Patrick Trudel first came to Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge 15 years ago to work the docks as an 18-year-old high school grad without much fishing experience. He lived and learned the “Aikens Experience” day by day, year after year, ascending the ranks to become the longest tenured head fishing guide, the first-ever full-time salaried employee at Aikens and––most importantly––even meeting a lovely waitress named Janelle who eventually became his wife.
Today, a decade and a half after boarding a float plane to fly out to some lodge his high school friend mentioned her parents owned, Trudel has become part-owner of the lodge In-Fisherman’s Doug Stange called, “still the finest all-around experience I’ve ever had on a fly-in trip.”
“I can’t fully express the pride, satisfaction and gratitude I feel towards becoming a partner in a company that has had such an important impact on my life––and my growing family’s life,” Trudel said. “Having my sons grow up in this setting is truly a gift I will not take for granted.”
Last spring, majority shareholder Christopher Jensen surprised Patrick and Janelle with an unexpected but well-deserved reward by offering them the chance to own a stake of Aikens, widely considered one of the premier fly-in fishing resorts in the world.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Trudel said. “My drive remains the same as always, but it gives me so much satisfaction to know I am helping grow a company in which I am now a part-owner.”
“It is fun to look back, too. Things have changed around the lodge in the 15 years I’ve been here. Beds, boats and bar. Rods, reels and residences. Dining, docks and dogs,” said Trudel, “The ‘Aikens Experience’ has re-invented itself, but the essence of what makes it stand alone has never changed: happy people, unparalleled service and consummate stewardship.”
Trudel can still remember the first time he hung out with Aikens manager and co-owner Pit Turenne at a staff party. The two future best friends ended the evening with a drink on the rooftop of Pit's parents' house. Pit and his wife, Julie, run the family business that is Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge, and Patrick is their right-hand man.
“My friendship with Pit was born out of rivalry and took a while to come around, but we have become best friends,” Trudel said. “He is more of a brother to me, and I was proud to have Pit stand next to me as the best man at my wedding. Pit and Julie are always looking out for our family, and we couldn’t thank them enough.”
Over the years, Trudel has accumulated a boatload of fishing memories shared with friends and guests at Aikens. One of his favorites involves a night out with Pit and former head guide Kik Dupont, who had landed dozens of trophy pike for his guests but surprisingly had never caught one himself. The trio were leaving Secret Bay when a giant pike tail slapped the water 25 feet in front of the boat.
Watch a video of Trudel helping Kik land the giant pike.
“First dibs be damned, in a split second, I grab my rod and bomb my lure out over the heads of Kik and Pit whom are now standing directly in front of me,” Trudel recalls. “Pit fires one out and a couple seconds later Kik is after it too. I remember watching my lure hit the water. One of those perfect casts; the ripples of the fish’s tale splash still a tight circle on the surface and my spoon lands dead center. Pit’s cast is slightly right of there and Kik’s is way out left side. Silence. We each reel in thinking we’ve got this thing beat.”
Suddenly, it nails Kik’s bait and the battle is on. It gives him a hell of a fight. We land it, measure her up (44” x 18.5”). Just an absolute tank!” Trudel said. “I couldn’t be happier for my friend who waited eight years to put his hands on her. Kik is so pumped that after releasing the massive fish he takes a celebratory swim in the drink, clothes and all! Needless to say, a celebration in Big Molly’s (the full bar on-site at the fly-in lodge) ensued.”
The Trudels have been celebrating their good fortune from fishing to friendships and are thrilled to raise their family at Aikens––a family that recently expanded by one. In the early morning hours of January 17, Janelle gave birth to the couple’s second son, a beautiful boy named Arthur weighing in at 8lbs 5 oz.
Arthur and his 2-year-old brother, Oscar, will be mainstays at Aikens for years to come, and that’s a blessing that Patrick truly appreciates.
“Janelle and I would like to thank the whole ownership team for trusting in us and generously rewarding our efforts,” Trudel said. “From the first few days I arrived at the lodge in 2000, I knew this was a special place. There is no place I’d rather be.”
The website for Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge is www.aikenslake.com. For more information, call 1-800-565-2595 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.