Terry Peterson’s career as a fishing guide on the Hayward, WI lakes began 70 years ago in Chicago, IL when he and his buddies would take the city bus to the shores of Lake Michigan so they could spend their summer days fishing from the docks. The passion for fishing continued to grow through his childhood and teenage years, and he spent every possible moment dedicated to anything fishing. Making lures in the basement of neighborhood friends along with exploring any body of water that might possibly hold a fish continued to fuel his passion while growing up. His grandfather took him on his first trip to northern Wisconsin when he was ten years old, and they hired a guide. The experience left a lasting impression and led to a career that’s lasted over 40 years.
Terry married his wife Diane in 1964 and began a career with Motorola. He quickly became a production supervisor but was never satisfied with corporate life. His obsession with fishing only became stronger during this time with most weekends and vacation days spent on the water. Frequent trips were made back to Wisconsin during that stretch, and the Hayward area became his destination of choice. Lost Land Lake and Teal Lake were his favorites. Shortly after returning home from a trip to Musky Tale Lodge in 1977, he informed Diane that he’d purchased the resort and they were moving to Wisconsin. Diane along with their three children (Heidi, Matthew, and Patrick) packed up their belongings and pointed the U-Haul north. In the blink of an eye, they were resort owners living in Hayward. At 32 years old, it was a dream come true and he began writing the next chapter of his life.
RESUME & ACHIEVEMENTS
WI Licensed Fishing Guide 1978 – Present
Owner, Musky Tail Lodge 1977 – 1990
Owner, Guides Choice Tackle 1990 – 2008
Fishing had always come naturally to Terry with his intuition and attention to detail serving him well on the water. Fishing technology was still in it’s infancy in the 1970’s. Other than local guides, very few people knew how to consistently catch fish at the time. Terry knew how to catch fish, and guiding his guests at Musky Tale was the next progression towards a long professional fishing career. He bought his first guide License in 1978, and it was quickly evident that guiding suited him well. An intimate knowledge of the lakes, ability to catch a variety of species, and infectious personality all became trademarks of his service. His reputation quickly spread beyond the cabins at his resort. Every spare moment he had was spent learning on his home waters and surrounding lakes. Other local resorts began using his services, and it didn’t take long to develop a list of regular customers that would ultimately span decades.
Never satisfied with the status quo and a man of conviction, Terry’s passion led him to lure design and manufacturing. He was always trying to find the next best thing trying to modify, improve, and tweak what was already available to fishermen. After selling Musky Tale in 1990, he and Diane started Guide’s Choice Tackle Company developing and selling innovative lures that became a staple in many tackle boxes for 18 years. The basement in the Petersons home was transformed into a fully furnished factory complete with production, assembly, and shipping departments. As soon as his boat was put away in the fall, he and Diane would spend their winters fulfilling orders and finding new customers. The Predator, Tek Neek, and Scooter were baits that most musky anglers had to have and were carried by bait shops and tackle stores throughout the upper mid-west. He was truly a wizard in his shop and could make just about anything you could dream up. The ideas weren’t limited to musky lures though. Various live bait rigs, jigs, etc. were developed in his laboratory over the years, and he was often seen before guide trips testing the latest inventions from a dock before picking up his guests for the day. His work was meticulous, and nothing was put on a shelf that wasn’t perfect.
The innovations didn’t stop with designing lures. Hayward tourism always revolved around muskies, and Terry always believed that there was more that made the area so special. Versatility was always a virtue, and he believed it was better to be a “general practitioner” than a “specialist.” By understanding every fish that was in a system, he was able to dial in different bites at different times of the year. Smallmouth bass became a particular interest of his when the Chequamegon Bay catch and release fishery was established. A trip on the bay in the early 1990’s was all he needed to be convinced that this was a fish people would come to catch, and he knew the Hayward Lakes had the same kind of potential. He slowly started working in smallmouth trips with long time customers that had always fished muskies. It didn’t take long for many of those musky fishermen to become hooked on smallmouth bass, and an untapped resource became a new attraction and reason to come to Hayward. Terry’s thought at the time was that smallmouth bass represented the last frontier of fishing in our area, and he adamantly promoted catch and release throughout the season to protect them. In 2018 his input and ideas helped develop new regulations that were created to protect smallmouth bass on several Sawyer and Bayfield County lakes.
His interest in smallmouth bass didn’t keep him from staying on top of everything else. As a true “Multi Species” guide, he catered to his customers and always had an answer for the circumstance and situation. Meticulous records of the fish caught in his boat by and with customers over the years were kept, and the total numbers are staggering. Terry used these numbers for a variety of reasons. They helped him keep track of trends and tendencies, but they also provided motivation to get better from year to year. He would start each season with a goal to improve his skills and numbers of fish caught. Smallmouth bass documentation began in 1993. All other totals are from 1978 to present.
Terry’s customers will tell you that catching fish with him is just a bonus. A sharp memory, ability to tell stories, and timely jokes created relationships that have spanned generations. Guiding has always meant much more to him than just fishing. It’s about developing relationships and friendships. His customers are always in the front of the boat and the first ones to grab a rod with a fish on it. His “tail gate” lunches are legendary and a highlight of every trip. He even had two different marriage proposals happen on his boat. Both proposals were successful, but Terry’s response was priceless. “Can we get back to fishing now?”. When Diane unexpectedly passed away in the spring of 2014 his customers had to be notified that he wouldn’t be able to keep all his scheduled dates. Everyone had a similar response, “Give Terry my best, and tell him to put us in the schedule for next year.” Many of them were at the funeral and it was a moving example of the loyalty to a man they’ve fished with for years and years.
Terry isn’t just a fishing guide. He’s a friend, ambassador, and innovator. Of all the things done in his career, there’s one thing he didn’t do. Never comfortable with self-promotion, he let his work speak for itself. He always knew that if you take care of your customers, they’ll keep coming back. Well, they kept coming back for over 40 years. Here’s a few thoughts from those that have fished and worked with him…
“Terry Peterson has quietly been one of the longest-tenured, most-professional, and insightful guides in the Hayward area. Throughout his career Terry has demonstrated an encyclopedic knowledge of fish behavior and patterns and consistently uses that information to put clients on fish.” Max Wolters, WI DNR Fisheries Biologist
“Terry started guiding at Northland Lodge in 1990. His personality, patience, teaching skills, knowledge of fishing, and uncanny skill in producing fish for his clients while advocating catch and release for all species soon propelled him in becoming our head guide.” Richard Thearin – Owner, Northland Lodge
“23 years ago, I took my 15-yr. old stepson fishing for the first time on Teal Lake. During our half day trip, we managed to boat 24 crappies and a 36” musky in poor weather. I told Ian that every day of fishing isn’t this good. Terry keeps proving that it is. The story of our first trip was printed in the Hayward Lakes Magazine. I also had a friend catch a 42” musky that grabbed a walleye when we were fishing with Terry. It was photographed and released after a 1 hr. and 20-minute fight with Terry’s instructions. He’s a well-oiled fishing machine that loves to run!” Orville Landry – Downers Grove, IL
“It’s always a joy to have Terry walk through the door at Angler’s Haven. You know you’ll receive a great handshake and an even better fishing story from him. His personality and ability to put customers on fish make him a pleasure to work with and a big reason why people keep coming back to the Hayward area.” Jordan and Kelsey Gensmer – Angler’s Haven Resort
“The first time Scott fished with Terry, he came home and said, He’s the nicest guy you’ll ever meet, and we caught fish until our arms hurt. Since then he’s become like a family member to us, and our annual fishing trips with him are our favorite vacations. He’s a patient and kind man who teaches you the ABC’s and willingly shares his stories about his life as a fishing guide. We have never met a more knowledgeable man about fishing and life in general and are truly blessed to have had the opportunity to fish with him and become his friend.” Mary and Scott Mueller – Cedarburg, WI
“Since I met Terry in the mid 90’s, he’s the only guide I’ll hire. He’s by far the best fisherman with a great personality I’ve ever come across. I always wanted a guide that could consistently put me on fish, show me new techniques, and fun to be with in the boat. I’ve fished with him for almost 25 years, and it’s always a great experience whether we’re catching smallmouth, largemouth, walleye, muskies, or crappies. Cold fronts, high pressure, sunny, cloudy, windy, or calm… Terry always finds the fish and techniques that work. If you ask me who I want to be in the boat with, it would be Terry Peterson.” John Ward – Chesterton, IN
“I’ve used Terry Peterson as a fishing guide for more than 20 years. His knowledge of fishing conditions in the Hayward area cannot be matched. Every time we have used him for a variety of species, he always surpassed our expectations on the quality and quantity of fish caught. He really enjoys catching fish, teaching techniques, and has become a very special friend.”
Rod B. Bruner – Villa Park, IL
“I’ve known Terry Peterson for 15 years and have had the pleasure to fish with him a number of times. More important is the friendship we’ve established over the years. What impresses me most is his genuine concern and dedication to the fishing community. While putting his clients on fish is always a top priority, he is equally concerned about the welfare of the fishery in northern Wisconsin. He’s worked closely with state fisheries biologists to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy incredible fishing opportunities.” Greg Miller – Outdoor Writer, Author, and TV Personality
“Terry Peterson’s career as a fishing guide leaves a legacy that includes his customers, the resorts he’s worked for, the lakes he’s fished, and the guides he’s mentored. His knowledge, passion, professionalism, and personality are a rare combination that have been a benefit to the fishing industry and tourism in northern Wisconsin for over 40 years. Our lakes, our lives, and fishing are all better because of Terry.” Jeff Evans – U.S.C.G. Captain