Bill Duckwall loves taking people out onto Lake Superior and running his boat along the coastline near Marquette. In fact, he would run strictly a tour business if he could, but many people want something to do during the cruise.
That’s where the fishing comes in.
“I like to entertain them and show people a good time,” Bill says of Uncle Ducky Charters. He likes to talk about the geology – the rocks and how they were formed.
The guided trips start in early May, and business picks up in June and can run until November.
“The most fun trips to take are parents or grandparents taking kids out, and they want to catch a few fish,” Bill says.
Most kids he sees have not fished before, which can have a downside: Some youngsters get impatient while the boat is trolling for fish because they’re so full of energy.
“A 9- or 10-year-old kid likes to see a little more activity than the adults,” Bill explains. But there’s excitement when the fish are snagged and landed.
The limit is five fish per person, and there’s no problem reaching that limit. The average size is 5 to 10 pounds. Most of the fish he catches are lake trout, which tend to stay closer to the shore, says Bill, who has been in the charter business for 20 years.
For family fishing trips, he’ll meet his customers on the dock in Marquette at 8 a.m. and will brief everyone about boat safety. Trips run until about 2 p.m. Bill charges by the boat – $550 – and allows up to six passengers.
Bill, who will be 69 in June, says he also offers a four-hour trip at a charge of $450 that covers one to six people on board. Although equipment is provided, everyone 17 and older needs a fishing license in Michigan. A one-day license is available for $7.
One customer has high praise for Bill as a guide. “He’s extremely intelligent and interesting,” says John Tilley, of Chidester, Arkansas, which is about 100 miles southwest of Little Rock. “He is well-versed in the history of the area and the history of the wrecks and the storms.”
John and his wife, Petrea, fished with Bill in 2010 along with a couple from Wyoming. They signed up with Uncle Ducky Charters again this year.
“That’s what I go for – the fishing,” John says, noting that he and Petrea have gone charter fishing in Oregon, Washington, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee.
He found Marquette to be beautiful. “I fell in love with it.”
These days, Uncle Ducky does more business through its guided sea kayak tours of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and along the Lake Superior shoreline.
On the fishing side of the business, Bill says Uncle Ducky gets some requests for charters to Stannard Rock reef, about 50 miles by boat from Marquette. It’s known as a hot spot for catching big fish, but it’s also a long trip to the lighthouse and back. Bill believes it’s a trip more for hardcore fishermen.
“We don’t do it as much as we used to,” he says. “It’s fabulous fishing, but it’s hard on the boats.”
Uncle Ducky Charters, Marquette. 877-228-5447. www.uncleducky.com