Tim Braun is a welder by trade, but all he really wants to do is fish. As a charter fishing guide Braun navigates the waters of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the Niagara River, introducing people from all over the country to the area's prime bass fishing.
He has held his day job – working ?in the highway department for the Town of Tonawanda – since graduating from Kenmore East High School ?in 1980. At age 51, Braun has mined ?the lakes for 27 years – from mid-?April to the end of November. He has been married to his high school sweetheart even longer.
People Talk:Does Lake Erie hold many secrets?
Tim Braun: It's tough to read. ?It pulls no punches. It can get very rough very fast. In the blink of an eye, you could go from dead calm ?to six-foot waves. It's a big body of water. I call it dummy water. There ?are a lot of areas that might look ?good but do not hold fish. Fish need deep water to hide in, then flats for feeding areas.
PT:When you eat out, do you ?order seafood?
TB: Yes. My wife gets steak. ?I like seafood. When we go out to dinner, I want something that ?I don't ordinarily eat. I'm too lazy ?to clean [fish]. I'm too tired. But ?if you have an electric filet knife, ?you can buzz through fairly easy. ?Once in a blue moon, I'll bring one home, but my wife won't eat the ?fresh fish. Tammy won't eat the ?deer I shoot or anything.
PT:Tell me about fishing ?as a kid.
TB: My father would take me ?down to the foot of Hertel since I was ?4. My grandmother lived on Baxter. We'd sit with worms, a rod and ?reel, and get the perch. When I was growing up, everyone would play ?street hockey, football. I would take ?my fishing pole and bike and go to ?the river. That was my sport. ?People would call me a character. ?It just evolved from that. As I got ?older, the first thing I did when I ?got a job was buy a boat – a 1984 Champion.
PT:Why do you fish for bass?
TB: They fight well. They jump all around. You don't want a fish who's going to wind in like a log. A small mouth is acrobatic. You can use a lot of different artificial baits with them and techniques. And you can make money at it. Ever surf the [TV] channels and see any of the fishing shows? I tried fishing tournaments, too. It's a tough way to make a living, and I really can't afford to do it.
PT:How has the price of gas affected the way you do business?
TB: Every day it costs me $45 in petrol to run around the lake. When I first started doing this six years ago, it cost me $15. I raised my rate $25. I charge two people $350 for seven hours and I provide everything. That's the going rate.
PT:What amazes you about ?the sport?
TB: How it evolves. Every year, there's something different you can use. The patterns change. The lake changes. It's a game. They hang in certain areas at certain times of the year. Springtime, they're in gravel patches and shallow water feeding. Summertime, the water gets warm ?so they like to go deeper.
PT: What's the average life span ?of a smallmouth bass?
TB: I honestly couldn't tell ?you. I know that one of the fish I caught years ago – in '93 or '94 ?when I set the state record – was ?over 23 years old. It was 7 pounds ?4 ounces. A guy beat it two weeks ?later. The state record now is 8 ?pounds 4 ounces.
PT:Do you fish on vacation?
TB: My wife won't let me. When ?we were first married, I kept a ?fishing pole with me so if I saw a ?pond or creek I'd be casting. I don't ?do that anymore.
PT:How are women as fishing students?
TB: They listen and do very well. The old man thinks he knows how ?to fish – blah blah – and the wife is catching them left and right.
PT:How do you deal with a loud mouth know-it-all?
TB: You have to respect an ?ornery person because you want ?them to come back and fish with ?you again. You have to constructively criticize. You want to make it fun ?for people.
PT:Can birds tell you where ?the fish are?
TB: Nah. Once in a while, you'll ?see seagulls dive bomb the water. It will be dead flat, and seagulls – about 20 or 30 of them – will be dive bombing. What's happening is the smallmouth bass are underneath a school of minnows. The wounded minnows float to the top, and the ?gulls are eating them.
PT:Where do seagulls go at ?night?
TB: I couldn't tell you that. ?They're everywhere – garbage dumps. They go to the south gap by the steel plant. There are millions of them there now laying their eggs.
PT:What are fishermen ?known for?
TB: They're the best liars. It's a stereotype, but I lot of guys fish their whole lives, and they might not do very well, and they stretch it a little. ?It's always been a joke.