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Lake Penage: The Early Days

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Walden Reporter -- March 3, 1994

 In April of '79 Fred Walker, a resident of Cleveland, Ohio, wrote a letter to Tom Eggert of New York.  The letter pertained to Fred's past fond memories of Lake Penage in 1918.  Both gentlemen fully appreciated and respected the beauty of our own Lake Penage, here in scenic Walden.  Thanks are extended to Carman Fielding Sr. and Mike Kauppi for passing this informative letter on for publication in the 'Walden Reporter.'  Remember that this interesting article pertains to the area [Lake Penage] back in 1918.

Background

My family lived in Bay Village from 1915 to 1925 on Bradley Road close to Lake Road - not paved when we moved there.  I attended Bay Village School, a little red brick school house at Stop 29 Lake Shore, Electric Railroad (Ed's note: a street car system).  The Barker family lived across Lake Road and they had a son Bob, one year younger than me, who was also interested in outdoor life, so we became close friends.  Mr. Ray Barker (Bob's father) was the son of S. Barker who founded the S. Barker & Sons Office Supply Co.  Ray and his brother, Hal, took of the business.  Hal's (Harold's) wife was a Kummler.  Several years prior to this, Kummlers bought an old hunting lodge built by a Toronto hunting club for deer hunting: at least this was the story I got.  Dorothy and son bob decided to go up there for three weeks and they asked me to go along.  At that time there was the Kummler camp and Dan Sheehan's tourist Camp.

We left Cleveland by train to Toronto and then took a night train out of Toronto arriving at Whitefish Ontario, a little town west of Sudbury, in the morning.  We changed to outdoor clothes in an old frame hotel.  We walked through the woods for several miles to a river.  There was a lumber dock there and an old scow.  We boarded the scow with all our gear which had been taken there by horse and wagon (Ed's note: probably from Gemmell's store in whitefish).  We went down the river for what seemed to be 10 miles but it could have been either longer or shorter.  I do remember there was a spot on the river where there was a pronounced narrows with a swift current, even in August.  They told us that every spring an Ollie Hutchinson (friend of the Kummlers) and Ed Kummler tried to shoot the rapids: the canoe tipped and Ollie drowned.  His brother, Henry Hutchinson of Lakewood, came up to look for the body.  He didn't find Ollie for three weeks.  Henry, a wonderful person, fell in love with the country.  He resigned as a foreman at Templer Motor Car Co. to manage the camp for Kummlers.  Some years later Hutchinson bought out the Kummlers and ran the camp.  I don't know how many years after that but during a hot, dry summer and terrific lightning storm, the entire area was burned out including he Kummler Camp.  Hutchinson bought an island and rebuilt his camp on the island.  I always wanted to get back there but after college graduation, marriage, depression and WWII, I finally made it, taking my oldest son with me.  That trip was really a disappointment; Henry Hutchinson had died some years previous.  His wife was trying to run the camp.  She had been a school teacher which is not good training for running a fishing camp.  The natives were taking advantage of her, she couldn't keep or get guides, her Evinrude motors still had South Bend Indiana on them so you know how old they were.  Her boats always had water in them and the meals were terrible.  Despite all this we brought back our limit of walleye, bass, northern pike and lake trout.  They were all good size.  My greatest disappointment on my second trip was riding to camp and noting that every island we passed had one or more cottages on it.  For all those years Penage was always listed as the best bass lake in Ontario.  Never went back.  I guess the fishing changed when they changed the name from Penage to Panache.

Fishing

I guess every fisherman dreams about a place where the fish fight to get at your bait.  This was Lake Penage in 1918.  But every fisherman's dream always has an angle that takes off the edge.  When I think of the fishing equipment available when compared to the graphite rods, and ball bearing reels and lines available now, I just wonder what it would be like to fish 1918 Penage with modern equipment.  There were no such things as license, limits, opening dates and conservation.  The fishing was either still fishing or trolling.  Anyone who could cast 20 feet off the dock and not get a back lash was an expert.  Trolling consisted of pulling a buffalo spinner with a heavier string, no rod or reel; you wrapped the line around a stick of wood.  Every morning we would go to a marsh in back of the camp and in no time we had a bucket full of little green frogs.  We would then row along the shore until we came to a rocky point, drop anchor and it seemed a bass would have your frog before it hit the bottom.  In the evening you would do the same thing, only then it was walleye.  There was a bay on one side of the cam and on many evenings the walleye were breaking the surface all over the bay.  We would sit on shore with a 22 and try to shoot them.  We never got the one we shot at but often one would roll on surface.  Kummler camp acquired a large cruiser and called t the "Uncas" which they worked up through Lake St. Clair and Huron and pulled it into Penage.  This as to put them in competition with Dan Sheehan.  One day the entire camp, cooks, food and all took a trip way down the lake to a wooden dam - everyone was fishing above the dam but not many fish.  I happened to go below the dam and on every cast (10-15 feet) I had a walleye.  Pretty soon everyone was down there catching fish.  I often wondered just how many fish were caught there that day.  they often brought in large pike.  One day I hooked a very large pike on a buffalo spinner.  I got it near the boat when t took off and all that was left was a pair of hands with rope burns across the palms.  The fish then were like they are now - when a cold front moves in they just don't bite.

The Country

To me Lake Penage was a wonderful site.  The area just teemed with wild life, both birds and animals.  A pair of osprey had a nest just opposite the bay at the side of the camp.  Every day when the water was calm they would be out fishing.  I saw them catch many fish to feed their young.  Several times I saw them grab a fish they could not pull out of the water.  The area around the camp was over flowing with many different warblers.  When the sun came up they would always wake us up with a beautiful concert, which we didn't always appreciate. 

There was a small lake on the eastern side of the lake.  I don't remember the name but when I returned in the 40's they called it Fox Lake.  The lake was loaded with walleye and northern.  We went in there in the 40's and I caught the largest northern I have ever landed.  I don't know the exact weight because my scale just registered to 18 pounds.  My dumb guide and his dumb fisherman put it on the stringer and 15 minutes later I looked at him but he was gone.

In 1918 they were logging in this area and they built a small dam at the overflow into Penage and they would float the logs out in the spring.  This dam raised the water level and killed all the trees along the shore.  A colony of cranes took over and they had a rookery there made up of thousands of nests - some trees had three or four nests.  When we were there a young crane had a broken wing which we took back to camp.  Henry Hutchinson made a splint for the wing and we tied it by the leg so it wouldn't wander away and evening we fed it about 25 green frogs.  H could swallow those frogs in nothing flat.  Finally he started to flap his wing so one evening we untied it and the next morning it was gone.  Whether it survived or whether a fox got it, we will never know.

The area was loaded with deer.  Some evenings we would paddle a canoe along the shore and always see 25 or more deer.  Our daily menu at camp was fish and venison.  Very often we would hear wolves howling in the distance.  At the camp they always said the largest wolves in North America lived in that area.   All the natives would talk about shooting wolves that measured seven feet from tip to tip.  Maybe they measured their wolves like I still measure my fish.

When we left camp for Cleveland, Henry Hutchinson told me the government had asked him to prepare a map of the area showing all the small lakes and naming them.  Just joking I said, "Name one after me".  He said he would and a few years later he sent me a map which showed a Walker Lake named after me, Bob Lake after Bob Barker and a Harry's Lake after Harry Kummler.

This has to be the longest letter I ever wrote and they used to call me "one paragraph Walker".  I tried to give it to you as I remember it, but as time goes on I think we tend to build up the pleasant memories and play down the unpleasant memories, and that's good too.

I hope this will give your friends a little idea of what the good old days were like.

Sincerely,
Fred Walker
4/18/79

P.S. In those days I didn't pay too much attention to money but I believe my stay cost for room, board and boat was ether $12.50 or $15.00 a week.  I do remember talk about camp that Dan Sheehan was going to raise his rates to $5.00 a day for adults for room, meals and a boat.

  Visit the website for Bear Lake Wilderness Camp at http://www.blwc.com
  This page was last modified on 02/07/2002 1:00 AM