I’ve been fortunate enough to have been in the fishing business for almost four decades, and one of the things that keeps me really enthusiastic about what I do for a living is the fact that I get to explore new waters.
When the opportunity came up to make a trip up into Ontario’s Algoma Country, to stay at Blue Heron Resort, I was pumped. It’s the only resort located on the fertile waters of the lower Spanish River, whose reputation as being a walleye hotspot is widely known, but there are so many other species of fish to fish for up there. The North Channel of Georgian Bay is about a 10-minute boat ride from the resort, and the fishing opportunities there are endless. I put in two days of fishing in late July with pike and bass as my target species.
When we first arrived at Blue Heron Resort, we were greeted by Cal and Deborah Matheson. They really have an awesome set up at this resort. There’s a boat ramp and dockage on-site as well as clean, comfortable cabins. You can fish on your own or you can take advantage of one of their guided fishing trips. Cal and Deborah are nice, down-home friendly folks who immediately make you feel welcome at their place.
I was lucky enough to fish walleyes up in this area a couple of springs back and knew what the potential was for walleye fishing but on this trip, I was really excited to explore the bass and pike fishing up there. Personally, I love putting the pieces of the puzzle together and fishing waters that I’m not familiar with, so we decided to run around and try a number of bays, islands, points, saddles, humps—you name it—to try to locate fish in the few days we were up there.
Well, in the first few hours of our trip we got our show shot. After shooting the Real Fishing TV series for more than three decades, believe me: things do not always happen that quickly. On our first day out we had about 15 smallmouth bass up to 5 pounds, and about 10 bonus pike just fishing by the seat of my pants. Not bad for water I’ve never fished before!
One of the aids that I use is Navionics mapping on my Lowrance units. On this trip, I looked for isolated humps, flats, and bays to target the smallmouth bass and pike. My lure of choice was a ½-ounce Berkley War Pig lipless rattling crankbait. I used this as a search bait to find the fish, and both the smallmouth bass and the pike would aggressively hit this fast-moving crankbait.
It seemed like whenever I would catch a smallmouth bass, there would always be another one or two following. After I’d fight the fish in on the crankbait and release it, I’d drop down a dropshot rig baited with the new Berkley MaxScent 4” Flat Worm to catch the followers. It was some of the easiest fishing I’ve ever experienced. The fact that it’s just over four hours' drive north of Toronto makes this a very accessible place. It has all the attributes of a fly-in fishing camp, but is much easier to get to.
At one point I was fishing a sand flat in a bay, and on a long cast I hooked up with a 5-pound smallmouth. All the time I was fighting it, there was an exact bookend smallmouth swimming around behind it. After I had caught and released this trophy smallmouth, the other one hung around below the boat, even though I had drifted about 40 yards off the area where I had originally hooked up.
On my first drop into about 8 to 9 feet of water with my dropshot, the other big bass engulfed the Flat Worm and the fight was on. I was a little anxious to get it in the boat because I wanted to catch more fish but, after fighting it for about a minute, I ended up putting a little too much pressure on it, and pulled the small dropshot hook out of its mouth before it got to the net. Let’s just say the adrenaline was running a little high!
Many times I would spot a smallmouth swimming, I'd flip the dropshot rig about 3 to 5 feet past it, and the fish would just come over and eat the bait. It was almost like these fish had never been fished for before.
It seemed like any weed patches that I found that were near rock held pike—and the pike were very aggressive. I had one that was over 10 pounds literally chase my War Pig right to the boat and, as I was lifting the lure out of the water, the pike jumped out and hit the bait. I’m talking about very aggressive and naïve fish.
There are not many places you can go in Canada where you can fish for trout, salmon, bass, pike, muskie, walleye, and panfish all out of the same area, but the Spanish River and North Channel area is one of them. This place truly is an angler’s paradise that should be on every serious angler’s bucket list. As Arnold once said in The Terminator: I’ll be back!