Keith Rae is Hooked on emerit

Personality, Passion, and Certification are the keys to success of Alberta’s First emerit-certified Freshwater Angling Guide

Ever since childhood, Keith Rae has loved fishing.  His father, a bush pilot, often took him fishing on remote lakes and rivers, instilling a deep love of the outdoors and cultivating Rae’s rich expertise in the art and science of fishing. 

In 1994, Rae started Get Hooked, where he and his team of avid fishermen offer guided fishing adventures, specializing in guided river trips and expeditions to rarely explored fishing holes.  In the beginning, Get Hooked was a part-time venture but when Rae was downsized in 2000 and he turned the business into his full-time job.  After 16 years in the business, Rae hasn’t looked back once.  “Not many people get to live their dream,” he reflects.  “I do it because I’m passionate about it.”

As his business grew, Rae sought tangible ways to give his clients confidence in his services; something that would assure them that they were hiring a professional who would show them a good time while adhering to safety regulations and respecting the environment.

“Professional guides make fishing more enjoyable for beginners and experts alike,” says Rae.  “They know where to go and what tools to use, taking away the guesswork of fishing in a new lake.”  In addition to expert fishing instruction, qualified guides are proficient in the safe operation of watercraft and in survival skills. 

When Rae discovered that there were no standards or licensing in place for fishing guides in Alberta, he was shocked. “Without licensing and standards,” he explains, “there’s no way for consumers to distinguish between a qualified professional and someone who is inexperienced”.

Rae decided to take action.  “We need to clean up the industry and protect customers from so-called guides who operate without, for example, liability insurance,” he says.  For two years he lobbied the provincial government to establish standards and a license for fishing guides but to no avail.

When he found out that the CTHRC was looking for volunteers to review the new Freshwater Angling Guide emerit National Occupational Standards (NOS), Rae signed on immediately. 

He liked what he saw.  “It’s a very worthwhile program,” says Rae. “The CTHRC uses input from actual people in the field, from all across Canada.”  Rae recognized that emerit certification embodied the tangible guarantee that he could give his clients.

In March 2010, Keith Rae became Alberta’s first emerit-certified Freshwater Angling Guide.  Rae was so impressed by the CTHRC’s standards and evaluation that he has asked his employees to become emerit-certified too.

He says that emerit training complements the thorough on-the-job training that he provides.  As they progress through the training, his guides may bring new ideas to the table, facilitating an open dialogue that could ultimately improve the business.

Since becoming emerit-certified, Rae has been busy informing his colleagues about the benefits of the program.  “Small businesses need a loud voice in the sea of big guys,” says Rae.  Standards and certification lend them the gravitas needed to be heard.