Big Dan’s Fishing Charters and Riverfront Lodge: Meet the Crew

Homer Alaska fishing charters are abundant, but what makes the charter is the crew! Look no further than Captain Dan and his crew. They will work hard to make sure you have a great time and catch big fish. Get to know our team:

Dan Spies | Owner/Captain of the Double Down

Big Dan Spies started his life on a farm in Russell, Kansas. He would wake up early in the morning to get all of his farm chores done so he could have the rest of the day enjoying the free range of the farm. He was taught at a very young age exactly what it meant to be a hard worker.  Dan was a very adventurous kid and to this day looks for adventures in life.

During Big Dan’s teen years his family moved to Kearns, Utah. He went from a school that had a graduating class of 13 to a school with 400 graduates. Football was his passion and where the name “Big Dan” originated. He wasn’t the biggest guy, but the hits were huge. “Big Dan” has stuck with him over the years because everything he does has to be big. For 30 years he has found enjoyment in building homes and saw the finished product as a huge accomplishment. Building was a challenge and Dan always loves a challenge. Construction proved to be a very good career, and for the last 17 years he has owned a successful construction company. In 2009, Dan was given an opportunity to move his construction company to Soldotna, Alaska.  Providentially, since he was ready for a change and wanted out of the rat race that the big city brought, this move proved to be the best decision Dan could have made for his family and himself and Big Dan’s was born.

From Road to Water

The slower paced Soldotna provided exactly the change that was needed. If you have fished in Alaska you know what it is like, and Dan can’t get enough of it. Ocean fishing is by far his favorite. The saltwater quickly became the place he wanted to be every chance he got. After a dozen saltwater trips Dan knew this was something he wanted to do full time, and he knew he would have a lot to offer the industry. He had ideas to ensure the best experience for clients. Dan purchased his first boat in 2013 and spent all his time on the water. Big Dan turned into Captain Dan and Big Dan’s Fishing was in full effect. 

Captain Dan has been part of the Homer Halibut Derby and has had two years in a row with two of the largest halibut caught. During the 2017 derby, Dan caught a monster halibut that was a whopping 251 pounds! Dan is goal-oriented and sets his standards high.  He hopes that he can show guests from around the world a good time and catch a lot of fish, but also have them leave Alaska with a newfound appreciation for The Greatland.

For the last few years, Dan has managed to run both his construction and fishing companies. Now with the support of his family and friends, Dan is moving away from construction to completely focus on his Homer Alaska fishing charters and live-aboard hunting transportation. The quality of the experience is what he strives for.  He makes sure he has the best of everything, from the most comfortable boat, to top of the line gear. The satisfaction he gets from being a captain is knowing he’s helping make memories that will last a lifetime.

Sarah Spies | Office Manager/Owner

Sarah was born in Gresham, Oregon and raised in American Fork, Utah.  She grew up in a large household of 10, the youngest of 8 children. Her adventures started from a young age being surrounded with so many siblings. Family activities were spent enjoying the outdoors whether it be hunting, fishing, camping, four-wheeling, hiking or taking long road trips. Having that type of upbringing led Sarah to always having a desire for adventure. Moving around and starting new is something that has always been a part of who she is.  When it came time to make the decision to move her family to Alaska, it wasn’t a hard one. Leaving her family so far away would be difficult, but giving her young family the opportunity to grow up in such a beautiful state was seen as a blessing. She and Dan had 4 children that would thrive in a place like Alaska.

New Adventure in Alaska

From the moment she arrived in Alaska, she couldn’t wait to share the beauty with others. It didn’t take long for her family to come for a visit. Sarah enjoyed showing them everything that she could while they were visiting. Hiking, fishing, kayaking, and sightseeing were endless activities to share. Word was going around quickly on how Alaska was the place to go; friends soon started to come up as well as extended family, and even co-workers of her siblings, each one contacting her for information on what to do while visiting. She was more than willing to put itineraries together for strangers to help ensure they had a memorable experience. Sarah loves being able to share all that she can with others. Her friends and family would tell her that she needed to be a tour guide or a host because it came natural to her. The enthusiasm she has to share all that she can is boundless.

Big Dan’s Fishing Charters has become a welcoming challenge to her. Her husband Dan is the dreamer and she’s the one who makes it all happen. Captain Dan admits she’s the brains behind the operation. Sarah’s outgoing personality, customer service experience, creativity, and attention to detail is what makes the experience with Big Dan’s Fishing Charters run smoothly.  Dan’s dreams have now become Sarah’s as well. 

Sarah will be the first person you’ll speak with in helping get your trip started, and probably the last person you see before you leave. Sarah is very excited to share all of what Alaska has to offer and looks forward to sharing your experience.

Nathan Humphrey | Captain of the Gamechanger

Nathan ” Nate” Humphrey is a disabled retired US Army Veteran who finds fishing therapeutic. Nate was medically retired from active duty from wounds sustained in combat. He had multiple deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. Nate was a customer traveling from Virginia on his first trip on the F/V Blackjack with Big Dan, when he took out a group of veterans on a halibut trip. Nate made quite an impression on Captain Dan on that first trip. Dan found out that Nate would spend his summers in Alaska and even had his own fish camp on the Kenai River. Over the next few years, lots of fishing trips, a couple of conversations, and a little bit of convincing, Nate became the new deckhand on the F/V Game Changer. Shortly after he started working with Big Dan, he was given the nickname “Vanilla Gorilla”. His ability to break fishing rods, while jigging for his favorite fish, was becoming quite the joke. Now several years in, and with Big Dan’s expanding their business to include the riverfront lodge, Nate has worked his way up to saltwater captain at the helm of the Game Changer.

Committing to Alaska

Nate made the decision to move his family permanently to Alaska from Virginia. His love for Alaska runs deep and he knew Alaska was the place he wanted to be. He is now the regional director for Freedom Hunters in Alaska, a non-profit organization that takes veterans on free adventures nationwide. He’s been able to help Big Dan’s Fishing become more involved with the organization and able to take veterans on a fishing trip each year. Consequently, this is an experience we hold dear to our hearts and it has been made possible with Nate’s help.  

When we asked Nate why he made the decision to work with Big Dan’s Fishing, he answered, “I’ve been on multiple Homer Alaska fishing charters. When you pay to go fishing, you expect to catch a big fish. Every time I’ve been on Big Dan’s boats, that’s exactly what we did. We caught big fish! The professionalism, friendly family environment, top-of-the-line equipment, overall love and dedication to the fishing industry that Big Dan has is by far the best of the best. Why settle for spam when you paid for a ribeye? One major thing that made me feel the way I do about Big Dan’s Fishing is the love and respect for Veterans he and his family have. All Veterans want is for our country to love us as much as we love it, and the Spies family does.”

Mike Schoessler | Captain of the Blackjack

Mike grew up in Montana hunting and fishing with his family. The Wyoming oil fields called him when he was 19 so he moved and began his oil field career. In 1983, the price of oil dropped, big time, and he moved to Alaska to be close to family, who had moved up a few years previous. Early 1984 found him in another oilfield job on the Kenai Peninsula in the Swanson River Field. In 1992, an opportunity to go to the North Slope of Alaska to work in the Kuparuk Oilfield. During his slope off time Mike joined the Kuparuk Fire Department receiving his State of Alaska Firefighter 1, Firefighter 2, Company Officer, and Safety Officer certifications. He was also on the Rescue Team being trained for high angle and confined space rescue, certified by ROCO Rescue. And he was also an EMT 1 volunteering on the Medical Team, as well.

Mike and one of his brothers bought a small river boat and began fishing the Kenai River at every opportunity, catching king salmon most every time out. Mike also bought a little bit bigger boat that would go on both the saltwater and still be Kenai River “legal”. With that versatile boat he was able to hone his skills on the saltwater. Mike now owns his own ocean boat that he uses at every opportunity, that is, when he’s not helping Dan with deck handing and all around utility chores.

Dan and Mike met in January of 2019 when Dan’s son and Mike’s stepson were playing basketball on the same team. In March of that year, Dan invited Mike to go out on the BlackJack for a fun run. Dan was telling Mike about his new boat being built and that he was going to run overnight trips. Mike immediately booked on the GameChanger’s first overnight journey. The trip was fun as Mike’s experience became a big help to a couple of young deck hands that Dan had at the time. Dan remembered those abilities when his steady deck hands, Daniel and Nate both had winter time work to go to. Dan asked Mike to deck hand for him, in late October 2019, for a Construction Convention Charter. 10 guys trolling for winter King Salmon. From then on, Mike has deck handed for Dan during the winter months and even a few occasions during the summer.

Mike now has his captain’s license through the US Coast Guard, has studied at the the Kenai River Guide Academy, and will run Kenai River trips from the lodge.

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