My Outdoor Life: Catching up with fishing guide Shelly Holland

  • Updated: March 13, 2014 - 12:11 PM

In our occasional series about outdoor people and lifestyles, this small-business owner and fishing guide talks about her passion for ice angling and the outdoors more generally.


Shelly Holland enjoyed some late-season ice fishing last weekend on Medicine Lake.

Photo: JERRY HOLT Star Tribune,

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Since my childhood in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I’ve been an outdoors person. Lake Michigan was my back yard. Growing up in the 1970s, we were kicked outside to play. That was fine with us: We didn’t want to ever come in.

This is still my lifestyle. I’m outside all day with my food truck business [she owns Sunshine Catering], I’m a fishing guide in the winter and summer, I love to camp, to explore the Apostle Islands in my boat, to snowmobile, ski, kayak, fish in tournaments, hunt birds and play softball. Being outside so much, especially in the winter, makes the comforts of home a bit sweeter.

My dad and I fished together when I grew up, but the excitement wasn’t there for me. We didn’t have good tools like we do now, we didn’t know where the bite was and it was usually disappointing. It wasn’t until I met my fiancé, Scott Siebert, about eight years ago that I started ice fishing. It felt really natural to me — I even caught a 10-inch bluegill that first time out. The high of catching a big fish can last quite a while.

Ice fishing seemed simpler than summer fishing. I didn’t need an expensive boat to cover a lot of territory. I also found it easier to catch fish. I don’t get a big one every time, but just by talking to people it’s easy to find out where the bite is at.

Mostly, though, I got hooked on the desire for the next bite, a bigger fish and that awesome picture. I have 900 pictures on my phone, and at least half of them are fish pictures. I know so many ways to hold the fish to make it look bigger in the picture, and if someone catches on, I say, ‘It’s a fish picture. That’s what we do.’ Some of the photos are posted on my food truck, and though I’ve never fished with my customers, it’s sparked a lot of great conversation and we’ve shared some spots.

I really became a student of the sport, asking a lot of questions and observing. Early on, Scott told me that it was important to match the bait to what the fish were eating, and in this case, they were eating shrimp. So I showed up with a bag of tiny ocean shrimp from the grocery store. Not quite the same as lake shrimp, but I was trying so hard.

I fish with a lot of women, and I find that they tend to be more creative and willing to take risks than men. I was with a group of women, and it was slow so we started experimenting with bait. We even used an earring as bait. Why not? It was sparkly like some of the real lures. It was fun but not successful.

Scott, his son and I started our guide business, SKS Guides, in 2010. We all have full-time jobs, so this is a passion for us. We’re out fishing nearly every weekend and a few times during the week for fun and for business, mostly catch and release.

I especially like introducing women to the sport. Some want to do it because they’re curious; some fish in the summer and want to winter fish; others are single moms who want to introduce their kids to a new outdoor activity. We talk ahead of time about what to wear, I provide the equipment and hopefully get them catching fish. Then, they learn about the fish picture.

I also do educational work as an Ice Team Pro for Clam Outdoors. I helped with a youth fishing demo in north Minneapolis last summer and am an instructor for Ice Team University, which will be in Baudette starting on March 20.

I have two kids who love the outdoors. They’re not as enthusiastic about ice fishing as I am, but once they’re out there, they’re really focused and committed. Camping is more their thing — I took them camping even when they were babies, and they played a lot in the woods behind the house. My son had the most amazing fort back there, and he cried for a week when I told him he had to take it down.

I have lists of things I still want to experience. I want to take my kids white-water rafting. I keep track of all the lakes I’ve fished with electronic pins on my Navionics lake map app and with real pins on a big map at our cabin near Hackensack. It gets addicting, and I want to pin as many lakes as I can.

One of my most memorable trips was in Lost Bay on Lake Kabetogama in Voyageurs National Park. We got there early in the morning, and there was a fresh wolf kill on the lake top — so fresh that steam was still coming off the deer carcass and we could feel the wolves watching us. Then we proceeded to fish up big, beautiful crappies. It was incredible to see such nature around us, in so many forms. I want to get back up there in the summer to fish and pick blueberries.

Lynn Keillor is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer.



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