The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Lifelong fisherman finds perfect job as a guide

 

September 29, 2021

Courtesy of Brock Crocker

Brock Crocker started young as an angler.

Brock Crocker started fishing when he was a toddler and, some 25 years later, he's still going at it – nearly every day.

Crocker, 29, has turned his hobby into a business, the Sweet Home-based Crocker's Fishing Guide Service, which operates pretty much year-round on local waters.

"The last couple of years have been, basically, full-time," he said last week from the Oregon Coast, where he was guiding fall salmon-fishing trips. "Now it's just been getting my name out a little more. Things have been going pretty great for me this year."

Crocker grew up in Sweet Home, "in a fishing family" that made frequent trips to Alaska and fished locally for salmon and steelhead.

He also wrestled, winning a high school state championship in 2010, then moved to Southern Oregon University, where he wrestled in college.

At SOU he started out majoring in psychology, he said, "but I knew I wasn't going to be able to sit in an office all the time."

So he switched, minoring in psychology and majoring in outdoor leadership.

"The outdoor program was a perfect fit for me," Crocker said.

After graduating from college in 2015, he worked with his dad, local cutter Tim Crocker, for a year to save up money for the career he really wanted.

Growing up, he said, "I either wanted to be a professional baseball player or a fishing guide."

He started his guide business in 2016.

Crocker has fished seriously since he was 8, when he started fly-fishing for trout with his dad. In the summer and winter they fished for steelhead.

"Steelhead is my favorite," he said. "They're tough to fight and they're acrobatic. Winter steelhead can be really challenging, but it's incredible fishing. We get a lot bigger runs in the winter now."

Crocker guides all over western Oregon, "from Astoria to Gold Beach and everywhere in between." Though he specializes in salmon and steelhead, he also guides trout anglers and, occasionally, for other species.

"I kind of chase the fish, wherever they are during the year," he said.

He's also guided during the past two years with Alaska West Air, a company that operates out of the Kenai Peninsula.

Crocker started in the field by consulting with other guides and with his outdoors professors at college.

"Southern is a small school, so I was able to call my professors and ask them which routes I should go," he said.

He got his guide certification from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and took a Coast Guard class that was necessary to guide up to six clients on a powered craft. He uses a driftboat on the rivers and an Alumaweld sled for lakes and ocean fishing.

"One of coolest things about the driftboat is it has doors so you can step in and out," Crocker said, adding that the craft also features a pizza oven and heater to keep clients comfortable on the water.

Most of his clients have come from Oregon, Portland and southern Oregon, with a few from the other side of the Cascades.

A lot of his business comes through word of mouth or when people find him on Facebook or Instagram. He also has a website at crockersguideservice.com.

"This fall I've gotten a lot more people from out of state, traveling to the Oregon coast," he said.

His year starts with the winter steelhead run in the early months of the year, followed by spring salmon from April through June, then sturgeon in June and July on the Columbia, followed by the fall salmon season, which runs through December.

He's guided on most of the larger rivers in western Oregon and is usually guiding in Sweet Home in June and July of the year. But this year's spring run was not great and he ended up guiding a lot on the McKenzie.

"This year was kind of a tough season in Sweet Home," Crocker said. "The (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) was messing with the flows, which made fishing awful tough."

Steelhead runs on the South Santiam have not been good in recent years, he noted, "because of a long list of a little bit of everything."

Fall and winter are, typically, his busiest seasons.

Last year, Crocker said, was a "pretty exceptional year" for him as a guide and although 2021 has been "OK, to start, it's still little early in the season."

"We're catching some really big salmon this fall," he said.

And he's busy.

"Right now, it's seven days a week, and I'm booked close to every day next month," Crocker said last week. "I have a couple of openings in October. Plenty of openings in November."

Although the Chinook are sometimes too dark to keep and eat in the fall, the fishing is terrific, he said.

"It's one of the funnest times. We had 30-fish days last year. It was a lot of fun, even if we don't get to keep as many of them."

Courtesy of Brock Crocker

Brock Crocker displays a more recent catch.

In his spare time, Crocker's served as an assistant wrestling coach at Sweet Home High School since he graduated from college, as the wrestling season runs from early December to late February.

But otherwise his life has largely been focused on angling.

Crocker said he really enjoys guiding, to the point that he gets almost as much pleasure watching other people catch fish as he does netting them himself.

"Getting to teach people about fishing, I have a lot of fun getting people their first fish," he said. "It's getting to be almost as exciting watching other people fight the fish as it is when I do it."

He said one of the things he really likes about guiding is that it's company on the water.

"I never liked fishing alone," Crocker said. "I always liked being with someone. So this is pretty perfect for me."

 
 

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