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Musky Joe inducted into Hall of Fame

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Musky Joe Inducted into Hall of Fame

What started five years ago as a son nominating his father for an honor everyone will say is well deserved, “Musky Joe” Flater has been selected to be inducted into the National Freshwater Hall of Fame.

Flater, a native of Holcombe, has guided fishing trips along the Flambeau and Chippewa rivers for 45 years.  When Joe’s son, Andy, came to his dad with the idea of nominating him, he thought his dad would want to be in the Hall of Fame for what he has accomplished throughout his guiding journey as an avid outdoorsman.

“The things you’ve done and the accomplishments you’ve made, I think you want to be in the Hall of Fame,” stated Andy.

After five years of waiting, Joe is going to be one of 11 inductees into this year’s Hall of Fame class.  In order to even be considered for the honor it took references from those he has guided, which are a who’s who of celebrities as well as family and friends.  Throughout the years, they took trips in his 14 foot boat in search of that big musky.  Joe has guided Dave Carlsen and Mark Walters, who are hosts of the Outdoor Channel; Jake Leinienkugel, former Milwaukee Brewer Paul Wagner and my favorite Baseball Hall-of-Famer Fergusen Jenkins.

As Joe sat and told story after story about the unbelievable fish that jumped out of his scrapbook he talked about the time “Fergy” had tore his hat off with a musky bait and it sailed out the boat 20 feet.  It was amazing to sit back and watch a master of his craft remember such intricate details about so many trips and the people he would take.  The journey each trip brought was an amazing experience.  One Joe talked about was his father, Tubby and the time he guided a minister on a trip.  After a shore lunch during a guiding trip, he recalled his dad’s story as if he were there with him as his dad and the minister left the shore after lunch in his boat.  It shortly after got into a wreck and there sat Tubby and the minister in a little boat full of five people as they finished the trip. 

On top of all the stories and people, each story would all have one thing in common.  The size of the fish that would end up in Joe’s boat would reach up to 100 muskies a year.

“I have had people who have never landed a fish reel them in when they were in my boat,” stated Joe.

To listen to the stories, see the pictures of the many trophies he has guided into his boat and hear how it all started when he was a young boy, it didn’t take long to understand why Joe was to be inducted to the prestigious hall.

Growing up as a young boy it is natural to have traditions passed down from one generation to another.  At 12-years-old, the story of Joe Flater began when his father, Tubby, a guide himself, watched his son land two muskies in one day.  From there he would build on the name that he is now known to by many as Musky Joe.

At an early age his dad would teach him the ins-and-outs of guiding starting his son off with cleaning fish to eventually guiding anywhere from 30 to 50 trips a year.

“My dad taught me a lot and he was a great teacher,” Joe said.  “He learned from his father and then passed on his knowledge to me.”

“I hope one day all three of my boys are able to take over the business,” Joe said of his sons, Matt, Andy and Austin.  “They had a good teacher as did I and as did my dad.  I would love to see all three of them carry on the legacy with their own.”

I believe when a person sets out to do whatever it is they decide to do in life they should always set out to do their best and always give back if possible.  Joe has been able to do just that.  He is a humble human being who believes in giving back as he donated fishing trips each year to area causes and events.  Most recently Joe donated to the Flambeau Cancer Benefit, Fun on the Frozen Flambeau as well as the Lion’s Club and Kids and Mentors Outdoors to name a few.

“My dad has made a tremendous impact on all three of us boys’ lives as well as everyone around him.  My dad has given a lot of people memories throughout the community through youth hunts, charity trips as well as cancer patients who he donates up to 15 trips a year.  I couldn’t be more proud to call him my dad.  He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame,” Andy said.

For three generations Musky Joe’s Guiding Services has been up and running, which is 78 years and counting for the service that Joe, his father, and his grandfather have provided to many fishermen the opportunity to land a fish of a lifetime.  Now it is Joe’s turn as he will be guided into the Freshwater Fishing Hall Of Fame this summer as he will have a ceremony at Flater’s Resort. 

“I wanted to be around people I knew for the induction.  That was important to me as these are the people who are my family and friends.  I wanted to share the moment with those who have been a big part of my life,” said Joe.

This coming Father’s Day will be one like many others for Joe, as he and his son, Matt, go on a fishing trip down the river in search of a big musky.  My guess is they will bring in another huge fish and have a story to go along with it.

For Joe I think that each story has a special place in his heart as he was able to recall them so easily with a great grin on his face as the pride of a big musky picture went with each.  Just like each of those stories that night in Flater’s as I sat back and listened to each one more amazed with each picture he showed.  I sensed more than just a Hall-of-Famer in my presence.  I was for sure in the company of a great man, father, husband, friend, athlete and most notably fisherman. 

“My dad has put in the time and he has impacted so many, and now he will be living in the Hall of Fame for all to see.  I can’t wait as I as I am sure many others look forward to the next adventure with him as much as I do,” Andy said.  “For generations of Flaters to come they will all have one thing in common anytime they travel to Hayward and visit the Freshwater Fishing Museum.  It will be each time they look up and see that 50-plus inch musky on the wall with Joe’s name next to it.  They will all be able to say they were able to call that legend their own.”

“I have a lot of people to thank, that is for sure…  My boys who I have been able to share my passion with, some day I know they will pass this on to their own boys.  To all the people I have had in the boat, thank you for all the unbelievable journeys we had.  No one trip was ever alike, and that is probably why I always looked forward to the next trip,” stated Joe.

“I am extremely grateful to all my clients and everyone who helped get me into the Hall of Fame.  It’s the highlight of my life,” Joe concluded.


 For Boat Rentals and Guided River Trips, Contact Joe Flater  715-312-0468   flaterjoe@gmail.com



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