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.

































Introducing the Muskie Controversy
Articles & Tips >>

One of the things that I have taken solace in is that the world of the outdoors is virtually controversy free. In the course of a year, you’ll find endless stories in the sports pages about professional athletes and their contract holdouts, failed steroid tests, paternity suits, lawsuits and cheating.

The outdoors is pristine. We hunt. We fish. We recreate. There is no need for controversy. Even in the world of professional fishing, where huge cash purses are at stake, the combatants perform with the highest integrity and there is never a whisper of doubt about the outcome of a tournament.

One area where some argument has always occurred is in the area of record fish. Al Nelson’s 1982 22-pound-11-ounce giant supplanted a 1960 record because photographic evidence caused suspicion about the validity of the size of the fish. George Perry’s 22-pound-4-ounce world record largemouth bass has been the record since 1932. Incredibly, no pictures of the fish exist and he didn’t mount the fish, it ended up on the Perry family dinner table. The world record perch was caught in Maine in 1865 and is dubiously recorded at 4-pounds-three-ounces. What brings this fish into question is the fact that there are no other recorded perch over three pounds that have been caught. In fact, a two-pounder is a wallhanger in any state in the union. How can someone have caught a fish that was 33% heavier than the next biggest lunker?

The world of musky fishing has always been a hotbed of discussion about fish size. Big fish bring big tales and it is not uncommon to hear anglers tell of fifty-inch fish that, in reality, are merely forty-four. Legends of sixty-inch fish sightings come out of Canadian Shield lakes every year, but they never prove to be more than legends.

The world of musky fishing has been rocked by a new report that was commissioned by a group called the World Record Muskie Alliance. They are asking the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame to disqualify the current world record fish.

There has always been whispered dissension regarding the current world record musky. There are two organizations that put the label of “world record” onto fish. The NFWF Hall of Fame is headquartered in Hayward, Wisconsin and recognizes a fish caught by Louie Spray in 1949 weighing 69-pounds-11-ounces. Spray’s fish took over for a fish recognized as a record, caught by Art Lawton, until the Hall of Fame disqualified it, citing photographic analysis. The International Game Fish Association, headquartered in Florida, cites Cal Johnson’s 67-pound-eight-ounce fish as their recognized record.

The two groups have bickered over the years and neither side will ever concede to the other. Add to all of this the 1995 near-death bed confession of Len Hartman who admitted that the 67-pound-15-ounce musky that he had submitted as a new record, was nothing more than a phony. You have a situation that is muddled and many people don’t know who to believe.

The record’s most vocal defender, John Detloff, a Hayward resort owner and one of the President of the Hayward Hall once told me, “There is no controversy. Spray’s fish is the record. A couple of loudmouths running around talking nonsense does not define a controversy.”

Larry Ramsell one of muskie fishing’s top authorities and the sport’s premier historian has always defended the record. Ramsell’s encyclopedic tome, “A Compendium of Muskie Angling History,” chronicles the disputes through the years and provides a fairly substantial argument for Spray’s record. Now, Ramsell, a WRMA member is dissecting the new WRMA findings but cannot speak about his feelings. Larry’s only interest is seeing that the record be legitimized. “I’m kind of in a spot. I may be called upon by the Hall to participate in their discussions. I really can’t comment right now,” he told me. He is definitely certain that the Johnson fish is a sham. “Look at the distance from the back pair of fins in relation to the anal fins and compare the Johnson mount to the photographs. Length has definitely been added by the taxidermist.”

There are certainly methods available to someone wanting to cheat the system. As pictures can be altered, as proven by the stream of joke e-mails that clog my inbox each week, so can a mount. When the fish skin is attached to the mold, extra skin is added in to make the fish appear longer. Due to the fact that the mount’s skin is completely painted over in the finishing process, the seams between the pieces of skin cannot be seen. In addition to altering mounts, unscrupulous fishermen have been known to fill a musky’s stomach with lead weights before putting them on the scales.

The World Record Muskie Alliance believes that they have put an end to much of the controversy. The local group, led by area resident, Rich Delaney is a group of passionate anglers who believe that Spray’s fish, and possibly a number of other fish, have not been legitimately weighed or measured. The WRMA claims that it is a group consists of “muskellunge anglers who felt strongly that the controversy over the legitimacy of the current All Tackle World Record Muskellunge could be resolved by the use of modern technology and unbiased methods of authentication.” The WRMA is also dedicated to establishing a system to ensure that future record claims are weighed and measured in a standard manner. They are also working to support scientific efforts to determine optimal muskie waters for stocking and to protecting muskie spawning and nursery habitat areas.

The WRMA has challenged the record verbally on many occasions. One of the group’s members, Pete Maina, a musky fishing legend, has been the most vocal, often getting into extremely heated conflicts with NFWF Hall of Fame members. At stake, among other things, is the possibility that the disqualification of a record caught in Hayward might cause damage to that area’s multi-million dollar tourism industry. Interestingly, Maina is an area resident who derives a good portion of his income from guiding tourists wanting to challenge Hayward’s lakes in search of the next world record. Maina claims that he is simply out to see that justice is done and he has not one iota of belief that Spray’s fish is as big as claimed.

This time around, though, the subject is not being debated by avid anglers just screaming their opinions at each other. The debate has moved to the arena of scientific research. DCM Technical Services, a company that works in the field of photgrammetric measurement and analysis, was contracted to perform an examination of the existing photographs of Spray’s alleged record fish.

WRMA’s incredibly detailed ninety-three page report, centered around the DCM findings, almost reads like a New York Times best selling mystery. Loading fish with lead weights, altered photographs, phony mounts, lying, bribery, perjury, cheating and deception are all called into play in the report’s analytical and anecdotal evidence.

Spray’s questionable reputation for veracity is called into question. I must say that it is a giant leap of faith to believe the claims of a man who has on separate occasions either caught two, or three world record muskies.

Though the anecdotal evidence, including Spray’s exaggeration of his own personal height in order to make the fish seem larger, is extremely entertaining and thought provoking, it is circumstantial. The DCM evidence proves to be the lynchpin of the attack.

The photographs are measured and assayed from almost every imaginable angle and perspective. I am reminded of the Warren Report and their analysis of the personal photos of Lee Harvey Oswald holding firearms that were taken in the assassin’s backyard. This is the magnitude that this disputed record has risen to.

DCM presents its case in no uncertain terms. To paraphrase from the report, ‘From all of the expert calculations employed, it is evident that Spray’s 1949 Muskellunge, initially claimed to measure 63.5” in length, in fact measured 53.6” +/- 1.5” in length, and therefore sorely lacked the dimensions necessary to weigh 69-pounds-11-ounces. Further, it has been shown conclusively that the skin mount of Spray’s 1949 record muskie was augmented by an average of 14.47% in length, and 8.51% in belly width. It is our considered opinion that mount augmentation of this magnitude could only have been performed to help perpetuate a fraud of historic proportions on the part of Spray.’

What does the WRMA request of the NWFF Hall of Fame? “It is our recommendation that this and all Spray records be immediately disqualified from current or historic record status or consideration by the NFWF Hall of Fame and Museum, as they represent obvious cases of fraud on the part of Spray and his associates.”

Hall of Fame President, John Detloff, gave me a response to the presentation of the report and its contents, saying, “It was pretty unprofessional the way that they presented the report to a couple of individual board members, rather than to the group as a whole. It is also extremely unprofessional to go to the media with it before all of the board has even gotten the report. I have read the report and I will read it again. We take any challenge to a record very seriously. This report, I feel, represents layer upon layer of unsupported facts and supposed evidence. I find no legitimacy to this document. It is all smoke and mirrors. There does not appear to be a case. This group, for some reason, wants to create question and confusion in the mind of the public.

Detloff was once quoted as saying, “It’s not necessarily WHO holds the world record musky title that’s important, rather that the record is accurate.” I am sure that he had no way of knowing that when he spoke those words, that the WRMA would use them to force the Hall to re-open discussion about the record fish that they have defended for so many years.

I, personally, am a member of the WRMA. In fact, they compliment me by calling me a “prominent member” on their main web page and put me in elite company with guys like Maina, Ramsell, Dick Pearson and Jim Saric. That said, my mind will remain open until I hear the official response to the WRMA report from the Hall of Fame.

I will follow this saga very closely and report the facts as they transpire. My most fervent hope, though, is that someone out there catches a new “true” world record muskie and puts all of the discussion to rest, once and for all.

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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..