‘Musky Joe’s’ big day

I was walking on a longdistance trapline last February when my good buddy, Joe Flater, called me and told me he was being inducted into the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame.

Joe Flater is a blue-collar musky/bear hunting guide who earns much of his income by floating down the Flambeau and Chippewa rivers and showing people a really good time. When Joe called me, he asked if I would come and speak when he had his celebration, and I guaranteed him that I would.

Friday, July 21

High 72, Low 55

I am camped on Joe’s back 40 which is just down the road from Flater’s Resort which may have the coolest pub in North America. Today is the day before Joe’s sons, Andy, Matt and Austin as well as Joe’s wife, Dawn, and many other people put on one of the biggest and coolest celebrations for one man that northwest Wisconsin has seen in a very long time.

We are floating down the Flambeau River trying to catch a musky. Joe is doing a lot of rowing and I feel like a rich man as my guide and I shoot the jaw and laugh a lot as we have for the last 18 years that we have known each other.

I was with Joe when I shot my first bobcat. I was with Joe when we helped a young girl shoot and video her first black bear with a bow.

I was camped on Joe’s land on a cold December night when I kind of started my tent on fire. I have been with Joe on at least 20 trips down the Flambeau or Chippewa!

When I started KAMO (Kids and Mentors Outdoors) back in 2007, Joe was on board from day one to help with what would become The Indianhead Chapter of KAMO “Ladysmith area.”

Today, we are floating down a river where his father, Tubby, who is 85 and still an active part of the Flater operation, was guiding 60 years ago in exactly the same style as Joe does today.

For those of you that are used to jumping into a $60,000 rig when fishing with a guide, Joe uses a 14-foot v-hull that certainly might leak, and it is pushed for the most part by current or “Joe’s big shoulders” or sometimes a 10-horsepower motor. The only electronics on board are cell phone. If you you are up north in the Camp 41 area, good luck with reception.

Joe was one of eight people in the world to become a member of The Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame this year. An earlier example would be Earnest Hemingway.

We did not catch a fish today, and Joe cared, and I did not!

Saturday, July 22

High 77, Low 55

If you love America and the outdoors, the celebration put on for Joe today was about as cool as it gets. It was grassroots – all about family and friends, and attended by 400 to 500 people with excellent music and a lot of heartfelt talks by many people.

Joe does a ton of volunteering in this area. He has skied the Birkie 10.5 times. His resort has held a triathlon for decades and also has a baseball field with lights and an annual tournament.

Joe helps out big-time with the snowmobile trails, is the local fire warden and just happens to be a very cool bartender.

Musky Joe as he is often called was honored with great pride by hundreds of people today who were rewarded with an incredible chicken dinner and as much beer as they wanted to drink from 3 p.m. until well after midnight. I honestly believe that what I witnessed was the coolest picnic that I have ever been to.

Technology is where it is at in most aspects of our lives these days but there are still a few old- timers that are well aware that hard work and an awesome personality win the day!

Long live Musky Joe!


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