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Cold water of the St. Marys River gives anglers an advantage (9 photos)

In non-COVID-19, related news, we bring you a feature about John Giuliani, a professional fishing guide who helps people cast lines from around the globe

At the impressionable young age of four, John Giuliani caught his first Rainbow Trout with his father by his side.

After immigrating to Sault Ste. Marie from Fano Italy in 1951, Bert Giuliani was drawn to the rapids of the Sault. He and his wife Ann who was born in Sault, Mich., would fish from the shores of the St. Marys River Rapids while John and his twin brother Joe were confined to a playpen behind them.

John feels blessed to have had his father for a teacher. He recalls they lived very close by in James Town then known as Little Italy. Together they fished the rapids and St. Marys River religiously for Walleye, Salmon, Rainbow Trout and Steelhead.

"When I was 16 years old, there was the berm/wall constructed in the rapids. It was an idea and joint effort of the Sault Michigan Dept of Natural Resources led by Bill Gregory, and a team of biologists from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, led by Sue Greenwood – head of the Rainbow Trout Division. This wall was constructed for the fishery. That's right, a $6 million wall to create a nursery with suitable gravel for fish to spawn successfully inside this wall, with gate number one on the inside of the wall left open at a constant level of 10 inches. So no matter if they raised the gates for a number of months then shut them, the inside channel wouldn't dry up along the shore killing all the eggs from spawning fish,” said Giuliani.

"I took full advantage of this construction to memorize every hole in the rapids.” John recalls the beginning of his guiding career at 17 years old. "It made big news in the sport fishing magazines with outdoor writers showing up watching me catch Rainbow Trout and writing articles about a world class fishery that was always there but was the best kept secret. My name started to spread around and fishermen would show up clueless until I would teach them the way of catching fish here,” said Giuliani.

As exposure grew from his part-time guiding it generated more repeat clients. He had already completed a degree in machine shop from Sault College and was working in the kitchen at the old General Hospital. He struck out to further his guiding service full-time, giving up his job at the hospital at the age of 25.

"I guide all around the Algoma region for Steelhead, Salmon, Speckled Trout, Bass, Whitefish and Walleye. I'm in the St. Marys guiding most of the year because of excellent fly fishing and spin fishing right downtown Sault Ste. Marie,” said Giuliani.

"Clients come from all over the world to fish the unique fishery of the rapids. There are huge Rainbow Trout that thrive in its cold waters that are three quarters of a mile long, and one third of a mile wide, with a forty foot drop in elevation. We get the 12-month fishery for Steelhead, Atlantic Salmon and resident Rainbows because Lake Superior is the head waters dumping in. The prime spawning seasons last longer for these species in the rapids because of the colder waters coming in which means a period of a couple months as opposed to just weeks for fisheries in rivers that flow into the Great Lakes."

John Giuliani Fishing Adventures relies on repeat clientele from all over the world. People who want to experience his services have come from locations such as Austria, The Netherlands, United States, South Korea and Argentina.

He guides both fly fishing adventures and spin gear fishing experiences. Anglers are free to choose from an in-boat experience in the St. Marys River below the rapids or further down river for Walleye; or a wading experience in the St. Marys River rapids. Most of his clients want to fly fish for Steelhead, Atlantic Salmon, Pink Salmon and the Resident Rainbows, he feels.

John has worked hand-in-hand with Lake Superior State University's Aquatics manager Roger Greil and the fish and wildlife program. In 1986 Atlantic Salmon yearlings were first stocked in the St. Marys River system by the Lake Superior State University Aquatics program. This has been the most successful Atlantic Salmon Program to date. Roger and his students harvest the eggs each fall from the Atlantics in front of their hatchery at Cloverland Electric (Edison Powerhouse) on the Michigan side of the river.

"I was honoured in 2007 with a prestigious award from LSSU by calling the yearlings planted for that year – the 2007 Giuliani Strain of Atlantic Salmon. That award has only been given out four times in thirty-five years and I being the only Canadian to receive this Proclamation Award,” said Giuliani.

"I also just won the Best Business Award for the whole Algoma Region for the Economic Development Corporation and Tourism Industry Awards for 2019."

John's twin brother Joe is on the Northern Ontario Walleye Trail as a professional Walleye angler. He has many top 10 finishes to date. When the Michigan Walleye Classic has chosen the St. Marys River, John teams up with Joe. They have won back-to-back 2011 and 2012 Michigan Walleye Classics and also the 2007 Michigan Walleye Trail. 

"We make a deadly combo together with Joe's passion of Walleye fishing and both our knowledge that we each bring to the table. We are a force to be recognized,” said Giuliani.

John fishes for his own pleasure when demand is low. On March 3, 2020 I caught up with him in the St. Marys River rapids to shoot my gallery. Although no fish were hooked and released while I was photographing, there was one was just prior to my arrival and one just after my departure. John was nice enough to include one of his photos of  the Steelhead hooked right after my departure which measured out at 33 inches and weighed about 14 pounds. This beautiful Steelhead was released back to the rapids for the next fishing adventure.

When asked what advice he would have for anyone potentially heading out fishing or angling with waders John says, "There are times in winter where you must use caution. That is when ice forms and melts causing it to flow right into your path. If you're a beginner I can't stress enough how important it is to have the correct footwear on your waders, and that is felt bottom boots with carbide studs or aluminum tracks on the bottom of your boots. Either hire a guide like me or never fish alone and use a wading staff. The water is fast and the rocks are rounded, large, and slippery."

"At 50 years of age and guiding for 33 years now, John Giuliani Fishing Adventures is exactly dialled in to give the ultimate experience that our famous St. Marys River and rapids has to offer anyone who wishes to fish here. Hiring me as your guide is priceless. I will teach you the safest way around the holes and runs that are holding the best fishing."

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About the Author: Violet Aubertin

Violet Aubertin is a photograher and writer with an interest in Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma's great outdoors
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