GTPulse: Local Firefighter Shares Love for Fishing


When the weather isn’t unseasonably warm for a Northern Michigan winter, you can find Matt Tallman ice fishing. 

“I’m usually fishing inland lakes like Green Lake or Long Lake or Lake Cadillac.”

The local firefighter also owns Fish Moxie, a fishing guide service where he uses his fisherman skills and United States Coast Guard Master Captain skills to teach folks how to become better fisher people. He covers fishing in all seasons, but he has a special fondness for ice fishing.

“I’ve been going since grade school,” he said. “I’d always try to get my dad to take me out fishing. We didn’t do a lot of it, but it was always the first thing on my mind.”

Like me, Matt is a born and bred downstater, so there were limited places to ice fish. He made his way north at age 20 when he took a job opening to manage a jewelry store inside the old Cherryland mall. He saw it not only as a work opportunity but a chance to have a lot more access to good fishing.

“I took the job thinking, ‘Oh, Traverse City, there’s a bunch of fishing up there,’ of course I wanted to take the job.”

He moved into a rental across the street from the fire department and began his life as a young man in Northern Michigan. He continued to work at the jewelry store and fish until his heart’s content for a time before thinking about a career change. Passing by the fire station every day, Matt had time to fix his thoughts on firefighting.

“One day I just built up enough nerve and went over to the firehouse and asked them how to get involved. They put me through the education and the rest is history,” he said.

What started as taking a job so he could fish more had turned into a life and home for Matt. At 20 years old, he didn’t know that not only would he find a career that he was proud of, but that he’d also be able to share his love of fishing with others. 

Matt takes clients out on local inland lakes all year round and teaches them the best techniques to catch fish. While it’s easy to be in the warm weather and sunshine in the summer, ice fishing proves to require a little more patience and resilience from the fisherman. When the lakes are frozen over with at least four inches of clear, new ice covering the surface, an ice fisherman can cut out a hole around eight inches in diameter. For a short trip, the best times to go are around dawn, and then again around dusk.

“We fish in what we call the witching hours. So the hour after first light, and the hour before dusk and after. So that’s traditionally when the bite is a little bit better.”

But Matt said that there are many trips where he and the crew he’s with will be outside all day. He said on an all day trip that they may or may not catch more than they would just fishing the prime times of the day.

“There’s days when it’s beautiful outside and you wanna be out there all day. So, you get your little grill and make hot dogs. You get your wireless speaker and listen to Christal on the radio and wait to reel something in. But it’s roulette. I like to tell clients if they expect to go out and catch 20 fish they’re not going to be happy. Somedays you hit the jackpot, others not so much.”

The camaraderie aspect is just as important to Matt as catching the fish. Surrounded by friends and the walls of an ice shanty, the fishermen share jokes, stories, and maybe a few nips of whiskey whether the fish are biting or not.

“Sometimes it’s about camaraderie, other times it’s just about peace and solitude. My partners at work, we talk a lot about that, how it just gives your mind a time to rest.”

It’s this facet of ice fishing that Matt says makes it a perfect activity for all. Bonding with those close to you, learning something new about fishing, and enjoying time outdoors are all part of the ice fishing experience.

“I think it’s especially good for kids. It gets them outdoors. I haven’t had a lot go out on the ice, but seeing them on the boat, it teaches patience. You get to tell them stories to keep them entertained and keep them off the electronics.”

Though he’s gotten to do a lot with ice fishing, one adventure he hasn’t gone on yet is camping out on the ice. Soon enough he’ll be able to check that off of his experience list though.

“It’s on my bucket list for this year. It’s easier than you think.”

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Categories: GTPulse