Spanish River Fishing Trip
I am indeed blessed. This spring (2013) I was fortunate enough to fish two weeks at Pickwick Lake, Tennessee, one week at Norris Lake, Tennessee,
and four weeks at the Blue Heron Resort on the Spanish River, with access to the Lake Huron North Channel. Each trip was successful, and a ton of
quality fish came over the side of the boat during those seven weeks. Six of those weeks I was fortunate to spend with my primary fishing partner - Bill
Hagedorn, whose wife is gracious enough to allow him the time away from home to spend fishing with me. I did mention that I am blessed. Ryan
Anderson, fresh off of a completed baseball season at Vincennes University, and two weeks away from saying "I do," managed to join us for ten days.
Of the twenty-two trips I've made to the Blue Heron, this was indeed a strange one. First of all winter failed to release its grip on Northern Ontario untill
our fourth and final week. I enjoy fishing in lightweight Docker type - "white pants." Days spent fishing in white pants on this trip - Zero. Days spent
wearing an undershirt (under armour) fishing shirt, flannel shirt, zip up around your neck sweater, and heavy water-proof coat - at leaast portions of
everyday . IF the temperatures reached the 70s it was a very rare exception. We had mostly mid-fifties, lots of rain, including pop-up storms that were
exclusive to where we were fishing, and the ever-present high winds, which tended to be out of the north on this trip.
When we arrived, the water temperature was 49-51 degrees, and when we left it had reached 59 degrees.
The spring run-off was in full-force, fortified by heavy long-term rain storms the first two weeks, causing the river to run rampart, and the docks to be tied
down by heavy ropes. We kept our boats tied to the dock "at our own risk."
However, the aforementioned conditions caused discolored water to be poured into the bay, and provided a nice current as well. One trick I learned long
ago under similar conditions, is that "muddy water" cause the walleye to move in close to the shore, and we took advantage catching a limit of walleye and
enough for dinner during week one. This time it was the dew-worm dippers who struggled to find the fish while we with our chartruse grubs and crank
baits were cleaning up. Both Bill and I topped out with 25 inchers, and all three of us put an abundance of the "pickerel" in the boat.
With the high water, it was not until the final two days of our trip that we were ever able to fish the river. All of our fishing was either done out in the bay,
five miles distant from camp (3 trips to a tank of $75 gas), or in Gagen's Bay. We had one spot not far from camp where big fish, namely muskies have
been known to hang out, and this year they were hanging out in spades. In a two week period without fishing for them except after dinner, we were able
to catch and land six that ranged from 41 inches to 48 inches. Bill caught five of them and I caught one (46 inches). Since the river was inaccessible to us,
and the bay was often victimized by late evening winds, fishing for muskie was OK with me. Our equipment was undersized, and the fish were way too
big for our nets, so Bill would catch him, and I would grab him under the gill cover and heave them into the boat. We really got pretty good at it.
Bill is eaten up with catching Muskies, while I'd rather be out in the bay throwing grubs for whatever wanted to jump on our hooks. I was happy to catch
my one. I can now scratch that off of my bucket list and move on. Being the transient fish that they are, after about a week and a half they departed.
leaving us to wonder where they go.
While Ryan didn't get any muskie hook-ups this trip, don't shed too many tears for him. He netted a 40-plus inch, twenty pounder a few years back.
|Bill Hagedorn - First of Six Muskies - 48 Inches
|Dave Schabell - Trip Twenty-Two
This is undoubtedly the most walleye we've ever
caught on a Blue Heron trip. There is a good reason
for that. We don't fish for them, or seek them out. If
they jump on our hook while casting for pike we are
happy to have them. Walleye are regulated by
numbers and size slot limits. Every time I would throw
one back, Bill would remind me that they sell for
$15.99 a pound back home at Krogers.
We had three fish dinners while in camp this spring.
Deborah is kind enough to deep fry them for us in the
camp deep-fryers and even threw in some onion rings
for good measure. It's amazing how much fresh fish
you can eat in one sitting.
Normally we troll for walleye with shad-raps but this
year, since we caught plenty our trolling became
|No Schabell Blue Heron fishing trip report would be
complete without a photo of a few of our crappie.
Bill got into the crappie act this year, as one morning
we found the crappie to be agressively hitting our
plugs and putting up a pretty fair fight. All crappie are
caught and released. The locals pursue them for table
|Pike fishing left something to be desired this year. After a pretty good
first week, pike fishing really slowed down and made for some long days
on the water. Fortunately, the occasional smallmouth bass, or school of
walleye would pick up the slack. Our biggest pike this year was 31
inches, but we did catch many in the 22-26 inch range. Many of the
pike that we did catch showed evidence of encouters with Indian Gill
Nets, which continue to be prevalent in the bay area to this day. We
caught a small muskie pictured at left which still had the gill netting which
had entrapped him attached to his mid-section, visible in the photo at
left. They simply cut the nylon around the fish, and sent him on his way
with the actual loop still attached.
The smartest thing that muskie did that morning was to get himself
caught by us. I was able to cut the nylon free that was literally choking
the life out of him, and freed him to live a long and healthy life.
Gill netting is still one of the big negatives of the area. While anglers are
restricted by seasons, size limits, and slot limits, the Indians are free to
take whatever and as many as they choose. The down side is the other
non-desireable fish that they catch are permanently disfigured.
|In addition to quality fishing,
we are treated to great scenery
and wildlife on a daily basis.
Eagles were numerous on this
trip and I have a video of one
that flew directly over us.
We also watched a full sized
bear swim across a channel
and climb out on shore and
continue on his way, right in
front of us.
|Some of our most enjoyable chance encouters
are with smallmouth bass. The bass grow large
and aggressive on the North Channel. Note the
photo a few photos above. It is a picture of a 19
inch smallie hitting a 6 inch Zara Spook (that we
were throwing for pike/muskie). Any
professional tournament angler would be proud
to catch any of the three shown here.
Bass season does not open until the fourth
Saturday in June, so all of our bass are caught,
photoed and released. I am tempted some day
to return for bass season, and bring a few home
for my wall.
Good food, good fishing, and great memories are
all part of our Blue Heron experience.
We have booked back for three weeks again
next spring and are already looking forward to
|At left is one of my favorite pictures from the
Although not much fun at the time, this was one
of those pop-up rain "showers" that tended to
descend on us when least expected.
This was a 20% chance of rain day, with no
indication that we were about to get soaked when
we headed out that evening. Our clothes had just
dried out from our 10% chance of rain the day
When we returned to camp, soaked to the bone,
we discovered that the place was bone dry, and
atlthough about two miles distant, did not get a
drop of rain. Go Figure!!!
|We did not make a trip to the Blue Heron in 2012, opting out for a fly-in trip to Pine Portage instead.
We have booked three weeks for 2014