top of page

Four Fabulous Fishing Guides

Lake Country is famous for great fishing and great guides. Here’s a sampling.





Royal Karels is a true fishing legend; 2024 will mark his fifty-sixth year of guiding and thirty-second year of coordinating fishing guides for Cragun’s Resort in Brainerd. He was inducted into the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame in 2017.

Karels was born in Brainerd. His grandparents ran a small family resort on Shirt Lake, just east of the city. It was there that Karels got hooked on fishing. First, fishing off the docks at five years of age and later fishing from one of his grandparents’ fifteen boats. By the age of ten, he was skilled enough to take customers fishing all over the lake. It was his experience at his grandparents’ resort that helped him develop a lifelong passion for guiding. 

Karels went to college to be a teacher, and after a short stint of teaching at White Bear Lake, he came home to teach for the Brainerd School District where he spent the rest of his career as an elementary teacher. 

In 1969, Karels joined the nationally known Nisswa Guides League. He fished with the league until 1978, when he went to work with a different organization. 

Early in his career, Karels considered himself a multi-species angler. He would fish for whatever his clients wanted, whether it was walleyes, bass, pike, crappies, or muskies. He learned to fish multi-species from three of the best fishermen in the area: Harry Van Doran, Al Lindner, and Gary Roach. He considers Al Lindner to be the best fisherman he has ever seen. Over the years, Karels developed a deep admiration for bass fishing. He found that he could get more action and keep customers much happier fishing for bass than any other species in the area. So today, he is strictly a bass fisherman and doesn’t bother with the other species.

 “I just love to fish. The more I fish, the more I like it. I especially like to fish with kids on small lakes where there is no one else on the lake. There is nothing like having two or three kids in the boat landing fish, yelling and screaming with excitement. I like to be their cheerleader, helping them in any way I can. That is just a great feeling! I also only fish mornings now, so I can stay out of the hot sun. I have a rear till boat motor, and I have to stand up in the back of the boat so I can see over my customers. But at my age, I’m thinking that is getting a little dangerous!” 

Karels likes to fish a new lake every year. This summer he is going to fish on secret lake number twenty-seven: Upper and Lower Haywire. Good luck finding those lakes! 

Karels has concerns with the changes he is seeing around area lakes: invasive species, much more wind, and higher water temperatures. 

If you want to meet the longest-serving guide in the Lakes Area, stop by Cragun’s and look for Karels. He’s a Lake Country legend, and he might even tell you a fishing story or two! But do it soon. At eighty-seven, Royal Karels has decided that this will be his final year as a full-time guide.




Mandy Uhrich is a guide in the Lakes Area unlike any other. First of all, most area guides are men, and most women who are fishing guides are found outside the Brainerd Area.

There are a number of well-known female fishing guides in other states as well as Ontario, Canada. Second, very few guides are full-time biologists. Uhrich is currently employed as the statewide Fish and Wildlife Habitat Coordinator for the Minnesota DNR. She has unique expertise, not only in fishing but also many other wildlife areas. 

Uhrich’s happiest childhood memories were on the water with her dad in Devils Lake, North Dakota. Her dad was a guide, and she spent countless hours asking, “Why? Why are we fishing here? Why are we using this bait? Why aren’t the fish biting?” It was her dad’s guidance that helped her develop the interest in the outdoors that she possesses today. 

In addition to guiding on the water, Uhrich has also been a hunting guide for pheasants in South Dakota and for geese, ducks, and partridge in Minnesota. She has wrangled alligators in South Carolina. And to top off her resumé of adventuresome occupations, she has driven a snowplow for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Uhrich has been featured in numerous magazine and newspaper articles and on television shows. She is on the pro-staff of Lund Boats and many other fishing companies. She conducts fishing seminars around the country and donates two hundred hours of her time each year to nonprofit fundraising causes. 

Part of her volunteer work has been with Becoming an Outdoor Woman (BOW). This organization teaches women how to do things such as driving a boat, backing a boat trailer into the lake, and using a kayak.

Uhrich’s background in fishing tournaments led to her working with Lund Boats and other tackle companies to help with product design. She helped design the first Lund bass boats and still works with the company in refining boat features. She competes in a number of bass tournaments, including a weekly bass tournament in the Lakes Area. 

Of all her skills and unique experiences, Uhrich says guiding for bass is at the top of her list! As she explains, “I am that guide that the entire day is spent explaining to my customers why we are doing what we are doing; breaking down micro patterns with seasonality, water temperature and clarity, vegetation, and species-specific forage—while advocating for catch, photo, and release and sustainable harvest. My goal at the end of the trip is for every client to have an excellent experience and leave with the knowledge and confidence to replicate that experience on their own.”

mandy u-4912_web.jpg



Growing up around Brainerd, Blasing knew at a very young age that he wanted to be a fishing guide. After all, Brainerd was the mecca for well-known fishing personalities like Al and Ron Lindner, Babe Winkelman, Gary Roach, and Marv Koep. 

Blasing saw them on TV, but he could also see them fishing on area lakes. When his dad, Butch, started guiding, Blasing knew he had to figure out a way to get into the guide business. 

Like all young folks interested in guiding, Blasing had to overcome a few challenges to get into the business. He needed tackle, a truck, and a boat. He started with a used boat and a used truck, investing his money in tackle, rods, and reels. His next step was to figure out who he could work for as a guide. But he had one other big challenge to overcome first. He lived in Duluth and wanted to guide in Brainerd.

Blasing graduated from college with a degree in environmental studies and accepted a job with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in Saint Paul, eventually being transferred to Duluth. It is over a two-hour drive from Duluth to Brainerd, and gas prices at the time were almost five dollars a gallon, so Blasing realized he was not guiding to make big money but rather to learn the trade and develop a customer base. 

 He started his guiding career working for Dan Eigen, who is known in the business as “Walleye Dan.” He worked for Eigen three years and then joined his dad and Tim Edinger to form a new guide league through S&W Bait, located south of Nisswa. It was during those first years that Blasing honed his guiding skills and developed a customer base. 

Blasing and his family eventually moved to Brainerd, where they still reside, and he continues to work with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The S&W Guide Service merged with the Nisswa Guide League, and that is where Blasing guides today.

Blasing thoroughly enjoys guiding. He loves to teach customers how to catch fish, and he enjoys guiding kids. He strongly believes in catch and release and encourages customers to release big fish.

With his extensive training in biology and chemistry, Blasing understands the urgency of protecting our natural resources. Over the twenty years he’s been guiding, Blasing has seen major changes in the water quality of area lakes, mostly due to the unfortunate introduction of aquatic invasive species like zebra mussels. This has resulted in increased vegetation and fewer walleyes. Blasing is active in the Walleye Alliance, an organization working with the DNR to improve the quality of fishing in the area. He spends a lot of time doing radio and television shows promoting the well-being of our lakes. 

Nate Blasing represents the best of today’s fishing guides, one skilled enough to catch fish and concerned enough to protect our precious water resources.




As a young man, Jon Stolski had a fascination with king salmon. After graduating from high school, he got the opportunity to work at a fishing lodge in Alaska that guided for king salmon on the Kenai River.

His first two summers in Alaska, 1988 and 1989, were spent being a dock boy. Stolski got a United States Coast Guard license and started guiding during his third year in Alaska. It was an exciting job because customers were fishing the Kenai for world-class trophy fish.

Stolski finished college with a degree in education and landed a job teaching geography in Brainerd, where he met his wife, Kim. The two of them would spend June and July in Alaska, where Jon continued to guide. When Jon and Kim had their first child, it became harder to spend the summer in Alaska, so Stolski looked for a part-time guide job in the Lakes Area.

In 1991, Duke and Terri Fischer were the owners of Koep’s Bait Shop. Stolski stopped by to meet them and explained that he was an experienced guide looking for work in the Lakes Area. Duke hired him as a part-time guide. Eventually Stolski became a full-time summer guide with the Nisswa Guides League fishing out of Koep’s Bait Shop. Stolski has fished the Lakes Area for almost thirty years. 

Stolski’s love of fishing started early with his grandpa. His grandpa took him fishing whenever they could find the time to go. Later, while in elementary school, Stolski took a summer class on fishing taught by two teachers, Royal Karels and Gene Hanson. He learned a lot from them. He never stopped learning as he developed as a guide. 

Over the years there have been a number of guys who really helped Stolski develop a passion for fishing: Glen Belgum, Bert Lindberry, Royal Karels, and Marv Koep. He owes much to them for helping him develop a lifelong passion for fishing. 

There are four basic skills necessary to be a successful guide, in Stolski’s view: patience, preparedness, good people skills, and passion. He loves people, enjoys showing customers how to catch fish, and stresses the importance of catch and release. He has fished with many celebrities over the years, but none more famous than the rock guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn. 

 Stolski normally guides every day of the week (except school days, when he is teaching). When he does get a day off, he tries to go fishing on a new lake. He feels it is his job to know the lakes that offer the best opportunities to catch fish for his customers. Fishing with Stolski is never dull! He is a great storyteller, loves fishing with kids, and does his best to make time on the lake memorable! 

bottom of page