SAUGATUCK — It seemed inevitable that Hunter Engel would wind up a charter boat captain. He acknowledges as much.
“I would say so,” said the 27-year-old skipper of Best Chance, a 30-foot Sea Ray, as we headed out to Lake Michigan the other day. “I grew up on boats. And I love fishing.”
Engel father’s Dave, is one of the best-known, most-successful captains/tournament anglers on Lake Michigan. And Hunter’s great uncle Bob — Dave’s father’s brother — ran a charter service, too, making Hunter the third generation of Engels to captain a charter boat out of this port.
Fact is, Hunter served as first mate on Bob’s boat — the boat he owns now — for years.
“Uncle Bob was talking about retiring so I just made the plunge and bought the boat,” he said.
Fishing had been “kind of tough”’ for the last week or so, Engel said, as he set lines in 90 feet of water on a calm overcast day.
“It’s a kind of a transition period and the guys who have been going out to deep water haven’t been doing well at all,” he said. “The shallower water is starting to warm up now, so I think those fish should be moving back in.”
I was on board with a couple of Engel’s friends, his mate, and the editor of the local newspaper. It was the first time I’d ever fished with the younger Engel — I fish with his dad quite often — but not the first time I’d played with him. I shared a post in the standing corn with him and his dad during early goose season back when Hunter was a young teen.
It was shortly before the younger Engel started entering goose calling competitions, where he has excelled. He won the first event he ever entered and has gone on to repeat that performance many times, including winning the state goose calling championship three years in a row.