2016
Dave Schabell / Bill Hagedorn
Bill and Dave Week One, Two, Three, and Four
Mark Schabell, Andy, Kaitlyn - Week Four
Spanish River Fishing Trip
May 12th  -  June 11th
2016
We did not make a trip to the Blue Heron in 2012, opting out for a fly-in trip to Pine Portage instead.
  With the walleye season
opening late in the month of
May, Bill and I, with the
approval of Deborah and Cal,
the camp owners, arrived at the
Blue Heron on May 12th, a full
nine days prior to the official
opening of camp and the
Spanish River for fishing.

The docks were not in at
camp, so we docked our boat
downtown at Mitchell's Marina,
a very accommodating camp
which is located on the North
Channel which is open for
fishing, making it convenient to
get to our fishing areas.

For the first nine days we had
the camp pretty much to
ourselves before the camp
opened, which was very
relaxing.  
This is a photo of the Blue Heron taken by a drone operated by my nephew Andy on Week Four.
The camp was built in 1990 along the existing Kring Road, with the main house and the six riverfront cabins.
The camp has expanded dramatically since 1990, and is one of the very finest fish camps in Ontario, Canada.
 Cool to downright cold temperatures greeted us during Week One.  
The water temperature was warmer than the air temperature most
days, due to some early May warm weather.  In the pic at right I am
bundled up pretty good against the elements, which included snow
squalls.  As noted the fish didn't seem to mind, and even though I
fished with gloves on for the first time in my life, we still managed to
catch a few.    
  At left it took us only fishing ten minutes when the river opened to encounter this
40 inch muskie directly across from camp.  He hit a spinner-bait in shallow water.  
This would be the first of four muskie encounters during our trip.
I caught one that measured 32 inches while trollling for walleye one evening and
Bill hooked a monster at dark that is estimated at mid-forties.  Unfortunately, the
pike net was in our other boat that night and when I tried to land him by hand, he
managed to escape, the first on in about 10 attempts that I failed to land that way.  
90% of the fishermen at the Blue Heron drift worms for walleye.  We
fish 100% with plugs and sometimes outfish the "dew-worm dippers,"
but that was not the case this trip.  The fish stayed in the river for most
of our four weeks and were being caught in 25' of water at the river
mouth.  Many of our trolling efforts went for naught and it was not
until Week Three  when we caught enough for a couple of fish dinners
and a limit to take home.
 Bill is shown below with a pair of nice walleyes, and Andy and
Kaitlyn display our group's big walleye - 23inches caught by Kaitlyn on
a spinner bait.
While walleye are the lifeblood of the Blue Heron, and many, many, of
them come up the steps over the course of a trip, we really feel that we
have much more fun by throwing plugs for other game fish over the
course of a day, with the option to still troll for walleye right before
dark, when we catch our fair-share.
 Northern Pike excite us.  
We can't catch them in the Ohio River
back home, and we are fascinated by
the viciousness of their strike, and
superior battle.  
Normally during the course of a trip
we will catch one or more in the 40
inch class, but on this trip, while we
caught a plethora of them in the 22 to
26 inch range, the pair of 30 inch
Northerns shown on either side were
our big pike of the trip.

The pike here have a lot of enemies.  
Indian gill nets being right at the top of
the list and fishermen who over-harvest
them lead the list.
  Sadly, Indian Gill netters pillage the fishery.
Many pike we catch and some smaller bass show
evidence of encounters with gill nets.
While sportsman are restricted by walleye slot limits
and creel limits, the Indians, by treaty catch and sell
them commercially.  
Demonstrating just how agressive pike are, Bill Hagedorn
is shown above unhooking probably our smallest pike ever
caught.  It hit a Zara Spook about twice it's size.
 To say that the bass fishery is healthy would be an
understatement.  We had many chance encounters
with smallmouth bass.
The fish at Kaitlyn is holding is 20 inches.  We
caught a few that were 21 inches - about five pounds
each.
My assessment of the state of the fishery is that the walleye population is thriving.
Bass are plentiful and are caught by us while throwing plugs, and walleye fishermen
dragging worms as well.  We even caught them while trolling for walleye in deeper water.
As always, ALL of our fish, with the exception of a few walleye for dinner, are released
to fight again another day.

At present Bass season does not open until the fourth Saturday in June, but a couple
of miles north in District 10 above Highway 17, it is open season on bass year round.

Muskie have obviously found a home in the Spanish River and North Channel since their
re-introduction and are thriving.   There is a closed season on muskie in the Spanish River,
and a 54 inch size limit on them out in the bay.
  My concern is for the Northern Pike population, which is greatly depleated from that
which we experienced back in the early days of the camp.
Catching a dozen or more a day by each fisherman was once the rule.  Now, there are
days when you do not catch a pike in an outing.

The Ministry of Natural Resources is conducting net sampling and creel surveys all
summer.  In talking the them, they are with us on the status of the walleye, bass, and
muskie, and also feel that there is a noticeable absence of Northern Pike.  The nature
of the fishery - big water - could also account for the shortage of pike in the bay when the water temps escalate, as they can always head for deeper, cooler
water.  You will remember that we caught a lot of large pike back in 2012 when the spring run-off was still in progress and the water temps hovered in the
low 50s during our Week One.

This year the temperature was 47 degrees when we arrived in camp and quickly rose through the 50s to top-out at 67 during Week Three.  A cold front
plummeted the water temps back to 61 which is where it stood when we departed.  The good news is that the water levels continue to climb.  There was a
good foot of additional water in the Great Lakes this spring, which resulted in higher water levels in the Frenchmen's Bay and Spanish River.  It is still about
two feet short of the high-water mark levels of the 90's.  

 My annual photo of me holding a big crappie is noticeably absent from this year's report.  The reason for that is we didn't catch any.  
We catch them back in Gagan Bay, a 15 acre bay just off of the river about a mile west of camp.  We rarely fished Gagen Bay, and when we did, didn't
catch any crappie.  This is only the second time in my memory that I can remember this happening.   

With the walleye season starting late again in 2017 we plan on being on the same schedule next year, arriving a week before the camp officially opens,
fishing out in the bay for a week, and commuting to a downtown marina before joining the full camp activities and the opening of the river and walleye
season on May 20th.   My brother Mark and his son Andy plan on joining us again on Week Four.  

As always we thank the Mathesons for their hospitality, and already look forward to our next trip "up north."   
At left, our group is photoed by Andy's Go-Pro while at shore lunch during Week Four.
Here Andy displays
his lifetime best 21 inch
smallmouth bass,
caught on his favorite
AC Shiner lure.