French River Produces a Musky a Day

Returning to the French River Bill and Nancy Hamblin talk to the lodge owners, Art & Brenda Barefoot, before the hunt for the elusive French River Muskie. The weather conditions for the day were spotty with high winds and choppy waters but no musky can be caught without putting effort into it. In their search for the massive monster, Bill trolls his chartreuse bladed black bucktail and bam, the fight begins!

Within the first two hours after to their arrival to the Bear’s Den Lodge Bill hooked into an impressive 45.5 inch Musky, creating the first of another successful muskie hunt.

Bill’s first day French River Fishing , an impressive 45.5 inch Musky

On day two, just after breakfast at the Lodge, Bill and Nancy went searching for another French River Musky. Once again after several hours of dedication in flailing lures and trolling at times the French River Delta once again procedures the sought after trophy, musky. Bill produces his best French River Musky measuring in at 52 inches.

Muskie 52 Inch caught and released on Day 2 at Bear’s Den Lodge, Fishing French River

So,  What brought you to the French River, Bill?

I had gone all over the musky world, including all of the other areas of the Georgian Bay and finally last year; really because of the book I was doing, 120 Days One man’s quest hunting giant muskies on Georgian Bay, I knew I had to include the French River and that’s what brought me back and it was at that point I realized how much I missed it. That’s why I came back this year, because I came to that realization. In my mind, the French River is the purest river fishing experience on Georgian Bay. In the Georgian Bay, the giant musky fishing is all focused around major river mouths like Magnetawan River, Moon River, and Shawanaga River. Big river mouths congregate the big muskies. The unique thing about the French River that those fish already exist in the river itself and you don’t have to boat to the Georgian Bay to get the Georgian Bay experience. You don’t even have to boat 15 minutes from Bear’s Den Lodge to get into those huge muskies and you are miles and miles away from the Georgian Bay. You have big quality fish, right here in the French River Delta.

Muskie fishing is tough anywhere in the Georgian Bay. Have I had more success in the French River Provincial Park than Georgian Bay? Yes, I have but it is still tough; you could come up here for a week and not see anything or you could come here and get a musky a day and boom, crack the 50 inch barrier.

Weather rules your odds at success along with experience in an area, a good location will certainly up your odds.  When I fish for them, I find that best times is going from a period of stable weather leading into a significant weather change; falling barometer, impending rain, storm are ideal but it’s not absolutely necessary as I proved yesterday  because yesterday was all post cold front. Low light conditions, anytime are preferred and weather can give you that midday as well. It’s rare to find current in the Georgian Bay which gives the French River uniqueness where massive muskies reside while being protected and able to still get to these large fish despite inclement weather like yesterday.

The other thing I have to admit that has inspired me about the French River is there’s a unique story, in 1998 when I was writing for Musky Hunter’s Almanac with Larry Ramsell I went to the Royal Ontario Museum and interviewed Dr. Crossman. After the interview was over, I had asked him about a rumored giant muskie mount at the museum and asked him if he could tell me more about it or if I could see it and he said, “Yes it’s here,” and we went back into the archives of the rest of the museum. You couldn’t even see it from the ground, but up on top of a shelf in the back of the museum, gathering dust, sat an old musky mount from 1917 caught by William Fulton.


French River Muskie from 1917, William Fulton

At the time, had the fish been verified, it would have been a world record; it was 59 inches long and weighed 57 pounds, 10 ounces. It would have exceeded the existing world record by 6 pounds. This was tongue and cheek, but I asked him could I take it home because it was clearly going to a waste in the museum and he handed it right to me.  Now I got this musky mount at home, in a crate, that has been totally reconditioned and it’s probably one of the oldest and most significant musky mounts in existence that for 13 years it hung over my desk in my highschool classroom. And I would look at it everyday and it would remind me how I needed to get back to the French RIver. What’s going to become of that mount? I am not sure, but it’s very special trophy musky out of the French River.

What will day 3 hold? Is it Nancy’s turn?

120 Days by Bill Hamblin may be purchased at Bear’s Den Lodge, get your autographed copy today!

Photos provided by Bill & Nancy Hamblin.
Article by Joe Barefoot, M.B.