Photo by Rhonda Silence
Captain Tom Muntean (left) and Captain Kelly Schliep are making plans for next summer's fishing season. They both earned their Master Captains licenses this fall.

Fishing for a living

By Rhonda Silence
There's an old fishing joke that says, "When the going gets tough-the tough go fishing." Two former employees of LTV Steel Mining did just that. When they were laid-off from the Schroeder Taconite Harbor plant, Tom Muntean of Tofte and Kelly Schliep of Schroeder decided that the tough could make a living fishing. With support from the state dislocated workers program, they hit the books and last month earned their Master Captain Licenses. They are now happily preparing for spring when they can share their love of the lake and the sport of fishing with others.
They easily met the required number of days at sea, but had to cram a little to pass the four basic Captain tests, which cover everything from lights, charting, buoys, rules of the road to weather watching and more. They each took the additional towing assist course. They were also required to take CPR and First Aid training.
In addition to tests for themselves, there are a few finishing touches to put on their boats. Muntean has a 23' Wellcraft named Lone Star and Schliep has a 25' Bertram dubbed High Tide. There are some lighting requirements and commercial life jackets to purchase, but by next spring, they'll be ready to launch their new businesses.
That is businesses, plural. The friends will actually be in competition with one another. They joke that they'll lie to one another on the radio about where the fish are and there was even some mention of potato guns, but in truth, they believe the big lake is big enough for both of them-as well as the other Charter boats already running. "There's plenty to go around," said Muntean. "Tofte Charters of BlueFin Bay has to turn people away."
They will offer a variety of charters for fishing or sightseeing, full day or half-day. They can accommodate up to four people for fishing trips. "We'll supply everything they need," said Schliep. "All they need to bring is refreshments."
And will their guests catch fish? Although no captain can guarantee a full net, the two are well known for their fishing expertise. Schliep said the largest fish he's netted is a 32-pound Lake Trout. Muntean follows close behind with a 30-pound Lake Trout. And neither captain ever comes home empty-handed from a day of fishing.
How do they find the fish? "Instinct," said Muntean with smile. With a sly grin, Schliep added, "You have to think like a fish."
If you'd like to talk to the captains about their new adventure or sign up for a charter next summer, they can be contacted at: Captain Tom Muntean, North Coast Charters & Tours, (218) 663-7384 and Captain Kelly Schliep, (218) 663-7647.


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