By Carter Reese
The jet black truck kicked up dust as it made its way down the gravel road toward the Lake Wissota public fishing access, towing a matching 17 foot boat with a huge 90 horsepower motor on the back.
As the truck stopped and the dust settled, a bearded man got out clad in camouflage pants and a brown Carhartt jacket.
This was Chris Powell. A born and raised Chippewa Falls native who has been fishing the area since he could remember, and professionally guiding it for 11 years.
It all started when he was a young boy. Powell would fish from shore on Lake Hallie with his dad and grandpa and catch limits of bluegill sunfish. This sprouted into a love for fishing and a lifelong drive to become a better angler.
Working straight out of high school, fishing took a backseat for about a decade, as it usually does around this time in life. Starting a family and working full time at the GVS Filtration plant took up most of his time until he finally got back to the water seriously in the mid 2000’s.
Chris Powell’s first time guiding was in 2007 when he started his business officially. He named his business the Chippewa Valley Guide Service, and the logo is a big walleye: Powell’s favorite species to target when he operates on Lake Wissota.
“My first client that first year of guiding happened to be my only client that year. At least he booked twice!” Joked Powell.
Since that first slow year of guiding, Powell has built a good group of clientele and grown his business. He bought a new 17 foot Crestliner Fish Hawk boat and has a large array of fishing rods and tackle for almost any fishing situation in Wisconsin.
While Chris Powell is a die hard fisherman himself, he made it clear that guiding was definitely more of a job than a hobby. There is a large amount of maintenance work to keep Chippewa Valley Guide Service running smoothly. For example the lines on the fishing rods need to get changed, he has to keep the boat in tip top shape, he has to purchase lures, ropes, anchors, and always has to buy bait.
Even after all this, Powell says, “the money I get out of this is minimal, but to me it’s very worth it.” Powell also says there is a certain joy in taking people out and having them catch fish that is very addicting.
A day in the life of Powell as a fishing guide is very fluid. He says if he has time, he’ll try to get everything ready the night before, but most of his guiding trips are just daily drop ins. Another big factor is the weather. This can change quickly and dictate where he meets his clients, where they’re going to spend the day, and what type of fish species they’ll be targeting.
“One of the hard things is finding new spots or taking a personal fishing day. Whenever I fish on my own, my mindset is always what would work for potential clients.” Said Powell. Taking a day off for himself is rare, but when it happens, Powell said his favorite thing to do is find new bodies of water and travel farther than usual.
The time of year a big factor in Powell’s workload. In the winter he gets a few of the same clients each year to do some laid back ice fishing. The spring can be very bleak as far as fishing opportunities. The summer into early fall is when the walleye bite really turns on. Then around November fishing starts to slow down again as temperatures drop and waters start to freeze.
The fishing pressure on Lake Wissota can vary dramatically, according to Powell. In the summer, there are lots of boats out fishing, tubing, and partying so it makes it quite chaotic. Also in that same time frame is when the other four full time guide services on Lake Wissota are operating heavily.
One of the other guide services on Lake Wissota is Raising Caines Guide Service. It is owned and operated by Mark Caine who specializes in Musky fishing. According to Caine, the Lake Wissota community of anglers is fairly small, all of the guides know each others boats and often exchange information throughout a busy day.. This has led Caine and Powell to become allies on the water when they cross paths.
“Chris is just a great guy. He really likes to see people catch fish and that’s the only attitude you need in this sort of business.” Said Caine.
Over the years Powell has gained a respected image as a walleye fishing guide in and around Lake Wissota and the Chippewa Falls area. He’s taken clients out fishing with him from all over the world and many have came back. In the words of Powell, “I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad day out on the water now that you say it. If I can come out here and make some money doing what I love, there’s not too many complaints.”
Chris Powell jigging for walleyes on Lake Wissota ©Carter Reese Oct. 18