That doesn’t happen very often these days for Bry, 42, a Grand Forks entrepreneur, whose start as a Devils Lake fishing guide some two decades ago has grown into a booming guide service both summer and winter, with 10 full-time guides, a fishing lodge along U.S. Highway 2 east of Devils Lake and, most recently, the purchase of Ed’s Bar and Bait Shop.
“I fish some, but it’s crazy because I’m so busy,” said Bry, who taught seventh- and eighth-grade geography and American history at South Middle School in Grand Forks before leaving the profession after the 2018-19 school year.
Bry and fellow fishing guide Dan Bonham of Devils Lake purchased the shop, a Devils Lake institution since 1958, in October.As if the two former teachers, who left the profession for full-time careers in the fishing industry, didn’t have enough on their plates.
“I really liked teaching, of course, and kids are still fun, but the business really kind of blew up a little bit,” he said. “You can’t do it all, so I just thought that was the better route for me, to go the fishing route.
What started as a summer gig had grown to the point where juggling two careers got to be too much, Bry says. As owner of a booming guide service, there are phones to answer, employees to manage and countless other tasks involved with keeping the business running smoothly.
“The business was busy, and it was just time to adjust and do all that.”
Bry juggles his time between Devils Lake and Grand Forks; he and his wife, Sarah, have two kids, aged 11 and 12, who also keep him busy with various activities.
“I’m hoping to guide 20 days this winter, but I could guide every day” if time allowed, Bry said. “It’s just crazy how many people want to go fishing.” Bonham, who owns Bonham’s Guide Service and works with Bry’s Guide Service in the winter, had a rare day off and joined Bry for a few hours on the ice to fish in the comfort of a SnoBear – think motorized fish house on tracks and you get the idea – and talk about their plans for Ed’s Bar and Bait Shop.
Dan Bonham of Devils Lake watches the screen of his Garmin LiveScope Panoptix unit for signs of fish Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, while fishing on East Bay of Devils Lake. A Devils Lake fishing guide, Bonham and fellow guide Mark Bry recently purchased Ed’s Bar and Bait Shop. Brad Dokken / Grand Forks Herald
Fishing had been pretty good for both perch and walleyes, Bry said, but no two days are the same. “The word today has been a little bit slow, but we’ll see,” Bry said. “I think we’re going to get some fish where we’re going. I don’t know, it’s funny like that – one day, it’s really good and the next day, you’ve got to work at it.
Similar to Bry, Bonham started guiding as a summer job “instead of mowing grass and roofing houses or painting like most teachers do.” He started guiding in 1996 on the Missouri River before shifting to Devils Lake in 2000 and making it a full-time career five years ago. Buying Ed’s Bar and Bait Shop “just kind of fell into place,” Bonham says.
The opportunity to buy Ed’s Bar and Bait Shop came up this past summer, said Bonham, who grew up in central Illinois and taught chemistry and physics for 27 years, first in South Dakota for two years and then in several North Dakota schools, including Bismarck St. Mary’s and the Youth Correctional Center in Mandan. He taught the bulk of his career in Hillsboro and spent his final four years teaching in Wahpeton. “That’s just life.”