They’ve fished together for nearly 45 years, in every season on nearly every lake from northern Minnesota into Canada. Brian Titus, pictured above in red, and Tom Peltier — Hink and Peltz, Felix and Oscar — have missed just one fishing opener in all that time.

“That’s when we … when things changed as far as how we did things,” Tom says. Brian passes a lifejacket to his fishing buddy before powering his green Lund Pro-V IFS toward a crappie hole on Lake Pokegama.

“We do just fine,” Brian says. Brian, who is retired from a frozen-foods career with Jerry Miner stores, grew up in Grand Rapids, Minn. In 1970, he moved into a house with five other guys at Bemidji State College. One day a kid from Maplewood knocked on the door. “We took a vote. I didn’t want to live with someone from the Cities,” Brian says. He won, briefly. A few weeks later, the landlord said the city kid was moving in.

“We were so different,” Brian says of Tom, his instant roommate. Brian knew his way around a college kegger. He’s a neat freak, too. Tom had never seen “150 people out in a field, drinking beer.” At the house, Tom made meals using every pot and plate in the kitchen. “Here’s the only compliment I’m going to give him,” Brian says of Tom. “He can cook.”

Brian started taking his roommate to a nearby bridge to catch walleye for supper. “That’s when I really started to take fishing seriously,” Tom says. For four decades, the 63-year-old friends, born 10 days apart, have reeled ’em in, ribbed each other and refused to surrender no matter what life throws at them.

They’ve fished in summer, and throughout winter in Brian’s 22-foot fish house. They won a first-place trophy in 2004 at the annual Tamarack Classic fishing tournament.

“We’re so comfortable with each other that sometimes we’re quiet, but we always correct the other person when we don’t think they’re doing the right thing,” says Tom, retired from the Itasca County Probation Department. “We lie to each other all the time. ‘I’ve got seven’ means I’m not going to tell ya.”

Visiting a kindergarten class three years ago, Tom didn’t feel well. He stepped into the school hallway and had a stroke. He was rushed to the emergency room, then airlifted to Abbott Northwestern Hospital the next morning. Brian was one of the few non-family members who visited him there.

Tom has been building back slowly, but he no longer controls the boat, Brian’s or his own, and his standing days are over.

“We don’t talk about it. We don’t want to change things. You know what I mean?” Tom says. “Through it all, my friend brought me back. No matter what happens, he doesn’t treat me different. We laugh a lot. That’s the way we are.”

Brian dismisses the kudos. “It hasn’t affected him catching fish,” Brian says. “If there’s any justice in the world,” he says, casting his line, “I’ll catch the first one.”