Peluso: From hockey sticks to fish sticks

Mike Peluso 

With a fishing rod in one hand and a hockey stick in the other, Chicago Blackhawks minor leaguer Mike Peluso doesn't have much time to relax.

He keeps busy year-round with a full-time job as a right winger during the fall and winter and as a professional walleye angler in the spring and summer.

"I think they really complement each other very well," said the 28-year-old Peluso. "When things are tough in either sport, I can reflect back to the other sport to help ease my mind."

Peluso competes in the In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail and also hosts a regional fishing show on the CBS affiliate in Bismarck, N.D.

He is driven on the PWT circuit: "Mark my words, I will someday win one of the big ones," Peluso said.

With Peluso in the lead after Day 1 at this weeks Lund/Powerbait Northern Pro-Am at Lake of the Woods in Baudette, Minn., perhaps his prediction will be realized sooner than later.

Growing up in the vast prairie of Bismarck, Peluso was introduced to fishing and hockey at an early age. His father — an avid fisherman and city hockey coach — got Peluso hooked on both sports from the start.

That has translated into a career that keeps Peluso juggling fishing jigs and hockey pucks.

"Well, I like to remain competitive during the summer without having to beat myself up," said Peluso, an unrestricted free agent who played right ring this season with the Norfolk Admirals.

"Fishing has always been at the top of my list of things I like to do, so I decided to take it one step further."

ESPN Outdoors caught up with Peluso last season. Here's what he had to say during an "Athletes in the Outdoors" interview:

ESPNOutdoors.com: "How did you get started in fishing and hockey?"

Mike Peluso: "My father got me interested in fishing. He never left me home. The rule in our household was my father could go hunting or fishing as much as he wanted to, as long as he took me with.

"My father started me out in both sports at a very young age. When my father was looking at the hockey coaching and rink managing job in Bismarck, he looked at a map and saw the Missouri River ran through town.

"He had no idea if it was a good fishery; but he said if it has water nearby, it can't be all bad. Boy, am I happy he decided to take the job."

EO: "What have been some of your really memorable days while fishing?"

MP: "Some of the most memorable days are the ones when I was just a young pup fishing with my dad after school. If I could go back and do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat."

EO: "What are some of your favorite fishing spots?"

MP: "Growing up in Bismarck, I would have to say the Missouri River and Lake Sakakawea (in central North Dakota) are my favorites."

EO: "What is your favorite species to fish for?"

MP: "Walleyes are No. 1 in my book, but I guess, to be honest, it really doesn't matter to me, as long as I am reeling in fish."

EO: "Can any comparisons be made between your successes on the ice and those in the area of competitive fishing?"

MP: "For me, the biggest connection is that I play hockey in the winters and that leaves all summer for me to fish. That part of it works really well.

"The biggest comparison I make is fishing for walleyes is a lot like scoring goals in hockey. You have to be patient and put yourself in the right spots and capitalize on the chances you are given."

EO: "Do the professional fishermen have as high of competitive spirit as the pro hockey players?"

MP: "I think it may be very close. Most of the guys are out on the tour trying to survive. So a person needs to be very competitive to place well.

"On the other hand, hockey is a sport where when you are frustrated with the way things are going, you can drop the gloves and take care of things. Both sports are very cutthroat and if you were to break it down, hockey is a bit more competitive.

"I think the (professional anglers) all want to win, but most will tell you they would just like to cash a check at each tourney. Not me!

"I want to win every darn one I am in. The problem that gets me into is I am either a hero or a zero with that attitude. But mark my words, I will someday win one of the big ones!"

EO: "Do you talk fishing with your hockey teammates?"

MP: "I do with the ones who are interested. Each season I usually run into a couple players who really like to fish and like to talk fishing."

EO: "Do you ever fish with any of your hockey teammates?"

MP: "Oh, yes. It seems like I run a bed-and-breakfast here at my home in Bismarck after our season ends. I have a steady flow of guys coming through town that want to fish on their way home each summer."

EO: "Whom did you fish with this summer?"

MP: "Joe Rybar, a former college teammate, and Ty Jones, who I played with in Chicago. And (goaltender) Steve Passmore, another Chicago teammate, just to name a few."

EO: "How many days a year are you on the water fishing?"

MP: "It's hard to say, exactly, and it all kind of depends on how long the season goes. I usually fish four to five tournaments a summer, and those have me on the water for a week straight.

"Plus, I have a TV fishing show here in North Dakota, so that has me on the water quite a bit. Not to mention just hitting the water for some good, old-fashioned R & R."

EO: "With that much time spent fishing and skating, is there any time for
R & R?"

MP: "To be honest with you, I think my summers are way busier than the hockey season. The good part of it is I stay active and I am not inclined to getting out of shape easy. The bad part is the summers go by way too fast."

EO: "I am guessing with your demanding hockey schedule you don't get much time to icefish?"

MP: "I don't anymore. When I played college hockey at Duluth, I used to have a fish house. Myself and whoever wanted to come with me would head to the lake after every practice. It was a wonder I ever got any school work done. We did have a blast, though."

EO: "Which sport do you favor the most, professional hockey or fishing?"

MP: "Hockey is No. 1 and will be until my body tells me otherwise."

To contact North Dakota free-lance writer Jesse Bradley, email him at jesse_bradley@yahoo.com.