Dave Schabell / Bill Hagedorn
May 10th - June 8th
Bill Hagedorn and Dave Schabell - Week One, Two, Three, and Four
Mark Schabell and Andy Schabell - Week Four
Ryan Shelton and Ryan Hater - Week Four
Spanish River Fishing Trip
There Have Been Many Times That We Have Arrived In Camp, and I Have Thought,
"We Are Too Early" - This Year I Was Sure Of It
In all of my years since 1991 that I have been coming to the Spanish River, this was the first time that we saw bays frozen over, snow on the south
shore, ice flowing down the river, and water temperatures as low as 43 degrees.
Despite the unseasonably late spring, this was one of our better trips, with the size and number of fish consistently good from the first day until the
After the first week, winter gave up its grip on the Great White North, the weather became quite tolerable with many days in the 70s and even 80's,
killing off the black flies early, and allowing me to exchange my long underwear for white pants out fishing on numerous occasions.
|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 been catching muskie here for the past ten years.
Bill has caught many, and myself a few over the years.
We were all secretly hoping that my brother Mark would finally
land one, after having several near-misses over the past few years.
Well, he totally outdid himself, catching the 45 inch monster,
pictured above left on the first night that he was in camp (June
2nd), while trolling for walleye. Besides breaking the landing net
in two, the fish was landed without further incident.
On his second night in camp, he duplicated the feat with a 40
inch specimen caught with a spinner bait while fishing for pike,
and then topped off his efforts with the 45 inch monster at right, on
a buzz-bait in 22 feet of water on Day Four.
Mark caught no additional muskie on his final three days in camp,
but did have another one blow up on his spinner bait on the last day.
None of the rest us caught a meaningful sized muskie on this trip.
| Things remained quite brown and
wintery during much of our stay.
At right, an eagle keeps a sharp eye
99 44/100% of the "fishermen" at the Blue Heron fish for walleye.
There is a good reason for this - the walleye fishing is really good. I counted three
freezer loads of walleye guts filling the full-sized freezer outside of the fish house in
the first week of the walleye season.
We, on the other hand, catch enough walleye for a dinner a week and a limit to
bring home, by simply trolling shad raps right across from camp, right before dark.
The walleye guys dip dew-worms or minnows ad infinitum in a drifting boat and
fill their freezers. Being from Kentucky where Northern Pike are non-existent,
leads us to choose to target this toothy species, and this year we did it with great
success. No monsters, but lots and lots of 22 to 28 inch fish, with the occasional
plus-30 incher thrown in to keep things interesting. All of the fish shown here are
30 inch class fish - some a few more, and the second one Mark is holding in the
doubles picture, a more routine size catch.
|The Smallmouth Bass fishery is dense and
healthy. Smallmouth are also out of
season while we are in Canada and must
be returned unharmed.
Also, because of being from Kentucky
where trophy smallmouth are revered, we
can't help but to take a quick photo of
some of the larger ones that we encounter,
just to make our friends envious.
I've often been tempted to return when
the bass are in-season and bring a few
back for the wall.
These are all guesstimated to be over five
We caught an inordinate amount of
Largemouth this trip, which speaks well
for the warm-water brother of the smallie.
We credit improved water levels for the continuing improving fishing. The photo at left is of the present water levels - About 3 feet higher
than what we had experienced in 2010 when the picture at far right was taken. From 1991 until about 2005 , water levels were at about the
current levels, or as shown on the rock, maybe a foot higher. Water levels are back up throughout the Great Lakes, and hopefully will
continue to improve, or at least remain stable.
|We caught a fantastic number of walleye on this trip.
Big ones early and then smaller ones late. One night
on Week Four, two boats of us caught 12 walleye, none
of which were keepers. Bill is pictured with his lifetime
best walleye at right - a 27 inch male, which we
released. The smaller ones make for better table fare.
|Note the number of dead trees that line
the river bank, caused by the increased
Bill Hagedorn and I arrived in camp on Thursday, May 10th after passing bays along
the way that were frozen over, and the folks at the grocery store where we purchase
our last-minute perishables, told of an extremely late spring, and the ice on the big
water, having just "gone out." This is somewhat comparable to what we ran into during
our three week trip to Pickwick Lake, Tennessee earlier this spring.
We put the boat in at Mitchell's Camp, located about 7 miles from the Blue Heron for
the first week of our stay, since the Spanish River is closed for fishing until the third
Saturday in May, and we do all of our fishing in the North Channel of Lake Huron
during this timespan.
The water temperature was 43, the lowest I'd ever experienced, and there was snow
remaining on the south shore where the sun didn't reach it.
Our first two fishing days, Friday and Saturday, were slow, with only 7 and then 8
fish coming over the side of the boat. On Sunday, it was like someone threw the turn-on
switch and the fish and the fishing came alive and we experienced great numbers
throughout our trip.
We moved back to the dock at the Blue Heron on Saturday, May 19th, the official
opening of camp, he Spanish River and walleye season.
The water levels were once again elevated to where they used to be back in the early 2000's, before the Great Lakes dropped about five
feet. This is a good break for us, who can once again fish in areas that "dried up" when the water levels dropped. We sincerely hope that
this is the new norm and that they will continue to rise, or at least remain stable for the next decade.
The aftermath of the low water, is that all of the shorelines are lined with dead trees, as the result of the higher water. It will be interesting
to see what happens to them, as they are very dead and very brittle.
Fishing continues to thrive. Everyone caught walleye, the Northern Pike were plentiful and aggressive, Smallmouth Bass invaded every nook
and cranny of the bay, and Muskie were in evidence later on in the trip. Owen, the owner's grandson caught a 6 1/2 foot sturgeon while
fishing for pickerel (walleye).
There was no evidence of Indian Gill nets this year, probably since the walleye were so plentiful that there was little market for them.
Bill loves to throw top-water, and following the first week, when he could generate nary a blow-up, the majority of his Week Two, Three,
and Four fish were taken on surface plugs - namely Zara Spooks. I stick with spinner baits and Johnson Silver Minnow spoons in the weeds,
and plastics such as six inch brightly colored lizards or bush-hogs around the wood and rocks. Five inch bright chartreuse Yammamoto grubs
put fish in the boat for both of us.
The weather turned downright hot during Week Three, which motivated us to sleep with the windows open, and wear white pants and dress
in shirt-sleeves for an extended period of time. The weather became a bit more challenging on Week Four as the afternoon winds blew hard
(25mph) from the west, limiting our fishing spots, and we had even been effected by Tropical Storm Alberta, the previous Thursday, giving
Bill a chance to do the wash, and me a chance to sleep-in. We were never caught out in the rain this trip, which is a rarity. We did get lucky
and managed to dodge a few mechanical issues with the boat, but those only cost us two days of fishing and could have been much worse.
We were joined by my brother Mark and nephew Andy for Week Four, and also Ryan Shelton and his cousin Randy Hater. We ate good
as Mark brought steaks that we grilled for my 71st birthday, Bill had his traditional pork chops, we had a walleye dinner, and Ryan provided
some Romanian Sausage for dinner as well.
Time flies, and on Friday, June 8th, Bill and I hooked up the boat and headed back to Northern Kentucky to await hopefully, yet another
spring spent in Northern Ontario, Canada next year. It never gets old.
"The Muskie King"