Alumnus Finds True Calling as Fishing Guide

Ermatinger (right) with a client and her catch.

NMU alumnus Alex Ermatinger graduated in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in environmental science and biology. After a few years working in chemical engineering and then pharmaceutical research, he realized that his true calling was to be a fishing guide. He had grown up fishing for salmon and steelhead in the northern Lower Peninsula. Ermatinger returns to the area to help clients chase the same species during their annual migration from Lake Michigan into rivers along the west coast of the state.

From the end of August to early October, king and coho salmon migrate from Lake Michigan into many rivers along the west coast of the state. From November to May, large numbers of steelhead do the same. According to his business website, Tinger Guide Service specializes in targeting these fish with fly rod and/or spin techniques on remote upper stretches of the Betsie River and Little Bear Creek south of Traverse City. Private access allows Ermatinger and his clients to float stretches inaccessible to other fisherman.

The outdoors is a literal breath of fresh air compared with the chemical engineering job he held in Southern Indiana. Ermatinger did water testing, which required him to work in the boiler rooms, which can reach 120 degrees, and cooling towers of manufacturing facilities. Disenchanted, he returned to Michigan and found a job in pharmaceutical research.

“That was in a lab-coat environment, and I knew I would not want to do that for the rest of my life,” he said. “But while I was there, I got a part-time gig over the weekends working as a guide. I led mainly day trips, where you float for four hours down the river and enjoy the deep rural country. That part-time job really gave me a feel for the business. The main reason I got a degree in environmental sciences was because I wanted to work outside and in a capacity that I enjoyed.”

In 2017, Ermatinger decided to make a career switch. He sent out a dozen applications for full-time guide positions and got three job offers in return.

“I decided to take a job in Colorado with Smith Fork Ranch, where I worked for a couple of years until the owners sold the ranch and decided that it was no longer going to be used for deer,” Ermatinger said. “I ended up taking a new job with Gunnison River Expeditions because I got to know them during my work at Smith Fork Ranch.”

In the late fall, Ermatinger spends his time guiding big-game hunts with Heartland Pride Outfitters in Nebraska, which specializes in whitetail, mule deer, elk, antelope, merriams and Rio turkey hunts.

At the time he was interviewed, Ermatinger had recently acquired 40 acres near the Betsie River. He planned to build his own lodge on the site and move back to Michigan full-time once it's completed.

Find more information on Tinger Guide Service here.

Prepared by Ian McCullough and Kristi Evans

Ermatinger (left) with a client in a boat
Ermatinger (left) with a client in a boat
Prepared By

Categories: Alumni