I began fishing at an early age with my brother, Captain Peter, and our father, Don Dahl. We often fished on the Knife, Split Rock and Brule Rivers for steelhead and brown trout. Lake trout were pretty much wiped out by excessive commercial harvest, the introduction of sea lamprey (a parasitic eel that attaches itself to a fish and feeds on it's body fluids) and rainbow smelt (which eat lake trout fry as they hatch from eggs laid on reefs). This was also before the introduction of salmon.
In the early 1960's we began going to Cornucopia Wisconsin, on the south shore of Lake Superior, where the Wisconsin DNR began stocking lake trout several years earlier. This is where we started to pioneer and develop some of the fishing techniques still in use today, such as planer boards and down riggers. My father got the idea for planer boards from our grandfather, Charles Dahl, who had used them in his native Norway, and the idea for down riggers from commercial fishermen's "gurneys" he had seen on the West Coast during WWII. He made his first down rigger out of the front wheel from a tricycle in the mid-sixties. Ten years later he had developed electric "riggers" using Ford windshield wiper motors and aluminum spools he cast and machined himself.
In 1966 while fishing from the north pier of the Duluth ship canal, I caught the first Coho salmon in Minnesota waters (as far as anyone knew), and we began fishing more and more out of Duluth. Fishing improved steadily with increased Minnesota and Wisconsin DNR stocking efforts, poisoning and trapping lamprey, the buy out of commercial gill-netters, and the depredation of smelt by increased numbers of game fish and smelt fisherman. In 1976 Don and his brother, Captain Raymond Dahl, started "North Shore Charter Fishing" when they bought the "Happy Hooker", the first charter fishing service in Duluth. I gained a lot of experience acting as first mate on charters with my father and uncle, a lot of fun fishing, and fishing in derby's and tournaments which we often won. In 1986 after Don passed away, my brother Peter and I got our captain's licenses and started a partnership, "Happy Hooker Fishing charters". We not only fished the waters of western Lake Superior but also guided the Lake Superior waters of Isle Royale National Park a month or two each season for 5 years. In 1996 Peter purchased the "Hooker Too". I kept the original "Happy Hooker", refurbished, refitted, bought new fishing gear and electronics, and in 1997 started "Adventure Sport Fishing". In 2004 I purchased a bigger and better "Happy Hooker" and once again updated the electronics and gear. If you haven't been on her yet, you'll love her when you do.
I've always loved fishing and I think fishing enthusiasts are the nicest people. I truly enjoy meeting and getting to know people by fishing with them. I'm happy to show techniques and operation of the gear we use, and allow hands on rigging. I get a thrill from helping people catch their first or biggest trout, salmon or walleye. Can you guess what I do when I go on vacation? That's right, I go fishing! I've fished Lake Nipigon in Canada for trophy brook trout since I was ten, and fish inland now and then. In 1995 I caught a 47 pound KinG Salmon in Alaska. In June 2006 I returned to Alaska with my wife Karen and daughter Angel and had a great time touring an fishing with my cousin Mark Dahl and Laura of Anchorage. My wife and I have also fished for sailfish in Costa Rica and tarpon in Florida. I still enjoy fishing the Big Lake for fun and often take friends or family when I get a chance. We sometimes take a vacation boat trip to Isle Royale or the Apostle Islands. And I have a dream of cruising the whole shoreline of the Big Lake. I'm also a deer hunting fanatic with both gun and bow, and occasionally duck hunt in North Dakota.
Jon Dahl has left a mark and Legacy on The Happy Hooker that will never be forgotten. He chartered the boat from 1979-2020. He built a remarkable reputation as a hard working, funny, lovable guy. Jon also proved to master Lake Superior fishing by seeming to be one of the most excellent fisherman on the lake. He continued to pay attention to every detail, while continuing to adapt his fishing style to a changing lake. He now has passed the charter business onto Captain Riley Leslie, one of his close relatives, to carry on the fishing tradition aboard the boat.
Hello! I am the current captain of The Happy Hooker, and owner of the business 218 Sportfishing. I started fishing at a very young age. My first fishing memory was with my father, where I caught a nice walleye! Although it was the only one of our trip, I was very excited. Ever since I have been chasing 'just one more.'
While growing up I got use to going on many trips to Canada fishing walleye, lake trout, Brooke trout, and other fascinating fishing species. This only fueled my passion for fishing as the catching was great, the views were breathtaking, and my friends and family were priceless.
My grandfather, Grandpa Gordy, was close cousins with Jon and Peter Dahl. Every year my grandfather would take my cousins and me to go out fishing with Jon on Lake Superior. Every time it was a blast! One year, my grandfather and Jon were talking and decided to get me aboard the boat to help Jon first mate. For 5 years, I was blown away and fascinated by Jon's knowledge of fishing. I soaked in as many tips and tricks as I could, as I wanted to figure out the 'system' of how to fish this big lake.
In year five of first mating, Jon was diagnosed with cancer. With this news, it pushed me to get my captains license over the winter of 2019. In 2020, Jon taught me everything he could about the boat, fishing, the lake, and life. It was one of the best summers of fishing I ever had. When Jon passed away, he gifted me the charter boat and business. Ever since, I have been working hard to carry on his charter fishing tradition.
I have always had a great love for fishing, not only for the catching, but also for the people. When fishing you get time to connect with so many fascinating people from all over the place. Getting to know everyone is simple, since fisherman are easily the most fun and outgoing people I know! I enjoy fishing Lake Superior every day of the summer. Not everyone can say they go to work every day and love their job, but I can. And every day I am grateful for it.