Jules Novak protege John Andrew provides ‘no fish, no pay’ guide service
He learned art of fishing, cooking shore lunches under famed guide
By Eric A. Johnson
of The Lakeland Times: July 25, 2008
“I love the water, the land, the scenery, the different fragrances that nature has to offer ... on God’s earth,” he noted. “Fishing’s even spoken about in the Bible. And I love the challenge of fishing – things not only change daily but hourly, and you have to employ [fishing] tactics accordingly.”
Today a veteran angler and guide, Andrew still relishes sport fishing so much that his idea of a perfect vacation is to, well, go fishing.
Noted Andrew, “When I go on vacation, I go fishing at a fishing lodge on Great Slave Lake in Canada’s Northwest Territory and fish exclusively for world record northern pike, where the average catch is over 35 inches long and my personal best is a 49-inch, 34 pound world record.”
Mentorship of Novak
Joliet, Ill. native Andrew cut his angling teeth fishing Wisconsin’s “Great Northwoods” as a youngster, fondly recalling his earliest fishing memories angling Big St. Germain Lake in the mid-1960s with his grandfather, George Aggeloupolous, and St. Germain fishing guide Ray Hermanson.
A good family friend, Hermanson helped Andrew’s grandfather and father, Nick Andrew, build a four-bedroom log cabin on the north shore of Big St. Germain Lake.
In the 1970s, the Andrews family relocated their vacation retreat farther north to the shores of Van Vliet Lake in “Wisconsin’s Last Wilderness,” Presque Isle, John Andrew’s current home.
It was there that his life was forever changed after meeting famed late 60-year Northwoods fishing guide Jules Novak, who lived on a large island in Van Vliet Lake.
Taking young 16-year-old Andrew under his wing, Novak mentored the teen for four years on the waters of Presque Isle, Van Vliet, Crab and Round lakes, teaching him the art of guiding, the science of reading the often subtle changes in the water and weather, and the simple valuable life lessons of the importance of persistence, hard work and honesty.
“Apprenticing under Jules was very important to me,” Andrew said, noting he remains a close friend of Novak’s widow, Barbara, who teaches boating and boating safety classes. “Jules was a great mentor. What I remember about Jules was his dedication, his pride, his endless feeling of ‘we have to catch a muskie, we have to find the walleyes’ ... His passion for fishing reeled me in hook, line and sinker.”
Novak later personally penned a letter to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, recommending 20-year-old Andrew for a Wisconsin guides license.
While Novak’s recommendation letter wasn’t necessary for the DNR’s issuance of a guiding license, the inherent recognition and professional vote of confidence meant the world to Andrew and his budding guiding ambitions.
“It was Jules’ way of confirming his confidence in me,” Andrew recalled. “There was an exhilarating sense of pride on my part. It was a great self-esteem and confidence booster. Jules always demanded nothing but the best...”
Steeped in his family’s supermarketing business since he was 13, Andrew worked the fishing offseason helping oversee the operations of his family’s Illinois supermarket business – Hickory Creek Supermarket in Wilmington and Streator Foods in Streator. But guiding and fishing was always his first love.
Summers and shoulder seasons were spent by Andrew pursuing his dream, guiding summers and shoulder seasons in the Lakeland area.
Re-hanging his shingle
With the recent sale of Hickory Creek and the May closure of Streator Foods, Andrew, facing a new chapter in his life, returned to his Northwoods roots and embraced his longtime dream of full-time guiding with gusto.
“It was a time of change that opened a window for me to chase my dream,” he said. “The family business has always been my mainstay ... but I’ve always come back to fishing. Fishing will never get old for me.”
With the start of Wisconsin’s 2008 open water fishing season, Andrew has resumed guiding the familiar open-to-the-public Northwoods waters in the Presque Isle, Manitowish Waters, Winchester, Boulder Junction, Land O’ Lakes and Phelps areas, including the Flambeau Flowage, the Manitowish Chain of Lakes, Lac Vieux Desert and North and South Twin Lake.
Fully licensed and insured, Andrew offers his customers the benefits of his 35 years of fishing experience on Northwoods and Canadian waters, a track record that includes three Outstanding Angler Achievement and two World Record Catch and Release Angling Achievement awards from the Hayward-based National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, which oversees a database of more than 3,000 world record entries. Andrew’s world records include two northern pikes:
- A 49-inch northern in the rod/reel class landed in September 1993 on a 25 pound test line while fishing in Canada’s Northwest Territory.
- A 29 pound, eight ounce northern pike in the rod/reel class landed in September 1990 on a 25 pound test line while fishing in Canada’s Northwest Territory.
The world record catches earned Andrew ink in the pages of Brainerd, Minn.-based In-Fisherman, the nation’s leading freshwater fishing magazine.
“I fought the fish 18-20 minutes before getting sight of it,” Andrew recalled of his 1993 world record, which also earned him a $1 bet that he made with his father, Nick Andrew, who accompanied him on the trip. “As I reared back to set the hook, I knew by the size of the boil in the water that this was very likely a world-class fish on the other end of the line.”
Andrew’s Hall of Fame Outstanding Angling Achievement recognitions include a 27 pound, four ounce muskellunge in the rod/reel division landed in November 1987 on a six pound test line while fishing Presque Isle Lake in Vilas County. Andrew landed the muskie, which had a 23-inch girth, on a white 3/8-ounce jig tipped with a red-tail chub intended for walleyes while hovering over a 40-foot-deep sand bar. The muskie was hooked in the corner of its mouth and surfaced four times during a 2-1/2 hour battled.
Feted with an Outstanding Angling Achievement recognition, Andrew fell short of landing a world muskie record in the four pound test line category after his four pound Trilene XL line tested out at 5.7 pounds in Hall of Fame testing.
Andrew’s 1987 brush with a world record came on the heels of another brush with world record fame in 1984, when he caught a 25 pound tiger muskie on a six pound test line that fell two pounds shy of the world line class record at the time.
Thanks to his long and notable track record, Andrew said he’s been “fortunate” to have been placed on recommended guiding short lists maintained by area resorts as a service for their guests.
Andrew and his Anglers Choice Guide Service is available for full- or half-day guiding for up to three serious anglers, couples or families with up to two children – everyone from novices and more experienced anglers to fellow world record holders.
Anglers Choice Guide Service provides pick-up and drop-off service, all equipment, bait and gas, and a fully-equipped 17.5-foot guide boat or canoe.
Andrew’s main guide boat is a Tournament Pro 170 Elite Series twin deep-V hull Alumacraft outfitted with Lowrance electronic fish finders, a Mercury outboard engine and dual Minkota trolling motors. Tiller control allows Andrew to provide more room for accommodating clients and teaching the art of sport fishing.
Optional wilderness fishing experiences on Wisconsin waters are available by rowboat or canoe.
A box lunch – sandwiches, water, juice and soda – is included with Andrew’s half- and full-day guiding services.
An optional traditional “shore lunch,” a tasty bit of Northwoods nostalgia made famous by late guides like Novak and Boulder Junction “barefoot guide” Porter Dean, is available upon request with full-day guiding and is popular with select clientele, including families.
Andrew, who learned the art of preparing, cooking and serving shore lunches at Novak’s side, is one of the few Northwoods guides who continue the popular, time-honored sport fishing tradition – pan fried walleye served with fried onions and potatoes, beans, corn and cast iron skillet “bannick” flat bread.
Andrew’s angling specialities include muskies, trophy bass, walleye, northern pike, lake trout, crappie and panfish.
A full day of guiding, up to 10 hours, is available at $200, with a half-day of guiding up to six hours offered at $150.
Taking a cue from mentor Novak, Andrew offers his customers a “no fish, no pay” policy, excluding elusive muskie.
“Jules always demanded no fish, no pay,” he said. “If I’m not good enough to provide fish for my guests, there’s no pay.”
Among Andrew’s satisfied guiding customers is the Roger and Robin Baele family of Scottsdale, Ariz., who fished with him on Tuesday, June 24 with their sons, Dan and Kevin. The family’s catch included a 20.5-inch, 5-1/2 pound smallmouth bass landed by Roger Baele.
“We had the pleasure of having John as our fishing guide for the day,” the Baeles recalled. “John is not only warm and generous, but also extremely patient and knowledgeable. He spent quite a bit of time teaching our family how to fish, as well as a general lesson in biology and nature."
“Our two boys, ages 12 and 14, were quite impressed with John as they were both able to catch bass, walleye, perch and northern pike. Their experience was extremely positive and they would both love the opportunity to fish with John again in the near future."
“John took care of us from early morning through the evening, from baiting our lines to cleaning and cutting up the fish we kept. We are still enjoying ‘our catch’ today at lunch. We highly recommend John Andrew as a local fishing guide for the Northwoods area. Not only are we looking forward to our next fishing expedition, we will remember our experience with him for many years.”
Such sentiments mean a great deal to Andrew.
“My interest is helping my clients have an enjoyable, successful [fishing] outing,” he said. “I enjoy sharing the knowledge I’ve gained and I love seeing the joy that fishing brings, especially to the young people. Watching the smiles light up ... brings me great pleasure.”
A year-round guiding business
Reeling in the catch of a lifetime with his dream-turned-reality business, guiding entrepreneur Andrew has big plans for his future, noting he will also offer ice-fishing, snowmobiling and small game hunting services.
“I know it’s a challenge, building this into a full-time, year-round career, but it’s a challenge I know I can overcome,” he said. “I know I can make it a successful, year-round business. I think it’ll be a fantastic service for the Northwoods.”