For those of you not familiar with my annual fishing trips, I like to get to Pickwick Lake in Tennessee in the early spring and then spend a few weeks in Canada in quest of Northern Pike, Walleye, and Smallmouth Bass in late May, early June. Unfortunately, my longtime partner Bill Hagedorn was unable to answer the bell this year, due to some health issues. Steve McGrath, who has been fishing with me since he was a sophomore in high school was happy to make his first trip to Spanish. As stated in the teaser headline above, this trip was truly phenomenal weather-wise and in regards to the fishing,
Weather in Canada in June is comparable to Northern Kentucky in early April with cool mornings when the temps dip into the upper 30s and it climbs into the low 70s in the early afternoon with an omni-present west wind. We did lose our Monday due to an all day rain. Ryan Shelton and his cousin Randy fished in it, and Andy and Steve got out for a couple of hours in the evening, but Mark and I took the day off.
For the first time in memory there were NO BUGS – none. I’ve never seen that in all of my years coming to Canada.
The picture at right shows Steve fishing from the back of our boat at sundown.
Twenty quality fish a day is a good day norm on the Spanish River. On this trip, that number escalated to 50. Mark and Andy drove straight through and arrived in camp a few hours before we did. We stayed in Saulte Ste Marie, having breakfast and picking up our groceries before heading across into Canada on Saturday.. I called Mark before our arrival in camp and they had already put 26 in the boat in windy, rough conditions, which was a great sign..
Despite turning 75 years old, I still put a few (dozen) fish in the boat, and fish 9 hour days. I can truly say that in all of my years coming to the Blue Heron this was the best week of fishing I’ve ever seen. We had four major muskie encounters, landing two of them. They are known as the “Fish of 10,000 casts”, but they are plentiful on the Spanish River, and if you throw a big surface bait – they will hit it. They are massive. Northern Pike were plentiful, ranging from 22 to 28 inches. We have caught them up to 46 inches here, but no big ones on this trip. It was still two weeks away from the opening of bass season (June 25th). Being sport fishermen and throwing 100% plugs we encounter lots of smallies, which we catch, photograph, and release unharmed. We caught quite a few of them in the 20 inch ( 4 to 5 pound range). and many, many in the 16 to 18 inch range.
Believe it or not, we actually take very few photos of our catches, since they would all look alike.
We give locations on the bay our own Code Names, such as the rockpile at left is known as “Smith and Jolley”, and the rock at right “Watermark Rock”. The dark area on the rock is the old high water mark which existed from 1991 until around 2005, when the Great Lakes lost about four feet of water. While it has recovered somewhat, it is still about two feet short of the old norm.
Above, Ryan Shelton (left or top) and Randy (right or bottom) show off a pair of Spanish River hawg smallies. The quality of the smallmouth bass fishery has improved dramatically since I spend six weeks there back in 1995 running fishing trips for groups on a weekly basis. Our biggest smallies caught back in ’95 was just over 18 inches. Since then we have caught them up to 23 inches. Which US tournament fisherman wouldn’t like to have that duo in their bag???
This picture shows Ryan holding a quality largemouth bass. Largemouths are extremely rare in that area, due to the cold year-round nature of the water. If you look closely at this fish’s tail, you will note that it had recently spawned. While we are catching more and more of them (this trip about five), they are only caught in areas where the water tends to be warmer. This one was caught in an 18 acre bay that gets considerably warmer than the river or big water bays. This bay, we affectionately call “No Fish Bay” dating back to 1992 when my brother Mark so named it, because HE had trouble catching fish there. It is located just about a mile from camp, and therefore a popular after dinner, or windy day spot.
Mike and Patti, the new owners, could not have been more gracious or accommodating. They went out of their way to make sure that our trip was a success. Patti is Cal’s daughter. Cal and Deborah, while retired, now live a “stones’ throw” from the camp, and were often sighted tooling around in their golf cart, checking in with old acquaintances. This was the first time that I’d seen Deborah since her health scare back in early 2020. I’m happy to report that she appears to have regained her good health and seems to me to be 100%.