Local fly fishing river guide stays active

BALDWIN — John Karakashian is a fly fishing river guide who has been in his profession for 10 years.

But when asked what led him to come to Baldwin, Karakashian gave a simple answer: The river.

He’s been the co-owner of Baldwin Bait & Tackle for seven years. Before that, he lived in metro Detroit.

“I had a desk job in Detroit,” he said. “I just started doing some part-time guiding and came up. I had fished the river all the time, every chance I could get. The opportunity came up to buy into the business and guide full-time and I jumped all over it.”

Steve Fraley is the other BB&T owner.

Karakashian is currently president of the Michigan River Guides Association, which has up to 40 members. It’s a statewide association.

“We meet typically four times a year. If there’s a conservation effort going on or a potential regulation change or we’re lobbying for something to change, we’ll meet more frequently,” he said.

“We work with the DNR on regulations on the river, information they need to help them. We help out with the DNR and forest service to go down river and cut trees in the spring time to make the river navigable.

“Some of our other efforts are awareness of people that are hiring guides and that they should hire someone that has the right credentials.”

Karakashian acknowledged that there are several local guides.

“We meet in Baldwin a lot. There are a lot of members in the Manistee, Wellston, Newaygo area and Baldwin,” he said. “I’d say 80 percent of our members are in northwest Michigan.”

Last month, the Pere Marquette Watershed Council had its annual fund-raiser fishing competition, the Cast for Conservation. There were 12 teams that consisted of two fishermen, who made a donation. There were two guides that donated their services for the event.

“Each team picked the name of a guide out of the hat. The guide would pick a section of the (Pere Marquette) river out of the hat, “ Karakashian said. “We would fish from four in the afternoon until midnight. Whoever had the most points at the end of the night wins.”

Tom Johnson was the winning guide, Karakashian said.

Karakashian has three full-time guides that work out of his store. He also has some independent guides that have their own businesses.

“The fishing has been excellent,” Karakashian said. “The after-dark fishing has been very good too.”