South shore Manitoulin fishing charter nets Gore Bay woman her first-ever staycation downrigging catch

Kayla Bisson of Gore Bay poses proudly with her lake trout, caught aboard Island Sunrise Fishing Charters, while back at the dock in Providence Bay.

PROVIDENCE BAY – Last Monday evening, Kayla Bisson of Gore Bay and her friend Candace Bowerman of Birch Island had a Manitoulin Staycation experience that included a spectacular sunset, lot of laughs and a new set of skills, all thanks to Island Sunrise Fishing Charters.

Back in June, Ms. Bisson contacted The Expositor in response to the paper’s callout for Manitoulin Staycation experience wishes just waiting to be granted.

Ms. Bisson admitted that she’s been living on the Island for nine years (and has been coming to Manitoulin for the past 24 years seasonally), but had never been fishing on the big water and would love to have a charter experience. 

The Expositor reached out to Island Sunrise Fishing Charters and captain Neil Debassige (also the host of the popular Fuel the Fire TV program which airs on the Sportsman Channel) who said he would be happy to make Ms. Bisson’s staycation experience come true.

Ms. Bisson admits that she’s no stranger to fishing, a sport she loves, but said she’s only ever fished for sports species like bass and perch. 

“We went last Monday night and met Neil at the Providence Bay Marina,” Ms. Bisson explained, noting she invited her friend Ms. Bowerman—a friendship that has developed out of their mutual love of fishing.

“Neil gave an offering of tobacco to start and said ‘miigwetch’ and really took that time to be grateful,” Ms. Bisson shared. “Almost as soon as our lines were in the water, my friend caught a pink salmon.”

For her efforts that evening, Ms. Bisson netted a big lake trout.

“I’ve never been downrigging before,” Ms. Bisson continued, noting that it made her feel “a bit lazy at times,” she laughed, referencing the sit and wait nature of this form of fishing.

Captain Neil Debassige cleans the evening’s catch.

Ms. Bisson said the experience has left her wanting more.

When asked if she’d turned her catch into a delicious meal, she coyly admitted to being allergic to fish, but added that she’s eager to share her trout with someone who isn’t.

Island Sunrise Fishing Charters is part of the Debassiges’ Island Sunrise Cottages brand which, Mr. Debassige admitted, has been very low key this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Debassige and his wife Diane chose to limit stays and charters and attempt to focus on a more local clientele.

Most of Mr. Debassige’s charters leave from Providence Bay with a focus on salmon and trout, but he does have a day-long Baie Fine multi-species charter where anglers can target bass, pike and muskie. Salmon charters are approximately four hours in length and often take in a spectacular sunset and moonrise.

This, Mr. Debassige noted, is the beauty of Manitoulin’s south shore. “You can watch the sun set and the moon rise with an 180° periphery—it’s magical.”

Mr. Debassige said his ultimate favourite thing to do, and the reason he enjoys chartering so much, is watching people hook into their first-ever, or biggest, fish. “It’s so awesome to see that look on people’s faces—to see the power of a Manitoulin salmon.”

Mr. Debassige believes fishing is a good promotional tool for all that Manitoulin has to offer and uses it to promote tourism, specifically Indigenous tourism, and conservation efforts, like the work of Manitoulin Streams and other not-for-profit groups, that make the fishing what it is today. Whenever possible, and if the guests are open to learning, Mr. Debassige will also work in components of Indigenous history and culture, such as laying tobacco as an offering to the Creator.

He also uses his time with charter guests to promote Fuel the Fire TV and sometimes those lucky anglers might even end up in a clip.

Ultimately, Mr. Debassige believes that fishing is all about making memories and he’s happy to help people with that, including Ms. Bisson and her friend Ms. Bowerman with whom he shared a lot of laughs the evening of their charter.

“I love all the experiences Manitoulin has to offer,” Ms. Bisson said, encouraging other Islanders to get out and explore their backyard. “And it’s good to have someone with so much knowledge, like Neil, show you the ropes.”

To find out more about Island Sunrise Fishing Charters, or to book a charter or cottage, call Mr. Debassige at 705-698-3190. For more on Fuel the Fire, follow them on Facebook, Instagram or visit fuelthefiretv.ca.