South Bay

South Bay

Keen fishermen may find:

South Bay

South Bay is the large bay with a fairly narrow opening to the “Big Water” and so it is to Lake Huron what Lake Wolsey is to the North Channel: each “lakelike bays”.

Visitors to Manitoulin arriving via the MS Chi Cheemaun at the ferry docks at South Baymouth can look straight up the bay, at least before those with vehicles are summoned to the car deck. They can look up the bay but it’s long enough that the northern end, the isthmus dividing the rest of Manitoulin from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, isn’t visible on the horizon.

In fact, the lower, southern of Wiikwemkoong’s two giant peninsulas is defined by South Bay on its west side and the community at the lower end of this part of Wikkwemkoong is called South Bay.

Visitors aboard the Chi Cheemaun and anglers fishing the plentiful waters of South Bay can see homes and cabins along the Wiikwemkoong side and farms and summer holiday camps on the municipal side that takes in part of both Tehkummah and Assiginack Townships, both of these municipalities’ named for important Wiikwemkoong figures who figure in the First Nation’s history. (They are the only ones of Manitoulin’s municipalities to be named for prominent local Indigenous figures when Manitoulin was surveyed for European settlement after the 1862 Manitoulin Treaty.)

South Baymouth, Manitoulin’s ferry town, is the sole town on the large bay, on either side, and the story of how it came by this name is an interesting one.

The community’s name had never been formalized since it was founded in the 1870s by commercial fishing families.

It was variously called South Bay (and so caused some confusion with the community of the same name that is part of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory,) South Baymouth and South Bay Mouth (which is an accurate description of the place.)

To formalize things, there was a local vote on the issue in the 1960s and the two-word moniker won out: South Baymouth is perhaps not as accurate a description but it does roll nicely off the tongue.

South Baymouth pays homage to the early commercial fisherman and it is still a popular place from which to set out into Lake Huron in search of the fruits of the deep but these days the “fishing fleet” is largely comprised of sturdy boats from which anglers fish deep, using downrigging techniques, to bring their line and bait to the depths where their next meal dwells.

There is a fine small craft harbour just to the south of the ferry dock with, pump out and marine fuel available, in addition to a handy dockside laundromat and sport fishing charter businesses operating from the marina.

The Manitoulin Expositor Salmon Classic is a major attraction for the South Baymouth sports fishing community from the last Saturday in July to noon on the fourth Sunday in August and details for this event can be found on

The commercial fishing legacy also lives on and often one of the Purvis Fisheries fish tugs can be seen passing in or out of the gap at South Baymouth on its way to set or lift nets.

South Baymouth itself is a colourful town with motel and housekeeping cottage options for staying a while in addition to the South Bay Resort campgrounds.

There are galleries, lots of dining options, local fudge and souvenir shops in this proud little town whose museum, just at the waterfront, is called the Red School House Museum and is (partly) located in the last of Manitoulin’s one room schools that has been preserved as a 1940s – 1950s era working school.

There is a modern exhibit building located on part of what was the schoolyard where visitors can learn of Tehkummah Township’s farming, fishing and military heritage.

A new attraction is the ‘flags of our town’ that adorn a wide length of garden fencing on Highway 6 in the village, just across from Carl Brown’s Store. The people who live there (and produce a significant garden) did some research and found that South Baymouth is home, many of them seasonally, to people whose origins are in the 30 or so countries whose flags they carefully reproduced for this display.

The Old Ontario Department of Lands and Forests (now the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) staffed a busy Great Lakes research station on South Bay, just outside the village, until about 30 years ago when it was deemed surplus to needs and the numerous research buildings and laboratories were torn down and the staff relocated.

Most people involved in the commercial and sports fishing industries in Northern Lake Huron and Georgian Bay believe this was not a useful change; that the research done there was (and still would be) vital to the balance of interests in this Great Lake.

All that remains is the research station’s dock on South Bay, often used by a Purvis Fisheries fishing tug.

Nearby places to stay, eat and play

On the Wiikwemkoong side of South Bay, landmarks are a century-old church, Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, lovingly built of dressed stone by local stonemasons. Just across the South Bay Road from the church is an ever-flowing spring that delivers cool, clear water (just like the song says) which is also imminently drinkable.

The proud community of South Bay also sports a timber frame community hall and many farms.

In watery South Bay, anglers’ fish for perch, bass, whitefish, salmon, lake trout, rainbow trout and pike.

There is a boat launch at the end of Cowan’s Road, which runs off Highway 6 some eight kilometres south of Manitowaning and right beside Black Rock Lodge.

As previously noted, the boat launch at South Baymouth’s small craft harbour offers access to both South Bay and Lake Huron.

Rogers Creek flows into South Bay flows on its western shore not too far north of South Baymouth and is well known as a pike fishing hot spot, both in its bay and in the stream.

Further north, in Assiginack township and just south of Manitowaning, the fertile farming region known as Clover Valley also has South Bay as a focus and there are several cottage communities on the bay there.

South Bay is part of Lake Huron but (usually) without the wind and storms, but not entirely as this deep bay sometimes hosts its own significant weather events, separate and distinct from Lake Huron.

If you do nothing else at or on South Bay, the village of South Baymouth, where the ferry docks and then leaves to return to Tobermory on her trans-Georgian Bay crossing excursions (from the first Friday in May until the Sunday after the Thanksgiving weekend) is a wonderful place to visit and   ferry watch. The spectacle of Ontario’s most prominent ferry coming into and leaving port is unique in Ontario.

There is a delightful park, perfect for ferry watching, just beside and south of the small craft harbour, that comes complete with modern children’s playground, two heritage range lights (they resemble lighthouses) and a great elevated boardwalk with benches and picnic shelters, all accessible via a wonderful hump-backed bridge that looks directly at the Chi Cheemaun’s shipping channel in vast Lake Huron.

Lake Manitou

Lake Manitou

Keen fishermen may find:

Lake Manitou

LAKE MANITOU—The largest lake within a fresh water island in the world, with 90 miles of shoreline and depths of up to 162 feet, Lake Manitou is a sublime, nearly unfathomable sprawl of blue.

Perhaps this is why it is named “Manitou,” the Ojibwe word for a spirit or power being, in this case apparently referring to the greatest spirit of all, Kitche Manitou. But Manitou, for all its size, is not an ominous or forbidding lake. Over the years, its surface has been ably plied by everything from canoes and ferries to runabouts and personal watercraft and its exceptionally clear, clean waters offer a paradise for swimmers, anglers and scuba divers.

Yes, it is the deepest lake on the Island. But it is not, notes veteran fishing guide Jack Hayes, as deep as it was once thought to be. “If someone drowned, they would throw out a grappling hook, but they didn’t allow for drift of the line, so they were fooled into thinking it was 300 feet deep.”

Not that the bottom of Manitou is often dragged for bodies. Indeed, Mr. Hayes recalls one drowning: John Wright, a well driller from Mindemoya, went through the ice along with another man while salvaging a vehicle that had sunk the previous week. Mr. Hayes knows the lake as well as anyone. For 35 years he worked as a fishing guide on Manitou, first for Mountainview Lodge and then Timberlane Lodge. He is retired now.

About a 25 years ago he was hired on as boat captain for a hydrographic survey of Manitou. He knows where the fish are, and the reefs too.

“We were depth sounding for shoals, doing surveys for water safety,” he recalls. Since that survey, “a lot of the bad shoals have been marked with buoys,” and a detailed map isavailable showing their whereabouts.

Mr. Hayes notes that all the shoals, and there are a lot, over 400, run in the same direction, northeast to southwest, “because this is the way they were shaped by the glacier.”

Many other land formations on Manitoulin have the same orientation, including the Cup and Saucer Bluff, which, incidentally, provides an excellent panorama of Lake Manitou if you follow the popular hiking trail to its summit.

One particularly dangerous shoal out in the middle of Lake Manitou is named “Acre Shoal.” It may not be the exact size of an acre, but “it runs a good 150 feet, and is all hard rock,” says Mr. Hayes.

Manitou is famous for its fish, which include bass, perch, whitefish, pike and pickerel, but most notably, lake trout and ling. “It’s a natural lake for lake trout; since before the white man, they’ve always been here,” says Mr. Hayes, adding that, apart from Wolsey Lake (which is attached to the North Channel, hence not technically a lake), “it’s the only real lake for lake trout.”

It’s the depth of Manitou that accounts for its lake trout population, but, also, says Mr. Hayes, “its oxygen, and Manitou has a lot of springs.” These factors also explain the presence of ling. “Ling won’t stay anywhere but a clear, deep water lake.”

Clear and deep, that’s Lake Manitou, and clean. Until fairly recently, many people drew drinking water directly from the lake, without filtering.

Carol Sheppard, who operates the Rockville Inn on Green Bay, the northernmost bay on Lake Manitou, and has lived here for many years, says “we used to always get zero/zero readings” on water quality tests, meaning there was absolutely no bacteria or ecoli. The water quality got worse for a while in the 1970s, she says, due to old, substandard septic systems in place at most homes and cottages Now, Manitou is again a remarkably clean lake.

Ms. Sheppard is partly to thank for this. As a councillor of the former Howland Township, she led a drive to get many of the septic systems on the lake inspected through the Ministry of Health and to educate people about water quality.

Her concern began, she says, “when I was on my honeymoon down at Lake Erie. Coming from here, I’d never seen a brown lake before. I had to ask someone why it was that colour.” She says that ever since that wake-up call, she’s been determined to make sure that Lake Manitou retains its uncommon clarity.

And so far, it has. “I’ve scuba dived in this lake, and you can see 10 to 15 feet,” Ms. Sheppard remarks.

She’s also snowmobiled much of the lake and flown over it as well. In March, Ms. Sheppard says, the view from a plane reveals “a whole bunch of air holes”, spots in the ice surface that are either open or only thinly crusted over, a result, she believes, of either a spring or natural gas. “We have a picture of one hole, where it’s just bubbling,” she says.

One time she and her late husband Ron nearly drove a jeep into an air hole during winter, and another time “one of our neighbours (the late Larry Appleby) had his golden retriever fall in one, but he luckily managed to lasso her with a rope just before she drowned.”

It was Ms. Sheppard’s grandfather, Stan Batman (her maiden name is Batman), who first told her about the air holes. He also talked about crossing Lake Manitou in winter with livestock. “If he’d bought a cattle beast in Mindemoya, he’d bring it across Manitou on his way back to Sheguiandah,” the granddaughter says.

In the early days says of Manitoulin settlement, there was also a regular ferry route from the historic community of Van Zant’s Landing, on the southeast shore of the lake (where Manitoulin Resort is now located) to Lehman’s Landing on the lake’s west side, near the present-day turnoff on the Rockville Road to Camp Mary Anne.

Ms. Sheppard’s great-grandfather, Thomas Batman, operated that ferry. And, in a moment of entwined family lore, it was this predecessor of Ms. Sheppard (nee Batman) who “brought old man Sheppard”, aka Albert Sheppard, the grandfather of her late husband, Ron Sheppard, “across the lake,” a phrase that acts as both a literal description of what happened and an euphemism for “delivered him to his future home.”

Albert Sheppard was a locksmith, and his services, so the story goes, were required in Mindemoya, because the safe at the old Wagg’s Store couldn’t be opened. He went to Wagg’s and did his job, but it was the northwest shore of Lake Manitou, experienced during that ferry ride, that stuck with him. “So he decided to settle here in Rockville,” recounts Ms. Sheppard.

Which is where the ferry operator’s great-granddaughter and locksmith’s grandson made their family home and where Ms. Sheppard and one of her sons live to this day.

Nearby places to stay, eat and play

Rockville is one of many communities, most of them tiny and informal, but formerly bustling and organized, that dot the shores of Lake Manitou.

Apart from Rockville, there’s also Green Bay, Bidwell, Big Lake (just inland from Manitou) and Sandfield. The latter is the most happening community these days, but the others all sported post offices and school houses and churches in their day, and many of those buildings still stand.

If you tour the lake by boat or drive some of the cottage roads, you are also apt to glimpse a style of architecture that seems, if not unique to Lake Manitou, certainly most plentiful here: the so-called cedar pole building. Many cottages and lodges on the lake are constructed in this manner, in which the cedar logs are aligned vertically with the bark left on.

Ms. Sheppard says that most of these buildings, in the northern part of the lake, at any rate, are the work of the late Alfred Spry, who, true to his name, was spry to a ripe old age. So was his wife Lily Spry (nee Snow), who, despite going blind at the age of 27, worked as a midwife and lived to the age of 104.

Ms. Sheppard’s grandfather, Stan Batman, lived to 102.

And they all, presumably, drank water straight out of Lake Manitou!

One could probably do so now, too, but it is recommended that you filter or treat the water. As Mrs. Sheppard notes, “after Walkerton, you can never be too careful.”

But even if you aren’t dipping a cup straight into the lake, Manitou’s crisp, clear waters, teeming with lake trout and bass and perch, and home to numerous pairs of loons, cry out to be experienced up close, ideally by boat or by actually immersing yourself.

Public boat access to Lake Manitou is provided in three locations: at Newby’s Bay (on the Rockville Road southwest of the community of Rockville), at Sandfield, and just beside Manitoulin Resort (just off the Bidwell Road and very close to Manitowaing.)

There is also a wonderful little public beach at the tip of Green Bay where the Bidwell Road meets the lake. The spot is known as the John Dunlop Memorial Park.

Alternatively, you can hike the Cup and Saucer trail, and gaze out over the breath-catching immensity of the lake.

You won’t see it all, even from this promontory, but you’ll get s good sense of its grandeur.

Lake Huron

Lake Huron

Keen fishermen may find:

Lake Huron

Lake, Huron, the second-largest Great Lake, defines Manitoulin Island. After all, if you’re the largest Island in the world in fresh water, you need that fresh water. But, where would you start to write about such a big body of water? Lake Huron is so darn big, 23,000 square miles, with depths up to 750 feet, and its history so rich and varied, it wasn’t like I could really do it justice in a couple of pages.

I decided to focus on the lake as experienced from the south shore of the Island, which is, after all, what people really think about when you say, “Lake Huron.” The North Channel is part of the lake, sure, but it’s a distinct part, a world unto itself; so is Georgian Bay. That limitless sprawl of blue that you see from the south shore, corrugated with big waves and faintly specked with fishing boats, now that’s the true Lake Huron.

So, I packed my wide-angle lens, and set off for Providence Bay. (Actually, I don’t have a wide-angle lens, but you get my point.) Enroute, I thought about Lake Huron, its history, its mystique, its stats. Where to start?

Well, it’s the second largest Great Lake, we all know that, right? It’s also, in my view the greatest of all the Great Lakes.

Sure, Superior is greatest in size, with the most dramatic, precipitous coastline, but it’s a daunting, scary lake, difficult to safely experience unless you’re in a big boat, and even then, you might not be safe. Consider the fairly recent fate of the Edmund Fitzgerald, a shipwreck we all know about thanks to singer songwriter Gordon Lighfoot.

Lake Huron, with its infinite islands and varied shorelines, ranging from long sand beaches in the south, to crazy granite and quartzite in the north, to the limestone flowerpots and bluffs and alvars of Tobermory and Manitoulin, has always struck me as way more enticing and unique than Michigan, Ontario or Erie, but also more hospitable and navigable than its more voluminous sibling to the north.

Huron has no big cities on its shore, unless you count Sarnia. It has dozens of lighthouses, and tens of thousands of islands, including, of course, the world’s largest to be found in fresh water.

The first European to set eyes on Lake Huron was presumably Samuel de Champlain, after navigating the French River to its mouth in 1615 (it’s possible that Etienne Brule got there earlier, but no precise record exists of his travels). Here, Champlain encountered a group of natives who were gathering blueberries; natives, as it happened, from Manitoulin Island.

A few decades later, in 1649, the Huron Nation (from which the lake derives its name,) and the fort established by the French at St. Marie among the Hurons, were routed by the Iroquois in the present-day Midland area in southern Georgian Bay.

Mantioulin’s first Jesuit mission, begun in 1648, was promptly abandoned after these Iroquois raids, and the Island’s Ojibwe and Odawa population scattered far and wide. It wasn’t until the early 1800s that Manitoulin natives returned, and a new mission was established in present-day Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory.

One of the Island’s more mysterious and sensational events occurred in Lake Huron waters off Wiikwemkoong in 1863. A corrupt fisheries commissioner named William Gibbarb, much loathed by the local first nations people, disappeared while returning to Manitoulin on board a steamer named the Ploughboy; his body was found floating in the lake three days later. No one was ever charged, but people in Wiky have an idea about what might have happened to this day. The story lingers on as “ The Manitoulin Incident” and 20 years ago Wiikwemkoong playwright Alanis King created a play from the story that was presented by the Debajehmujig Theatre Group.

The greatest loss of life on the Great Lakes for its time also occurred in Lake Huron, not far from Manitoulin. In 1882, the poorly designed and overloaded steamer Asia foundered en route to Manitowaning in a storm, killing all but two of its 144 passengers. One of the survivors was Dunk Tinkis of Little Current; the other was a young woman named Christine Morrison. The two teenagers, strangers to one another, but both, uncannily enough, 17, drifted to an island near Pointe Au Baril on a lifeboat, and were discovered the next day by a native couple. There is a monument to the event at Dunk Tinkis’ burial place in the Holy Trinity Cemetery just outside of Little Current.

As I pulled into Providence Bay, parked, and got out to wander around on the beach, it was hard to imagine the sort of storm that might sink a boat the size of the Asia (136 feet). There was a brisk wind blowing this day, but it was out of the north, so the bay was quite calm, and the sun was bright and warm.

The beach at “Prov,” as the community is locally and affectionately known, is certainly one of the Island’s most popular spots, and deservedly so. But having never been the sort of person who likes to laze around on a crescent of sand, possibly exposing himself to skin cancer, I kept my tour short, and then headed for one of my favourite places on all of Manitoulin, the rocky east shore of the bay.

I parked at the marina, and started hiking down this rugged, scenic coast, striding over deep cracks in the fossil-strewn limestone slabs, tiptoeing across wave-smoothed stones, occasionally leaving the tread-marks of my boots in small pockets of sand.

Eventually I reached the light of Providence Point. It’s an unmanned light on a tripod tower. Just in front of it, though, you can see the foundation of the original lighthouse which once stood here.

According to the book Alone at Night, the “Prov” lighthouse was built in 1904 and was manned until 1953. In 1973, it mysteriously burnt to the ground. Some believed it was struck by lightning, but nobody seems to want to name names. The general theory, though, is that it was a local person who had some sort of gripe with the government.

After standing on the foundation of this lighthouse, gone now almost 50 years, I started hiking back to the marina.

Photos of beautiful Lake Huron

The marina was hopping: boats pulling out, boats pulling in. I spoke briefly with a father-daughter team fishing, from Sudbury, who were trailering their boat into the water, setting out to do some salmon fishing. They’d been skunked the last time they went out fishing from Prov but told me they’d had success in the past. I wished them luck, and watched as they struck out onto the bay, rods jutting from stern of the boat. Perhaps they’ll be entering The Manitoulin Expositor Salmon Classic (last Saturday in July through the last Sunday in August) and trying to win some of the $30,000 cash prize money for a championship salmon.

A big, weather-beaten boat was tethered to the end of the pier, out past the slips. I had a hunch what it was but had never seen it up close. I wandered out to get a better look, and sure enough, it was the Blue Fin, the venerable fishing tug operated by the Purvis family in Burnt Island.

Incredibly, this riveted steel boat has been in been in service since 1930, the year that the grandfather of current Purvis patriarch George Purvis had it built.

Out past the end of the pier, you can see another old section of dock, stuck out there like a sad, skeletal island. The pier obviously extended much farther at one time.

I talked to the harbourmaster about this. He showed me a photocopy of an old newspaper article, from the Sudbury Daily Star; dated May 6, 1952. “Providence Bay hit by tidal wave,” was the headline. Although the article didn’t go into details of damage done to the dock, the harbourmaster said it was his understanding that “that was when the pier got broken up. It used to be all one piece.”

Remember what I said about Lake Huron being so much more hospitable than Lake Superior? Maybe I should be taking that back. After all, Providence Bay itself was reputedly named after a ship-wreck. The story goes that some shipwrecked sailors washed up on its sandy shore, and thanked providence for their good fortune. Other  stories tell of the “sailors’ grave,” a small grotto-like area amid tall rocks, now encircled by Providence Bay Park.

I’d seen this natural sculpture before and told myself I should really go and pay my respects before heading home.

Bass Lake

Bass Lake

Keen fishermen may find:

Bass Lake

There’s more to Bass Lake than bass. The lake boasts a surprising variety of species, as well as a unique mix of terrain and tradition.

Located just west of the village of Sheguiandah, Bass Lake indeed has bass, both large mouth and small mouth. But it also has pike, pickerel, perch, blue gill, and most remarkably: muskellunge. It is, in fact, Manitoulin’s only inland lake to support the coveted game fish, famous for its feistiness and size.

The north shore of the lake is checkered with farms, some still operated by the same families who settled here well over a century ago. Broad green fields roll lazily back from the shoreline towards a limestone bluff, and tractors, in the summer months, chug slowly across them, cutting the first hay of the summer.

The south shore, by contrast, is densely wooded, mostly uninhabited, and punctuated, in two places, by striking outcroppings of white quartzite. These peaks, along with a similar outcropping in the village of Sheguiandah, where an ancient quarry was discovered in the 1950s, represent the only examples of this stark granitic landscape to be found on Manitoulin.

Most of the south shore is owned by Sheguiandah First Nation, members of whom continue to utilize the land in the same manner as their ancestors. “There is still some medicine that we get from there,” notes Noman Aguonie, “and we have a sugar bush that has been used for generations.” In the spring, First Nation families boil sap in a cast iron pot suspended over a fire.

The sugar bush is also noteworthy for harbouring a monster maple that was deemed the largest on Manitoulin in the early 1990s when the late Grant Garrett and the Manitoulin Nature Club held a biggest tree contest.

If there was a biggest fish contest, Bass Lake would probably figure as well: Mike Sprack of Manitowaning once caught a 36-pound muskie here, and about 25 years ago, Kirby Burnett reeled in a 28-pounder while fishing with his cousin Amy Burnett.

Mr. Burnett’s behemoth stretched four feet in length, a third the length of the 12-foot rowboat he was fishing from. To land it, Mr. Burnett says he “hit it over the head with the paddle.”

The Burnett family goes back five generations on Bass Lake. Kirby’s uncle Blake Burnett still farms the property that was settled by his great-grandparents in 1875.

The farmer doesn’t fish much himself, being generally busy with his beef cattle operation.

Yes, Bass Lake itself might look tame and peaceful, but the surrounding hills remain fairly wild. Mr. Burnett has seen many bears and once, several years ago now, a pair of moose.

For anyone who travels Northern Ontario, a moose is not an unusual sight, of course, but it’s highly unusual for Manitoulin. “Those were the first ones I ever saw anywhere on the Island,” Mr. Burnett notes.

Muskie are unusual for the Island too, but they thrive here in Bass Lake. Mr. Sprack has spent many pleasurable evenings on Bass Lake. Many, many evenings.

“Through the latter part of the ‘70s and all of the ‘80s, I would spend four to five nights a week at Bass Lake,” he says. “It’s a beautiful little lake and puts out a lot of muskie for its size. It’s deceptive, looking at it.”

Just a mile and a quarter long, Bass Lake doesn’t look like it would support many muskie, but it reaches depths of 40-feet-plus, according to Mr. Sprack, and “it’s a basin lake, with no shoals. Basically, you can run around it all day and not hit any rocks.

Muskie have frequented the lake for decades. Cliff Lewis, an old-timer with whom Mr. Sprack spoke at one time, “told me that they’d been here in this lake for as long as he could remember, and he fished in the 1930s.

Mr. Sprack concedes that fingerlings were stocked in the 1970s, but he describes it as a “reintroduction, a way to strengthen the gene pool. I find it hard to believe that they would have stocked muskie prior to the 1930s.”

His assumption is that the muskie “migrated up the creek (Bass Lake Creek, which runs from the lake to Sheguiandah Bay) before it was damned.”

Now, in summer months anyway, the creek is not much more than a trickle, but conveying muskie up from the big water wasn’t its only function in the old days. It once powered three mills, a grist mill, a sawmill and a woolen mill.

“The grist mill was at the headwaters of the creek, where it leaves Bass Lake,” a local historian says, “It was torn down (in 1958) when they were working on Highway 6.

The late Alec Murray, who lived just west of the creek outlet on Bass Lake, and whose family operated Manitoulin Gardens, a fresh produce and flower business, for many years, said it’s a real shame that the mill was torn down. “It was three storeys, with a log frame. It could’ve been a real tourist attraction.

Tourists should still be attracted to Bass Lake, though, Anglers, especially, will enjoy testing its waters, for muskie, of course, but also for bass or perch or pickerel, or for pike, the muskie’s cousin.

Just make sure you know the difference. Mr. Sprack notes that muskie and pike are often confused, and since there is a minimum size requirement for muskie, 32 inches, this can be a problem because a person might land a smaller fish they believe is a pike, when it’s really a muskie.

The Sudbury chapter of Muskie Canada has recently posted an identification sign at the Bass Lake public boat launch, located at the end of Russell Street, near the intersection of Highway 6 and the Townline Road.

It gets a bit complicated, since pike and muskellunge can cross-breed, but Mr. Sprack stresses that the “hybrid is still considered a muskie, and it’s pretty easy to tell the difference: pike have white spots, but neither muskie nor hybrid muskie do.

If fishing isn’t your scene, there are other ways to experience Bass Lake, notably an excellent hiking trails: the “Lewis Twin Peaks Trail”, leaves from a pullover spot on the west side of Highway 6, just south of the bridge over Bass Lake Creek.

Named for the access it provides to the two quartzite peaks that loom above the lake’s southeast shore (as opposed to the creepy, short-lived David Lynch TV series of the same name) this two-kilometre trail is well worth experiencing.

Another, admittedly lazier, option is to simply drive along the Townline Road. Doing so, you’ll see the lake spreading out to the south, its surface shimmering in the sun, a fishing boat or two (or, more rarely, 10) relieved against the rippled water.

Nearby places to stay, eat and play

There are interesting buildings to see too, such as the Quonset hut (now a residence) that used to be Sheguiandah hockey arena (and home of the Sheg Bears, a team that apparently won a few trophies in its day), and the old Howland municipal building, which used to be a schoolhouse.

The late John Dunlop, who lived on the south side of nearby Pike Lake, used to drive a horse and cutter across the lake in winter to reach the school, and members of the Atkinson clan were known to skate across on occasion.

While driving, or hiking, or fishing around Bass Lake, expect more than the obvious.

Bass Creek, where it runs out of the lake that gives it its name and down to Sheguiandah Bay, was completely rehabilitated as a walleye/ pickerel spawning ground a few years ago by the Little Current Fish and Game Club and the Island wide environment organization, Manitoulin Streams.

Rocks were placed “just so” in the water to slow down the current and to make the way easier for spawning fish to fight their way up stream. The creek was designed for pickerel but other spawning fishy species find the improvements useful too in their reproductive lives.

Significant tourist attractions just downstream are the reproduction Batman’s Mill (on historic grist mill recreated and a real photo-op for visitors) and nearby Bass Creek is a raised viewing platform that provides a fisheye view up and down the stream with all of its underwater improvements within view. In the spring, you can also watch the spawning pickerel/ walleye making use of these man-made improvements as they rush to reproduce.

Whitehaven cottages, tent & trailer park

Whitehaven Cottages

Sheguiandah Bay

Nine modern, newly renovated housekeeping cottages on Sheguiandah Bay.  Full bathrooms and kitchens, all linens supplied. Located ½ mile east of Highway 6, 15 km south of Little Current, 54 km north of the ferry dock at South Baymouth. Cottage sleeps 2 – 8, electric heat, firepits,  firewood and WIFI.   Gas, oil, freezer service, and boat launch. Excellent fishing for Northern Pike, Bass, Muskie, Pickerel.  Good swimming, sand bottom. Pet friendly.  Most of our guests are repeats, so book early! Open May 1 to October 15. Family owned for 3 generations. Matt and Laurie Stillwaugh, 78 Mill Street, Sheguiandah, ON.

Phone: 705-368-2554


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Also in the area

Batman’s Cottages T&T Park

Batman's Cottages & Campground

Sheguiandah Bay

Just south of the historic village of Sheguiandah, we are a place families can escape to and discover an enriching camping experience.

3 spacious housekeeping cottages (2+3 bedrooms). 142 large, treed, waterfront or wooded campsites with 2 and 3-way hookups. Many pull-throughs. Excellent washrooms and showers, fine sandy beach, Wi-Fi, recreation hall, 2 playgrounds and more.

Great fishing in Georgian Bay. Seasonal campers welcome.

Ph. 1-877-368-2180.

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Wayside Motel

Wayside Motel


You are warmly invited to our little independently owned and refreshingly unconventional motel.

We are located at the gateway to the historic and vibrant town of Manitowaning at the intersection of Highway 6 and Queen Street and are centrally positioned within the Highway 6 corridor. Our spacious rooms have been recently renovated to provide you with a comfortable, homey experience and a well-deserved rest.

We offer 6 rooms – one room with a queen-size bed and five rooms with two double-size beds – each equipped with coffee maker, kettle, small fridge, microwave, TV and Wi-Fi, very comfy pillow-top mattresses and washrooms with tub/shower combination.

Our furniture and art are all “Made in Manitoulin”. Guests’ BBQ, ample parking and the surrounding green space are open for you to enjoy.

Phone: 705-859-3515

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