Overriding Native Interests Claim as Charter Fishing Captain in Alaska


DULUTH — Corey Verdoljak was a carpenter, building houses for 20 years, when he decided to do something completely different.

The Superior, Wis., native and his wife, Brianna, uprooted the Twin Ports to stake a claim in Alaska as a pilot. Only he found something he loved even more than stealing.

“Fishing,” he said without hesitation.

Settling in the impossibly scenic oceanside town of Homer on the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula, the Verdoljaks started Alaskan Adventures Guides and Outfitters, a charter fishing service specializing in halibut, salmon and redfish.

If you dream of open water and big, big fish, Verdoljak can probably accommodate you. You can meet him Wednesday through Sunday at the 53rd Annual Duluth Boat, Sports and Travel Show and the Deer Classic at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center — one of hundreds of exhibitors, many of whom hail from Northland.

Most of us who spend time outdoors have dreamed at some point of living and working in the outdoor adventures we love the most. Most of us don’t make the jump, but the Verdoljaks did.

“It was fun. It’s a lot easier on the body than building houses,” Corey said of his outfitting business, which offers various sea fishing trips from May to September.

“I’ve always wanted to do this since I was little,” he added, noting that it wasn’t all big fish and easy money. “The first two seasons were very difficult, but everything is going well” now.

Verdoljak said his biggest surprise is the amount of year-round work out of the water it takes “from maintenance to permits, licenses and insurance.”

Now six years in the charter fishing scene – with a new 32ft aluminum boat bought in 2016 with two 300 horsepower engines – Verdoljak, 42, plans to put his pilot training to work this year, offering day trips for fly-in fishing in select interior Alaskan rivers and lakes. He has a Cessna 185 on floats ready to go.

“We’ll see how it works,” he said.

Verdoljak, his wife and 20-month-old son still return to Northland every winter, now with a place in Brule. But he admits he’s been spending more and more time in Alaska every year.

Most of his customers are from the Midwest, he notes, and many are from Northland. He attracts a lot of customers through his face-to-face interactions during the sports fair. About 40% of his bookings are repeat customers, he noted.

“Duluth is by far the best show for us, better than Minneapolis,” he said. “There are a lot of talkers there. They don’t necessarily go fishing, they just like to talk about it. Here, people really want to go.

Once in Homer, rates range from $275 to $390 per person per day for charter fishing. For more information, see Verdoljak at the boat show or go to fishandflyalaska.com.

Cotton couple love the Ontario beach resort lifestyle

Robin Soderlund said that the last twelve years “have been the hardest I have ever worked. It’s the most physical job I’ve ever had. But we’re probably the happiest we’ve ever been.

That’s what spending much of the year on a Canadian Shield lake will do to you.

Robin and her husband Wayne Soderlund purchased Barker Bay Resort on Lower Manitou Lake in Ontario 12 years ago and have never looked back. Born and raised in Duluth, the couple have lived in the Cotton/Canyon area since 1975. Robin, now 65, was a nurse. Wayne, 64, worked in the logging industry. They decided they wanted to try something completely different.

They searched for five years before finding “the right place”. This was Barker Bay Resort, a resort accessible by boat (or plane) just over an hour’s drive from the border at International Falls, then a 20-minute boat ride from the lodge. You can bring your own boat or they will pick you up at the pier.

They are open in the winter for ice fishing for trout and pike and remain open each fall for bear and grouse hunting. Sandwiched in the middle is a long summer of fishing lake trout, smallmouth, pike and muskellunge. (There are also walleyes in the lake.)

“There has been a big increase in our winter activities. I think a lot of people like the adventure aspect of having to snowmobile,” she said. “And the fishing has been great.”

The lodge has four nearby cabins and operates two outpost cabins five miles across the 32,000 acre lake which has 55 miles of workable water.

Robin Soderlund said much of their business is from Northland regulars who return year after year, not just for the fishing, but also to experience the Northwoods wilderness.

“There are only three small resorts on this huge lake, and a few chalets, so it’s very quiet, very isolated. You get a very wild experience,’ she said. “I think my favorite thing is when people go home happy and look forward to their next trip, not just because they caught a lot of fish, but because they loved the whole experience. . The lake, the wildlife, the sunsets.

It’s the view out the lodge window every morning, winter or summer, that Robin loves most about the resort lifestyle.

Wayne was a good fit as a repairman and jack-of-all-trades, while Robin handled the sports show circuit and his shared lodge job. Most of the time, they are the only employees of the station. There are no dock boys or maintenance staff.

” It’s a lot of work. We don’t fish much because we are still working,” she said. “But it’s ok. It’s a very beautiful place. It’s worth waking up every morning and looking at this lake.”

If the couple have any regrets, it’s that they didn’t move to the resort when they were younger. “We were already in our 50s and it took us a few years to figure it all out,” she said.

The couple have presented the Barker Bay Resort at the Duluth Boat Show for at least 10 years, she noted, as well as shows in Chicago, LaCrosse and Minneapolis. The Duluth show seems to produce the best results, she noted.

Rates at Barker Bay Resort range from $65 per night/per person for a housekeeping cabin in the winter to $85 per night/per person for a housekeeping cabin or outpost cabin in the summer. A full-service American plan with meals, transportation to and from the lodge to the pier, and boat and motor rental costs $235 per day/per person.

For more, check out Robin Soderlund at the boat show or visit barkerbay.com.

More at the boat show:

Lowrance University of Electronics

Lowrance Marine’s Electronics University is back at the Duluth Sport Show this year. Attendees can learn from Lowrance experts by leading a hands-on workshop using Lowrance HDS GEN3 Touch units. Sessions will include instruction on everything from routine setup and product usage to news on cutting-edge technologies like CHIRP sonar and Insight Genesis Mapping. You will also hear about new products. Classes will be held at noon and 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon Sunday in Gooseberry Room 1. To reserve your spot, call Marine General at 218-724-8833. Registration for the show will take place at the Marine General stand based on available places only. Class sizes are limited, so register early. Cost is $25 per person (in addition to show admission), but includes a $25 certificate redeemable at Marine General.

In 1996, master falconer and wildlife rehabilitator Jonathan Wood founded Raptor Project Inc., training and caring for the world’s largest traveling collection of birds of prey, with raptors from a wide variety of habitats and country. Since 2011, he has produced the Extreme Raptors Show, which features the largest collection of birds of prey in the world. Shows are at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and at 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Free with admission to the show.

Johnathan Hillstrand, star of ‘Deadliest Catch’

Fans of the Discovery Channel’s hit TV series Deadliest Catch can meet one of the stars, Johnathan Hillstrand, on the sports show. Hillstrand is captain and co-owner of the Time Bandit, a 113-foot commercial crab fishing vessel. Hillstrand was born and raised in Alaska and started fishing at age seven and became a full-time fisherman after high school. He will receive guests at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Friday and at noon, 3 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturday. Free with admission to the show.

Pheasants Forever Youth Village

Pheasants Forever educates and engages youth in the Northland Outdoors Duluth Deer Classic by bringing in their Pheasants Forever Youth Village with safe archery and slingshot games. Free with admission to the show.

53rd Annual Duluth Boat, Sports and Travel Show and Stag Classic

  • What: Check out the latest boats, RVs, ATVs, resorts, outfitters, hunting and fishing gear, hands-on seminars and more.
  • When: From Wednesday to February 17. 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on February 17.
  • Where: Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, 350 Harbor Drive.
  • Additional information: Adults, $10; students 6-17, $6; under 5 years old, free. Parking at DECC is $5. $2 off adult ticket coupons Wednesday through Friday are available at several Duluth-area merchants or at minnesotasportshow.com.

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