Ivan Burandt isn't a professor, a historian or an economist. He's a fishing guide. But if you talk with him for half an hour in his boat, you might think he'd pass for any of the above. In all likelihood, he could.
The Onamia, Minnesota, resident reached his 30th year of guiding this spring on Minnesota's famed Mille Lacs Lake. His journey, which began when Jimmy Carter was in the Oval Office and witnessed the fall of the Soviet Union, has taught him about fish, as well as the unusual species that pursue them.
Humans have need of fat walleyes and jumbo perch regardless of the economy, Burandt has found. Fishing with clients from across the globe has shown Burandt that some things never change. His observations about what has changed, however, reveal interesting insight about anglers today.
And if you spend a day in the boat with Ivan, as I did with my friend, Tom Wallrich, you’ll hear Ivan asking bizarre questions for a guide. Never mind, “How big were the walleyes you caught on Indian Point?” Instead, as he motored us toward a mud flat holding big walleyes, Ivan asked, “What about China emerging as a global power?”
My fishing partner, Tom, a man with far more fishing and financial wisdom than me, expounded a hypothesis based on China’s growing population, their education system and their energy situation. Ivan nodded in agreement, then instructed us to drop down our lines. I felt bottom, lifted up, then whipped around to watch Tom bringing in a walleye he hooked 30 seconds into our day. A 27-and-a-half-incher.
A few photos and a quick release later, and Ivan was back at it: “Well now, Tom, how high do you think gas prices will climb?”
We lingered on the subject of gas prices for a bit longer, especially as it relates to anglers, vacations and fishing trips. As we fished into the evening on Minnesota’s most famous factory for walleyes, we saw only a handful of boats on a spot Ivan expected two dozen. Was it because Twin Cities anglers were less willing to spend the gas to drive two hours to fish? Or was it simply because word was out the bite was tough?
NOW AND THEN
A bit of both, Ivan reasoned. The seasoned guide has fished for enough decades to see fads come and go and trends level out. In the days before Mille Lacs’ slot limit, anglers quickly caught their limit of six keepers. Anglers are currently allowed six walleyes total, including one over 28-inches. All walleyes between 18 and 28 inches must be released.
“When there was no slot limit, I’d take two people out and they’d quickly catch 15 walleyes, keep the best 12 and we’d be done by 10 a.m.,” recalls Ivan, who owns an old photo of himself holding a stringer of six walleyes weighing 10-pounds a piece. “They’d be thrilled with a great day of fishing because they caught their limit.”
“Today, I’d take those same two people out, and we’d catch 30 or 40 walleyes by noon. But only five of those fish might be smaller than 18 inches, so we don’t have our limit yet and those two people feel like they weren’t as successful because they didn’t catch a limit, even though really we caught 40 walleyes today compared with 15 back then.”
The psychological importance many walleye anglers place on “catching your limit” is a remnant from the old days. The ability to find those fish – and the development of unprecedented electronics – is the most defining difference between then and now, Ivan says.
“Way back when, they tied a big buoy out in front of Eddy’s where the good spot was and we all just drove out to the spot and fished around that buoy,” Ivan remembers. “And all the fish you needed were right there. Now, electronics with lake maps and spots you can mark on your GPS are so important. But I still think there are reefs in Mille Lacs with fish that haven’t ever been fished much.”
But Ivan’s doing his part to change that. The longtime guide takes kids under 16 out for free, hoping that future generations of anglers will continue to ply the waters of Mille Lacs for lunker walleyes and, in the process, develop new tactics and trends. How the next generation will behave, well, that item came up for discussion in the evening, after we gave up on slip-bobbers and went back to livebait rigging leaches for the rest of the night.
I caught a 26-inch walleye, then Ivan wondered aloud, “See Tony, when I was in my 20s, we all carpooled to work, even if it wasn’t a very long drive it was just part of our mindset. Why don’t more people carpool now?”
Ivan Burandt operates Ivan’s Guide Service and can be reached at 320.532.3261 or www.ivansguideservice.com