Rob Manthei
Musky Hunter|February/March 2021
Guide Rob Manthei’s love for the Vilas/Oneida County region of northern Wisconsin is deeply rooted. His father and grandfather started taking him there on fishing trips when he was just two years old, and he began guiding full-time at the age of 25.
Steve Heiting
Today, Manthei, 50, is considered among the very best guides in this vacation destination. He appears frequently on the popular “John Gillespie’s Woods & Waters” TV show, and he and his wife, Kaye, have owned St. Germain Lodge and the adjoining Fibber’s Restaurant since 2006.

MHM: Guiding full-time and running a resort ... I’m sure people tell you you’re “living the dream.”

RM: I hear it a lot from people that it “must be awesome that you get to go fishing every day. Must be nice.” It’s everybody’s dream. But people come up here in the summer when it’s busy and they think they can move here and just go fishing, and hire people to run their business, and they’re gone in six to nine months. If you own a business up here and want to stay in business, you do a lot of the work yourself. I’ve watched a lot of people’s dreams come and go.

MHM: You work as hard as anybody I know. Tell us about a typical day during peak tourist season.

RM: We go seven days a week. There are no weekdays and weekends. A typical day in the summer, I get up between 4:30 and 5, and go through any emails as I’m waking up, drinking massive amounts of coffee. I pick up my [clients] between 6:30 and 7. Fish all day, get home somewhere between 4 and 4:30, straighten the boat up for the next day and maybe make equipment changes if we’re fishing for something else the next day, shower, then go to the restaurant for the dinner rush. Hopefully I get to leave by 8 or 8:30 provided I don’t have somebody at the bar wanting to tell me how awesome my life is.

MHM: How does musky fishing today in the region compare to when you started guiding?

RM: I think fishing is as good as it’s ever been population-wise, but we probably have had a 300 to 500 percent increase in musky anglers in Vilas and Oneida counties since I caught my first musky at age 12. Back in the early 1980s there were a handful of hardcore musky anglers fishing, and a handful of very knowledgeable guides. They caught a lot of big fish because they didn’t have the competition.

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