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Fishing guide loves his work

Fishing guide Paul Nelson has fished Bemidji area lakes since he was a child visiting his grandparents in the summer.

"My grandparents had a cabin on Lake Marquette," said Nelson, who grew up in Rush City, Minn., and now lives in Bemidji.

Nelson moved to Bemidji after college in 1979 and took a job with Xem's Sporting Goods.

He started his career as a fishing guide in 1982, but not before researching the lakes in the area. For two years, he went to a different lake almost every time he went fishing.

"I needed to learn the area," Nelson said.

Twenty-six years later, Nelson, who owns Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service, is still offering guided trips on most lakes for all fish species.

"I guide for anything just about anywhere," he said.

On a typical daily trip, Nelson takes one, two or three people out in a 20-foot fishing boat. He also works with other guides in the area to guide large groups.

While he has some clients who live in the area, most of his clients are from out the area.

"I've taken people from all over the world," said Nelson, listing countries that include New Guinea, England, France, South Africa and Israel.

With a five-month season, he said fishing guides have to find other work in the winter. "It's tough to make a living just doing fishing," he said.

During ice fishing season, he represents ice fishing companies by representing their products in stores, facilitating workshops and giving talks.

"I've been all the way from here to New York," he said.

He also writes a weekly column year 'round for the Pioneer's Friday Outdoors page.

"I do ice fishing trips, too," Nelson said.

He said the main season for guiding, however, starts at ice out with pan fishing and typically runs through October. "I work almost every day in the summer," he said.

While Nelson mostly guides in the greater Bemidji area, some clients have taken him to other areas to fish other lakes, including Lake of the Woods, Lake Vermillion and Mille Lacs Lake in Minnesota and Devils Lake in North Dakota.

Nelson said being a fishing guide is much like being a waiter because the job revolves around service.

"My first job is not to fish," Nelson said.

He said he enjoys his job.

"I like being my own boss," Nelson said. "I like meeting people. I really do like to fish."