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BucktownAngler

Lower French River this weekend

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hey guys,

 

i will be hitting up the lower french this weekend with some buddies. we'll be staying at bears den lodge. it will be my first time in the area, and at this lodge. I've previously have been to the upper french at Wolselseys bay. But from what i've seen on the map, these 2 spots are worlds apart.

 

 

So i really dont know what to expect. Has anybody fished the area lately? how are the water levels? i've heard the lower french can be treacherous, and has a lot of rapids etc. these are the areas we would like to avoid. we will have GPS and Navionics mapping, but from what i hear there is no mapping of the french. Can anybody confirm this?

 

We will be targeting pretty much anything. Me particularly Musky, walleye, bass (in that order). Any tips to put us on fish?

 

Also, how are the bugs at this time of year. Ill be prepared for the worst, but just wondering.

 

Thanks

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I can't really help you for the the lower French but I know for sure the upper French river near Dokis is all mapped out on the Navionics chip.

 

 

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The only mapping of the French River is a map you can pick up at the French River Trading post, which is just before you turn off Rt 69 onto Hartley Bay Road. However, this basuically only shows the shorelines. There are no maps/charts that would show depths or underwater hazards that I am aware of. I used to go to Bear's Den back in the early 1990's, but have not been back since.

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I have not been to that side in the last few years, but really want to go back. Saw one of the biggest muskies of my life out there. I have stayed at the French River Lodge a few times, but never Bears Den.

 

One thing you will want to know is parking. You have to park and launch at the Hartly Bay marine. They have to launch the boat for you... and you will see why when you get there. Parking and launch fees will run you about $70 for the week... but that was a few years ago. Could be more now. Just a heads up as I was not sure what the expect the first time I was there.

 

I think you will be happy with the fishing. They are some awesome Muskie waters that is for sure.

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I have not been to that side in the last few years, but really want to go back. Saw one of the biggest muskies of my life out there. I have stayed at the French River Lodge a few times, but never Bears Den.

 

One thing you will want to know is parking. You have to park and launch at the Hartly Bay marine. They have to launch the boat for you... and you will see why when you get there. Parking and launch fees will run you about $70 for the week... but that was a few years ago. Could be more now. Just a heads up as I was not sure what the expect the first time I was there.

 

I think you will be happy with the fishing. They are some awesome Muskie waters that is for sure.

 

Yes, i had a chat with Brenda at Bears Den and she told me that we would have to launch at Hartley Bay Marina. Im a bit confused about the fees though. Apparently we have to pay to park the Truck, Trailer, and then pay to dock the boat at Bears den. All daily fees for each. I found that very odd.

 

Why do they have to launch the boat for you? Is the launch in bad shape or something?

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Why do they have to launch the boat for you? Is the launch in bad shape or something?

 

They are very busy at that launch, and they dont want someone there taking an hour to launch.

Think of it as a "valet service". :thumbsup_anim:

 

They will tell you where to park and unhook from the boat trailer.When you do this, put every thing you will need in the boat so you are ready to go.

Then they come over with there tractor, hook onto the trailer and 10 seconds later they bring the trailer back up for you to hook back up to and go park in there parking lot. :good:

Edited by skeeter

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Why do they have to launch the boat for you? Is the launch in bad shape or something?

 

 

If I recall correctly from my days there, they take care of launching all the boats at Hartley Bay. It's kinda steep down the ramp and you have to be right up on the top of it, before you can see down the ramp. Not sure if they would let you launch yourself or not. They have a hitch on the front of their truck and basically 'push' it down the ramp. There was a daily parking fee at the marina when I was there. Docking Fee at Bear's Den was added after we stopped going there. Make sure you find out what time they open in the morning. They do keep your vehicle keys (at least they used to), so you have to wait until they open in the morning in order to get your vehicle. One thing that I didn't like about it. Being we live 11+ hours away, I typically head home early, but waiting on them delayed my departure until 7:00am or so.

 

Art and Brenda actually live not more than 45 minutes from my house and are really nice people. I know Art was having some medical issues back then, but I'm not sure how he is doing now. (better I hope). If it weren't for their 'no pet' policy, we may still be going there. The camp is less than a mile from Hartley Bay on the right-hand side and sits back in a little bay, so it is somewhat sheltered. So, you can't miss it. It is a nice quiet place and the lodge had (or used to) a wide-screen TV, pool table, magazines. We had a couple meals at the lodge and they were pretty good. Didn't leave hungry.

 

The main channel from Hartley Bay down to the entrance of Wahnapatea bay (past Bear's Den) is pretty clear, staying our away from the shore line. We fished a lot in Wahnapatae bay and caught my largest pike there - at 37 1/2 inches. Two days later my step-son landed a 37" not too far away. Once you come to Wahnapeta (probably not spelled correctly), you'll see several parallel islands. Some have some nice rock / weed-bed combinations between them and we fished there quite a bit. Be careful there, there are some prop busters as well.

 

We also turned to the right and went back towards Frasier Bay for pike. Really have to take it easy and watch carefully. We've seen more than one boat up on the rock backs there over the years. There are nice fish to be caught around there, but it was kinda tough fishing back in the 1990's. Maybe things have improved a bit since then. Never caught a musky there, but in fairness, I wasn't targeting them back then.

 

Best of luck and please be sure to post some pics. I'd love to see the area again.

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I'll also add, that once you turn onto Hartley Bay road, you only have the paved road a short distance. About 6 miles or so back a dirt road. Unless they improved it, it was a washboard going back, so we have to take it kinda slow. Not too many places to pull over for a passing vehicle as well. Granted, this has been about 20 years ago, so things may have changed since then.

 

I'll second what Skeeter said - it is a very (very) busy boat launch. Put everything you can into the boat before you launch, or you'll be making a number of trips up and down the hill to your boat.

 

Hope this stuff helps out a bit.

Remember our report and plenty of pics. :clapping:

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thanks for the info Rich.

 

i really dont like all these surprises im getting. i've stayed at many fishing lodges before, and was never charged extra fees, and had to jump through hoops like this place.

 

they better hope the fishing is unbelievably amazing. or else this will be my first/last time going there.

 

I hope they read this.

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I cannot remember the launch being very busy. Maybe because a number of my trips have been in October. But the launch is very steep with an S bend to it right beside a building. It is tight and steep, and for that reason they launch the boat. They are very good at it and I trust them with my boat.

 

As Rich mentioned, Wanapitei bay is riddle with hidden danger. Take it slow rolling through there the first few times until you have a safe route. If I recall, the west shore "channel" pretty safe for high speed travel. If you do a google maps search of the area and put it on a satellite image and zoom in, you can see the hidden dangers that we are taking about as the rock piles beneath the surface a visible.

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As Rich mentioned, Wanapitei bay is riddle with hidden danger. Take it slow rolling through there the first few times until you have a safe route. If I recall, the west shore "channel" pretty safe for high speed travel. If you do a google maps search of the area and put it on a satellite image and zoom in, you can see the hidden dangers that we are taking about as the rock piles beneath the surface a visible.

 

 

I recall a shoal just off-shore around what the call the 'S' Curves in Wahnapatae bay. Thank goodness we were goling slow when we went over it. No Damage, but we hit it.

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thanks for the info Rich.

 

i really dont like all these surprises im getting. i've stayed at many fishing lodges before, and was never charged extra fees, and had to jump through hoops like this place.

 

they better hope the fishing is unbelievably amazing. or else this will be my first/last time going there.

 

I hope they read this.

 

 

This is fairly common - extra fees. Docking for your own boat, pet fees, etc. We have two dogs that we usually take with us. Some places charge for them and some don't. Some charge for docking and some don't. Once in a while, it may be possible to get these waived, or reduced, by talking to the owners. Worst they can say is NO.

 

I hope ya have some great luck with the fishing.

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Send me an IM. I have been fishing Musky there for the last 7 years straight. Between the gravel road trip and launch is a pain, but once you are there. It is beautiful. You just need to be careful running around.

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thanks for the info Rich.

 

i really dont like all these surprises im getting. i've stayed at many fishing lodges before, and was never charged extra fees, and had to jump through hoops like this place.

 

they better hope the fishing is unbelievably amazing. or else this will be my first/last time going there.

 

I hope they read this.

 

 

The marina and lodge are owned by two different families, so what you pay to Art and Brenda at the Bear's Den (which I know is quite a bit) does not go to the marina. The marina makes most of its money by launching boats and charging for parking. My oldest friend owns that marina and I can tell you that he would just smile, shake his head and happily suggest you just "move along" if you told him that having to actually pay for his services amounts to a "surprise".

-

When you see how busy it is there you'll understand why they are able to charge what you might thinks amounts to a bit of a premium. Their lot is nearly full and that launch is going non-stop...they could charge a lot more and still have line ups.

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boss how did you do when you went to the upper french? im going to wolseley lodge next week and wondering how the upper french is?

 

I was on the upper last week fishing out of Lochaven (a terrific lodge!) . Damn hot, but fishing was better than I expected given the heat. You can find plenty of smallmouth in any weedbed drifting worms. I cast spinnerbaits and buzzbaits over and through weedbeds and caught several pike. Saw two muskies....one tried to eat my 16-17" bass just as I tried to lip it into the boat. The other hit a buzzbait after dinner with a tremendous strike. Had it on for 2 seconds, but it threw the lure, and disappeared in a huge noisy swirl. It was definitely one of the old people. That's happened to me several other times up there....one of these days I'll win the battle. I didn't see a walleye myself the whole week, and didn't here of many caught by others at the lodge. I think good walleye fishing is a thing of the past up there.

 

Good luck to you.

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I didn't see a walleye myself the whole week, and didn't here of many caught by others at the lodge. I think good walleye fishing is a thing of the past up there.

 

Good luck to you.

 

 

Yup, no walleye up here, please go elsewhere........:)

Maybe your tactics were just off...but limits are not that difficult.

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I believe Bear's Den does everything in US dollars, including their rates. They've been that way even back when we went there. Yeah, their rates seemed a bit more than other places, but I'll pay the extra. Kinda hurting a bit with gas prices up and the US dollar down like it is.

 

Overall, it is a really nice place, peaceful, and there's lot's of great fishing spot and ya don't have to go far. But - YOU HAVE GOT TO BE CAREFUL - until you know exactly where you are going. If they would start accepting pets again, I'd probably go back.

 

I sure was glad that the marina launched my boat for me. Crap - I'd probably still be there trying to get mine launched. But hey ... that's just me. :whistling:

 

I just hope you do well and have some great shots when you get back. There's times we do well and other times not. But, my wife and I just love that part of Ontario and we'll keep coming back as long as we can. Just caught my first musky since 2005 this June ... six long years, but I don't stop trying.

 

Heading up to the North Channel of the French in about 5 weeks and will passing right by Hartley Bay Road.

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