in Tennessee by David Hayes in 1955. After decades of verbal jousting, the fish was tossed out in 1996. This year, after review of evidence, the fish was given back its title.

The photogrammetrical evidence developed by Dan Mills of DCM Technical Services is compelling. Mills does not inspect and analyze fish. Spray’s record was his first attempt at converting his scientifically accepted methods to the angling arts. He did not have an axe to grind. On the basis of his work, I believe that Spray’s fish is not the size that it is claimed to be.

In presenting the Mills report to the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, in their attempt to overturn Spray’s record, the World Record Muskie Alliance made what I believe was a strategic error.

In addition to the Mills report, the WRMA included page after page after page of anecdotal evidence in an unnecessary attempt to bolster their claim that Spray’s fish was a fraud. They cap the report with a statement by noted attorney and master angler, Kim Presbrey, that “the photo analysis provided would be admissible in a court of law and that the conclusions drawn from the photo analysis conclusively prove that the photos provided of the alleged world record musky do not represent a fish of the size stated by Louis Spray.” An interesting opinion by a noted barrister, but an opinion, nevertheless.

By filling in the tail end of the 93-page report with “he said – she said” allegations, no matter how good they sound, only takes away from the validity and the professionalism of the scientific portion of the report. For every anecdote and allegation that the WRMA provides, Detloff and the hall of Fame are able to return the volley with their own salvo of affidavits and stories. They tend to negate each other.

Often whispered, but never published are the allegations that Detloff defends Spray’s record to the death because he has a financial interest in the matter. Yes, Detloff has published a book, “Three Record Muskies in His Day – the Life and Times of Louis Spray.” Come on now! This is not the latest blockbuster by Tom Clancy or Stephen King we are talking about. I am sure that Detloff has pocketed some dough from his writing, but I will bet that he is making even more money selling books now that the WRMA has brought the controversy to the press.

Detloff also owns a bar/resort, the Indian Trail in the Hayward area, in fact, right on the Chippewa Flowage, a long cast from where Spray’s muskie was reportedly hooked. If I were in the area, I would probably stop and have a beverage at Detloff’s place to bask in the history and hear a few tales swapped at the bar. Is Indian Trail sold out of room space because of the legend of a fish caught in 1949? I think not. No one goes to Hayward any longer because of the 1949 world record muskie, they go there because it is an excellent vacation area and still provides quality fishing with plenty of opportunities for catching big fish.

I think Detloff’s financial rewards in regard to the Spray fish are quite exaggerated.

One point that his detractors gleefully bring up is the manner in which Detloff has overruled records on other fish that have been caught by other fishermen over the years. In regard to another purported record fish, Detloff writes, “Spray, and most musky fishermen for that matter, were far from jealous about the Lawton musky. “They just wanted to be convinced that the muskie was legitimate.  It’s not necessarily WHO holds the world record musky title that’s important, rather that the record is accurate.” Detloff’s zeal to disregard any other fish than the Spray fish certainly raises suspicions.

I sincerely believe that John Detloff truly believes that Spray’s fish is the true world record. You know, there is a tale told by my family of a time in the 20’s when my grandfather brewed gin in his home on the west Side of Chicago. The legend says that one day he was sampling a batch along with a couple of uniformed representatives of Chicago’s finest. Apparently, the still blew up and Grandpa and the two officers were rushed off to the local hospital. Looking back on this, I have to think that the colorful story is merely another urban legend. More than likely, the myth was embellished with every retelling and got stronger and stronger. Now, I have been hearing this tale for many decades. It is very hard for me to believe that I now think it to be no more than a fairy tale. I think that is how it is for Detloff and Spray’s fish.

Spray’s fish and the legend that surrounds it is part of the fiber of John Detloff’s existence. He has lived with Louis Spray and his record fish for every day of his life. He grew up idolizing Spray. He has told the Spray story countless times. I would never expect to hear Detloff question something that is almost as much a part of himself as any of his internal organs. Does that make the fish legitimate? No.

Going back to our arena, we find the battle ended without a knockout punch having been delivered. As substantial as the WRMA case is, the panel of judges would not award a victory on points to the challenger. The voting members of the NFWFHF elected to allow the Spray record to stand.

The Hall ruled that, “ the report lacks sufficient merit to overturn the Spray record. The report's primary piece of evidence came as a result of a computer software program that relied on multiple assumptions to be inputted before a result could be yielded. Because no control was ever done to test the approach that was used and so many assumptions had to be made, there exists too much reasonable doubt as to the accuracy of their result.”

Was the voting done fairly? Again, allegations are bandied about. Hough the vote passed on a unanimous 8-0 margin, with one abstention and two members recusing themselves, Detloff is targeted as having steered the vote even though he did not take part in it. I do not doubt this at all.

So we are left with a tainted record in the logs of the NFWFHH, a second record that is just as questionable, if not more so, that Spray’s, recognized by the International Game Fish Association and a horde of angry fisherman burning up phone lines and Internet message boards arguing over a big fish.

The easiest solution is for someone to go out and catch a new, provable world record muskie, but the current record is so absurdly large that a fish of new record proportions may never be captured.

To solve the dilemma, I humbly call upon John Detloff and the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisconsin, to establish new categories for world record fish. The first would be a historical record fish and the second would be a modern record, beginning immediately. Cameras and scales are much more accurate today and I believe that advances in technology warrant a new set of records, but not the abandonment of the old ones. Everyone knows Pete Rose, but who remembers Cap Anson and Wee Willie Keeler? I believe this is the best solution and I solemnly hope that cooler heads prevail and this recommendation considered for the best interests of the sport of fishing, immediately.

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The Outdoors Experience Radio Outdoor Talk Show, Chicago Illinois outdoor radio and television shows with Steve Sarley. Chicago fishing and hunting radio and TV talk shows about the great outdoors on WIND Radio 560..