Most outdoorsmen/women live by the mantra, “work hard, play hard”. Put in your long hours at the office, in the field, etc., and look forward to spending time outdoors afterwards. I’m sure most reading this have counted down the minutes at work, bolting out the door when the clock hit five, jumped into your truck (made sure you had your fishing rod) and made your way to your nearest lake or stream hoping to land a fish.
Nate Herman, of Herman Brothers Lake and Land Management, lives this to the extreme.
“Basically when I was old enough to push a broom, I was forced into a slave labor situation at my father’s construction company when not in school,” Nate says.
Plainly put, Nate works hard. I have seen many published pictures of the man at work and it seems most are of him knee deep in mud with a tool in one hand and lumber in the other. He worked for eight years as a carpenter and carries over many of those skills into his new field of expertise, which is as diverse a field as you can imagine.
“We are a small company in Central Illinois who teach property owners how to become better stewards of their land, air and water,” Nate humbly explains. “We specialize in creating and managing world class recreational properties, lakes and ponds.”
When you visit Nate’s blog, you get a real sense of the enormity of what they do at Herman Brothers Lake and Land Management. You’ll find construction projects ranging from incredibly complex and unique docks, to actual pond construction that focuses on both function and aesthetics. Oh yeah, and you’ll see plenty of pictures of big fish! You don’t have to scroll far to discover an affinity for innovation and creativity and an incredibly sincere desire to not only enjoy the outdoors in incredible ways, but to share this passion with their family, friends, colleagues and clients. So how does all this work?
“When I was let off my chain on Sunday afternoons after church,” Nate explains. “I spent every waking moment in the local creek or at a neighborhood pond. I naturally have an inquiring mind and won’t rest until I get questions answered. The work ethic I learned as a boy, combined with my passion for all things outdoors, and complicated by my addiction to research, all thrown together basically sums me up to a tee…a lake nerd.”
He has helped take the imagination of pond, lake and property management to new heights. From fish cages built into docks to zip lines to floating trampolines to diving platforms to ridiculously long slides, I don’t know of a suggestion so extreme that Nate and his brother Justin will not consider. And the work is just as entertaining as the play. So much so that this fall, a series documenting their adventures, called All Hooked Up, will air on Destination America and Animal Planet!
So if you haven’t completely stopped reading this and aren’t currently scrolling through the pages of Nate’s blog, you’re probably asking why I am featuring him as our Steward of the Week. After all, one does not become Steward of the Week just for being awesome. It takes extraordinary efforts to improve our waters and their future to be considered. And in this vein Nate certainly qualifies, putting in the same hard work (and exhaustive play) into ensuring our waters have caring stewards to look after them for years to come as he does growing fish, building docks or digging ponds.
“Conservation and education are very important to our business as well as us personally,” Nate says. “Through the support of our clientele and the entire East Peoria community, we have been able to create and maintain a ten acre community fishing park for children and senior groups to come and learn how to fish free of charge.”
This program is called Hooked on Fishing and the Hooked on Fishing Park has three main ponds that are completely fed by several artesian springs. Park operations, education, maintenance and administration are all taken care of completely by volunteers from the community. Each year 4,000-5,000 visitors come and learn how to fish or just simply enjoy time fishing the park with their group, friends or family.
“The Hooked on Fishing Park has become a huge asset to the city of East Peoria,” Nate explains. “It has been a huge blessing to see all the businesses and volunteers come together to teach today’s youth the importance of spending quality time outside as well as a huge boost to the senior citizens to get outside and catch some fish with friends. “
Visitors to the park are encouraged to “bring nothing but their enthusiasm” as the fishing tackle and bait are provided. All fishing is catch and release only and barbless hooks are used to limit injury to the fish.
“The project has been a win-win for everyone involved,” he explains.
One thing’s for sure: If you happen to attend an event at the Hooked on Fishing Park, Nate will not be difficult to spot. Simply put, he’s a big man. But if he’s there and for some reason, you just can’t put a bead on him, just listen. If you hear singing, yes, singing, you’ve found him.
“Yep,” Nate explains. “A big, burly macho man like myself, but I just love to sing at any given opportunity. There isn’t a day that goes by when I’m not singing something out loud. God gave me a huge range from the highest soprano to the lowest bass, so I got the pipes.”
But…; “But, unfortunately don’t have the ability to carry a tune,” he admits. “Basically, I’m a bad singer…but not ashamed.”
I did not ask if Nate Herman, the singer, was something featured at these fishing events or when he guides on the ponds he manages. Maybe he takes requests. Maybe it’s as infectious as his enthusiasm for everything outdoors and you’ll just catch yourself singing as well.
At any rate, Nate and his crew at Herman Brothers Pond Management are doing special things with both the waters and land they manage as well as the thousands of young and old people alike they introduce to their unique brand of outdoor recreation. It is truly inspiring.
To look up Herman Brothers Lake and Land Management, go to www.hblakemanagement.com. He encourages anyone to come onto the website and send him a note or lake or land question via email. You can visit Hooked on Fishing at www.hookedonfishing.org and donate to their cause. It’s a 501 c3 tax deduction organization that puts 100 percent of the money raised towards the goal of outdoor education. If you haven’t already, checking out Nate’s fishing blog to get the latest fishing pictures, videos and life adventure stories, is a must. That is at www.thediaryofalakenerd.blogspot.com. He is also available for onsite consultations anywhere in the U.S. and offers an ice fishing guide service at his lakes in January and February.
During my discussion with Nate, he expressed what he would like to see down the road at our waters.
“I see a shifting trend which I do hope starts catching on more and more,” Nate explains. “I see a strong desire for many landowners to do what is best for the environment as a whole as opposed to quick environmentally unfriendly fixes that have been the norm for management practices. If people don’t start acting now they will obviously reap what they sow. It’s as simple as that. If we don’t preserve what we have been given to preserve, then we will be living in a polluted, stagnant world.”
This is an important message from a steward who defines the work-hard/play-hard mantra. A topic of debate might be whether the Herman Brothers play harder than they work; either way, one does not exist without the other and both are necessary.