Russell B. (Russ) Warye, age 80, of Merrill, passed away on Sunday, July 30, 2023 and “crossed over the river to rest under the shade of the trees”. He is survived by his beloved “Bride”, Patricia Lynn of 40 years, sons: Russell L. (Suzanne) of Glencoe, IL and Shane (Jill) of Tampa, FL, sisters, Patricia Barnes (Rick) and Kathy Warye (Robert), grandsons, Jacob, Benjamin and Gray and granddaughters, Harper and Everly, along with nieces, nephews and cousins.
He graduated from Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland and earned degrees in American History and Education from the University of Maryland. His academic loves were studying and speaking on the American Frontier, the Civil War and World War II. He was active in competitive rifle marksmanship at the University and led the team, as team captain, to national ranking, including repeated Atlantic Coast Conference Championships, as well as the University of Maryland Air Force R.O.T.C. Rifle Team to national championships. He competed at the National Rifle Championships, held annually at Camp Perry, Ohio and was honored to be invited to the Olympic trials in 1972.
After a brief teaching career, he moved to northern Illinois to begin a career in the outdoor sporting industry, i.e., fishing, hunting and competitive shooting. Additionally, he began outdoor writing and hosted a weekly radio program featuring outdoor and environmental topics on WKRS, Waukegan, IL, as well as weekly outdoor columns for the Waukegan News – Sun newspaper.
He moved to northern Wisconsin in 1979 and continued journalism as a columnist and newspaper editor, as well as free-lance magazine features on fishing and environmental issues in outdoor periodicals. In moving north, he came “home” to his beloved northwoods, fulfilling a dream of northern waters and forests, sparked by his first trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area of northern Minnesota as a teenager. Additionally, he married the “Bride” in 1983 and she promptly encouraged him to write a book or two (he obsessed with 12!) This resulted in them self-publishing FISH SYLVANIA, the first ever book on canoe angling the famous Sylvania Tract of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It was well received and went through several printings.
Community service in the town of Presque Isle was served by election as town clerk (five terms) and chairman (two terms). His writing evolved to researching, editing fishing maps and authoring books for Fishing Hot Spots (FHS), Rhinelander, WI. This innovative company changed the freshwater fishing map concept to one featuring detailed research of fishery resources, a first in the fishing industry. Besides writing and authoring eight FHS books, he directed their Discoveries in Fishing program, accompanying anglers to fishing destinations to learn and enjoy the famous fisheries of the Midwest, ranging from Kentucky Lake, Sturgeon Bay, Chippewa Flowage, Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers to Ontario’s Lake of the Woods, Eagle Lake and Lac Seul. His FHS responsibilities included attending numerous fishing/outdoor shows and seminar/speaking engagements on fishing resources, while representing the company.
Three of his FHS books were the first ever books focused on the premier fishing destinations of smallmouth, walleye and muskie. They were the first books to provide research on the top fisheries of North America.
Additionally, he proudly served on the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, representing angling and hunting interests to the Department of Natural Resources for Vilas County for 20 years.
He retired from his responsibilities at FHS to co-author with his friend, Ken Jackson, St. Germain, WI, a series of eight northern Wisconsin fishing/map books by Fishing the North Country Publishing. The books received excellent reception and continue to be popular with northern Wisconsin anglers.
He never intended in his move to the northwoods to become a fishing guide, but friends encouraged him to “teach” on the water, which became a career of guiding for bass and muskie for 40-plus years (his favorite client was the “Bride”!) Of note, his numerous public speaking engagements and boat/client hours became platforms for a strenuous defense of the Clean Water Act and its crucial role in restoring fish resources. He was proud to be labelled an “activist” on clean water and fish resources and was quick to discuss these issues with local and state politicians.
His love of fishing ardently pursued and far ranging but his heart and spirit was always northbound – from Alaska, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, as well as the northern tier of states. Canoe tripping in Ontario’s Quetico Provincial Park was a special favorite. Deer hunting with the Bride, Merritt Peth and Charlie II was a traditional family rite of November in northern Wisconsin. Even well into his 70’s, he was spending over 100 days a year on the water with family, friends and clients.
His second lifelong interests were reading and studying American History, fishery research, paleontology, anthropology, as well as enjoying great outdoor writing. A personal library of approximately 1,000 volumes is testimony to the commitment to learning and research.
He was especially proud of both sons and their achievements and contributions to society – Russell’s noted insurance and investment business (Libertyville, IL) and Shane’s 29-year career in the Air Force, retiring with honors as a Chef Master Sargent (Tampa, FL). Additionally, both are accomplished bass anglers and many of his favorite memories were of those fishing together.
Written by Russell B. Warye Jr.