Jeremy Wade, host of Animal Planet's River Monsters TV show, travels the world looking for big fish that may have — as per local folklore — attacked people. This year's season premiere, which airs April 5, is all about muskellunge, or "muskies." And when Jeremy Wade is searching the world for big muskies, he comes to Northwestern Ontario.
Wade made a number of stops in the region when filming. One was Vermilion Bay Lodge on Eagle Lake, a lake well known for big muskie. The show's producers, in researching muskies, found an article from the Winnipeg Sun about a boy who had been bitten on the leg by a muskie on Eagle Lake. Gord Bastable, owner of Vermilion Bay Lodge, says five or six boys about 12 years old were goofing around in shallow water on the beach at his lodge when one of them was bitten. "As the story goes, the fish held on long enough that the boy felt like the fish was dragging him away," Bastable says. That piqued the interest of the River Monsters team.
Bastable helped guide the crew while they shot the episode last year. Scott Jaeger, well known muskie guide and new owner of North Shore Lodge on Eagle Lake, was also part of the guide crew. Bastable piloted the camera boat while Jeremy Wade fished in a nearby boat with the director, cameraman and sound person.
Bastable was impressed with Wade's patience and fishing skills. He fished for three days on Eagle Lake and caught several muskie, as the show will demonstrate. "They do a lot of research, and the host knows what he's doing," he says. "It's a legitimate show. I think people will be interested in the connection Jeremy draws between First Nation legends and his time on the water. There was definitely much more at play here than the act of catching a big fish."
Vermilion Bay Lodge on the shores of beautful Eagle Lake, Ontario, Canada
Muskie fishing can be an exercise in patience, Bastable says. "Dedicated muskie sport fishermen understand that you can fish for a week and not catch one," he says. "Catching the "big one" can be a once in a lifetime event."
In all his years fishing, Bastable has caught several muskies in the 50-inch range weighing 30 to 35 pounds. "Several years ago I lost a real giant right at the boat," he says. "That was a fish you only get a chance at once every 30 years. I was disappointed, but also just happy to see something so unusual."
Eagle Lake held the Ontario angling record muskie for decades, at 61 pounds 9 ounces and 59 inches. Edward Walden caught the fish in Vermilion Bay in 1940. Georgian Bay now holds the muskie record, with a 65-pounder caught in 1988.
Vermilion Bay Lodge owner Gord Bastable sits in front of a wooden replica of the biggest muskie caught in Eagle Lake — a 61-pounder Edward Walden caught in 1940.
Sure, these sound like "monsters," Bastable says, but he wants to remind people that while watching River Monsters, keep in mind that muskie attacks are pretty rare. They're impressive fish and an important part of the lake's ecosystem, he says.
Watch the Season 7 Sneak Peak of River Monsters: